What Exactly is Forgiveness?

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I’m not sure I really know what forgiveness is.  The word itself is so convoluted.  I like clean, succinct words.

I understand choosing to let go.  I understand moving forward.  I understand dropping your “bags” at the baggage claim and flying away.  Shoot, I even once visualized leaving some suitcases on the side of I-85 South after a particularly chaotic visit with my mother.

But forgiveness is a hard concept for me to wrap my head around.

For me, forgiveness includes an element of absolution of the behavior or course of behavior.  Where does that leave the person whose behavior never changes?  What about the person who blithely goes through life leaving dead bodies behind?  Forgiveness doesn’t account for that.  To say, “I forgive you” really means “let’s wipe the slate clean and start again“.

Maybe you can do that.  I’m not yet that highly evolved.  

What I support is the choice to free yourself from the pain, the judgment, the victimization, and the resentment.  I support choosing to move forward without bitterness.  I support blessing your past and the people in it with love and letting them go (if that’s what you choose).

Here’s the thing:  You are who you are because of the people you’ve known and the experiences you’ve had.  If you’re constantly bitter about something or someone in your past, you are denying your own evolution.  You are, in essence, denying yourself.

You’re certainly denying yourself any joy, fun or satisfaction in the present moment.  Think about that!  While looking backward, you’re missing what’s happening today.  You’re missing the person you are today.  You’re missing the person that those people helped you become.

My life changed drastically when I decided to thank my mother for who she is.  I am who I am today because of her.  There are at least five or six things I really like about myself that I learned from her.  I’m pretty smart, but I’m not smart enough to appreciate what she taught me AND be bitter toward her at the same time.

So when you say, “I can’t forgive so and so” or “I’m not ready to forgive so and so”, what you’re really saying is, “I choose to carry this pain and resentment“.  Are you sleepwalking or are you really choosing every day to cling to the pain?  Have you numbed yourself with alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, food, TV, etc., so you just move through life on cruise control?

Or are you paying attention to how you feel and, more importantly, how you want to feel?  It’s your life.  You get to choose.

Don’t get me wrong – I can still work up some righteous indignation when telling certain stories from my past.  Trust me, I can feel the bitterness and the rage rise up in me when I spend even just a little time dwelling on those events.

I learned two phrases that I say whenever I catch myself headed in that direction.  Depending on how strong and centered I’m feeling, I either catch myself early or later when the bitterness is in full bloom.  They are:

I have decided to let go of the past and focus on the joy in my life.  And it is so.


I release _____________ (the name of the person) to the unconditional loving care of Divine Source Energy.  May the long time sun shine upon ___________ and gently guide him/her on his/her way.  And it is so.

That’s all.  Then I go about my day.  What others do or do not do, how they feel, who they are with – none of it – is any of my business.  There have been days when I have had to repeat either or both of those lines a hundred times.  There are days when I don’t have to say them at all.

Focus on what you want.  Ignore the rest.

That’s what forgiveness is for me.  It’s releasing yourself from negative emotion related to your past or to others in your life.  It’s making a decision to focus on what you want and on what makes you happy.  It’s letting yourself off the hook.  It’s not absolving others of responsibility for their behavior.

You no longer need to fill the roles of judge and jury.  It’s not your job to decide whether or not some else’s behavior meets any standard other than the standard for what you will or will not allow in your life.  You get to choose who is allowed to play in your sandbox.

Let yourself move forward.  Let yourself move on.  Let yourself move TOWARD joy and happiness.

Let.  That.  Shit.  Go.




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