Exercise 5 and 6 of the Dare to Ask journey are undoubtedly the toughest, as you examine your beliefs on the topic of FORGIVENESS.
Take a quick step back to remind yourselves where you are in this journey towards joy.
During step one of the Dare to Ask journey you have being examining ways to SEE yourself as you explore and question your beliefs. These beliefs are mostly held in the conscious mind. In exercise 4 you explored your first felt experience from your inner source of wisdom from the unconscious Self.
The fundamental purpose of this work is to release yourself from unhealthy emotional attachments to your stories of shame, guilt and blame.
As a reminder, for a download of the detailed table of the Dare to Ask Journey click here.
In Step 1 you are looking for release from the unhealthy ego’s grip on your identity. (For more understanding on the healthy ego versus the unhealthy ego click here). But the unhealthy ego does not like you to SEE your inner innate beauty; it prefers you to wear the external masks of perfection, which thrive on unhealthy emotional attachments to your stories of shame, guilt and blame. In this way we project, deny, justify, sublimate and so on as ways of being in the world.
This unhealthy state of being keeps you locked in suffering. The unhealthy ego’s aim is to keep you stuck and therefore has the ultimate weapon in its arsenal, FORGIVENESS.
Now, I Dare to Ask are you truly ready to shift your beliefs? Are you feeling courageous enough to open to the understanding of conscious choice in the moment, as you tackle your learned ways of being and open to the universal wisdom of compassion?
If so, let’s get into the topic of FORGIVENESS and examine what it really means and why it is so tough.
We live in a world which advertises to the MIND and BODY, with little emphasis on the SOUL, so it is no wonder that we have gotten confused and developed an unhealthy ego-based narrative about forgiveness.
This form of forgiveness offers no relief from the pain or the suffering of your stories, as it is a fear based narrative requiring you to “have to forgive another”, “forget”, “deny” or “suppress” your story.
Let’s look at some examples of what I mean. I am sure you have heard of or possibly hold some of these beliefs:
Example 1: It is good for you to forgive others for their transgressions / sins. This means you’re a good person.
Example 2: Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.
Example 3: God commands us to forgive. (I am referring to a fear based religious narrative in this example.)
Example 4: Let go and forgive yourself.
This all sounds well and good, but how often do we find ways to serve and gratify our unhealthy egos with these beliefs? Let’s return to the examples above:
- We hear someone (or ourselves) say that they have forgiven another, but in the same breath they become braggarts by telling you what a good person they are for having forgiven the other. Or they unkindly go on to bad mouth the person who “sinned” against them.
- We hear someone (or ourselves) say they have forgiven another, but in reality do not experience real PEACE or relief from the pain and suffering.
- We hear how a person justifies their forgiveness based on their religious view and then all too soon we see them bad mouthing their transgressor or bragging by saying what a good person they are for having ‘listened to the command of God’.
- We say we have let go and forgiven ourselves for something we have done wrong and yet in the silence of our minds, when we think of the story, we still feel pain and/or judge ourselves.
All of these examples are mere words based on “unhealthy ego” forgiveness.
What we want to achieve is true forgiveness as a felt sense from our inner wisdom, where we can truly find PEACE.
This way with forgiveness shifts your way of being in the world, opening you to unconditional acceptance and love of your story and the source of your pain. (source being the event or person that caused the wrong doing, whether it is yourself or another).
What then, does it mean to truly forgive?
- You have a healthy relationship with your stories so that you can own them completely and not feel emotionally triggered in a negative way, by shame, guilt or blame, when you recall or share them.
- You’re free from negative judgment or resentment that you have towards the “wrongdoer”, be that yourself or another.
- You’re able to let go of the desire to eradicate or change the event or control the behavior of another.
When you achieve these 3 things through true forgiveness, you can think about or even be with the wrongdoer without fear, free from residual anger, bitterness or resentment. This undividedness is a conscious experience of oneness with God / Self / Love / Universe / Source.
So let’s look at “How to Forgive” and “Why”.
Understanding WHY to forgive makes the journey to forgiveness easier and worthwhile.
I used this quote in a recent blog and share it again for understanding. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Holding onto the unhealthy emotional attachment to the story, be that negatively triggered by shame, guilt or blame, is what causes you to suffer. Suppressing or denying the story forces you to deny the emotions. So let’s start by owning the story so that we can forgive and then let go of the poison, as holding onto this poison causes a slow emotional death.
So how do you exercise this choice of forgiveness?
Let’s start exercise 5 so that you can get into the heart of how this works. By way of example I’ll share with you some of my own challenges with forgiveness.
Exercise 5 – Acknowledging your Beliefs and Stories about Forgiveness
Intended outcome of this exercise:
- To cultivate an awareness of your conscious beliefs about forgiveness.
- To identify the emotions that come up for you, or to notice if you suppress or hide your emotions when bringing your stories about forgiveness to the surface.
- To open your mind to changing your way of being with forgiveness so that you can start to let go and live with joy.
Over the next 2 weeks undertake the exercise below.
Once again, when journaling, let the thoughts flow onto the paper as fast as they come out of you, with no attention to spelling or grammar. Remember there are no right or wrong answers, only a process of self-discovery and understanding.
Now, Dare to Ask yourself to explore the following:
Acknowledging your beliefs with forgiveness
- Share in your journal what you have been taught on how and why to forgive?
- For instance, I was raised to believe it was the good Christian “thing to do” to forgive others their transgressions. I don’t ever remember being taught about forgiveness of self.
- Recall an incident where you were hurt by another and you haven’t been able to forgive the other person/s. Write about it in your journal. Notice and record if a shame, guilt or a blame story presses through. Notice what emotions came up for you.
- When my father asked me for forgiveness for his “sin”, I never felt relief as I still had to hide his stories in the shadow of his shame and he didn’t seem to take responsibly or make amends for his transgressions. I felt GUILTY for feeling the need to hide what he did, this made me angry as in truth I was ASHAMED of what he had done. I then BLAMED him for my anger.
- Now examine how what you were taught to believe about forgiveness might be limiting, judgmental or egotistical. Examine your beliefs and attitudes about forgiveness in this incident.
- In the past when I forgave someone for their wrongdoing towards me, I also found I was judging myself for being superior and “looking down on them”. What if the other person does not agree with me and thinks that what they did was right, while I am judging it as wrong? It felt judgmental and egotistical. I then felt like a bad person as I also believed that it was wrong to look down on others. I was confused. My internal war caused me suffering as I didn’t achieve any relief from the transgression and worse still, I now judged myself.
Owning your stories
- Now, dare to ask yourself the hard question. How are you holding onto your story in a way that is not serving you? How do you currently own the story by having an unhealthy emotional attachment or unrealistic desire to change the event or the behavior of others, possibly stopping you from true forgiveness and letting go?
- In the example I gave about my father, I felt I couldn’t own the story as I believed if I shared it with others, they would think poorly of me. (SHAME). I confronted my father and asked that he take responsibility for what he had done, even if that meant facing a jail term. I promised to love and support him no matter what. He told me to go to hell and forget the event. Our relationship fell apart. But I persisted in holding onto this story by justifying that what I had done was right. However, in the deepest part of my truth I really wanted the event to either be eradicated or I wanted him to change and take responsibility for what he had done. Neither of these were going to happen. Hiding the story caused me suffering. (GUILT). I was taking care of his needs as I wanted to protect all the good things about him (and there are many). (BLAME and JUSTIFICATION). But I was not looking after myself. I had to make my own choice and take care of myself. Today I choose to live freely with the story. In forgiving myself for wanting something I couldn’t have or couldn’t give him, I managed to let go and the unhealthy emotional attachment passed in time, as did my anger. (We will deal with the processing of this pain in exercises 7 and 8).
In giving to myself what I could, “forgiveness for wanting something different”, I found acceptance of what was and what is. By changing my way of being with forgiveness, I become a being of giving to myself. I realized that I was causing myself pain by holding onto what he wanted and not allowing myself what I wanted.
I realized I was not required to forgive my father for what he had done. I was now free to own my story and therefore no longer judged myself for the perceived need to forgive him or change his way of being or eradicate the event. In accepting this I no longer looked “down” on what he’d done, even though it had caused me pain. With judgment gone I had found PEACE. I had found a way to shift from judgment to assessment.
I only needed to find the courage to choose to forgive myself for wanting something different. I had finally opened to unconditional love and acceptance of the experiences that I had shared with my father, and in so doing I had opened to unconditional love and acceptance of him as well.
Note: If someone has hurt you and they have asked for your forgiveness, know that you can truly gift them their wish if you have first forgiven yourself for wanting a different experience with them.
However, should they never ask for your forgiveness you can still achieve peace and acceptance in the process of forgiving yourself for wanting something different to “what is” or “what was”.
Once again, when you have finished this last exercise sing, dance, have a glass of wine, but undertake a ritual that you enjoy, alone or with your group, to celebrate and honor the courage it takes not to deny any part of your life and your way of being, as you learn to SEE yourself.
Then rest and don’t take yourself too seriously until we meet again in two weeks for exercise 6.
In the interim, if you have questions on forgiveness, either submit your question in the comments section below or here (link) or on FB (link). Likewise, if you have a story you would like to share about forgiveness, then please do so on the same links above.
I love you all for your courage.
As always, warm love and regards