Forgiveness shows up everywhere in positive psychology, self-help programs, and 12-step programs. In most people’s minds, the concept is pretty simple – someone wronged me, and I forgive them. But this is the coarsest level and there are so many layers of subtlety to forgiveness… it’s like a flower unfolding.
From a minor insult to a heinous crime, whatever the events may have been, as long as we carry resentment, it remains an open wound within us. For our own sake and our own healing, we simply have to find a way to release this burden. The stronger the self-narrative, the more empowered the ego, the harder it becomes. The typical notion of forgiveness – that I’m doing someone a favor by forgiving them – is the grossest level. The first insight is to realize that the favor is really to myself because there is some releasing and healing within. This is the first gift of forgiveness.
The next insight is something many people miss. The higher the count of the ways we have been wronged, and people to forgive – especially in regular daily life and not some extenuating circumstance – the more indication there is for introspection. If we are constantly pointing to all the ways we are wronged, that is a big clue that the problem is not external. It is within, and it is time for an honest look in the mirror.
For us to see the need to forgive, there must first be a perception of an offense. So, what is being offended? Obviously, it is our ego and our identifications with the self-narrative. We have many layers of conditioning and patterning that drives us unconsciously. As we awaken to our True Self, we step out of karmic autopilot and take responsibility for our conscious presence in the world. In the words of Ken Wilber, “wake up, grow up, show up.”
This brings us to the next gift. Forgiveness is not always about forgiving someone else. The most profound forgiveness we can bestow is to ourselves. All of the ways that we beat ourselves up… to let all that go and to just sit in loving presence with this embodiment… it is truly an overwhelming liberation and release of years of self-unworthiness. This self-embrace in love and gratitude of the beauty of existence is miraculous, and fundamental to human well-being.
As we go deeper, sinking into the ever-presence of forgiveness, it begins to melt into equanimity. In each present moment, the need to forgive no longer arises. Of course, this is because as we shift from ego-identity to pure awareness, there is no ground for offense to take root in. There is simply circumstance and spontaneous action. This is the last gift of forgiveness – that the very need for it can dissolve.
Here is a related article about this topic: https://celebrateyoga.org/tug-war-rope-resentment-forgiveness/
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