How To Choose Forgiveness

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By MariaShriver.com, Featured Columnist - November 03, 2014

By Mona Therese, co-created by Carl Bendix, for MariaShriver.com

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” – Bruce Lee

We all desire peace in our lives. Some pray for it, some write about it, some even kill for it, and among all of us only a few have truly found it. Peace is a journey and it begins with forgiveness.

The first step is to become aware of what is going on in our lives; how we interact with each other and ourselves.

Breath is one of the main keys to consciousness. Breathing in and out with awareness makes life a more peaceful experience. Meditation is another key to unlock the door of conscious awareness and to enter into the chamber of peace. Through meditation and breath awareness, and perhaps counseling, we can come to understand the roots of our sadness, anger and self-destructive lifestyles. Using these keys, we’ll find the remedy called forgiveness.

You’ve probably had experiences of anger and/or despair, and also the feeling of hopelessness that comes from betrayal. During those times, you might have thought to yourself, “What now? Everything I thought was true is suddenly no more.” One moment you were on cloud nine nurturing the seeds of love, passion and devotion. Day by day or year by year, you cared for these seeds and they grew perfectly. Everybody admired you and your passion; when suddenly, out of the blue, you were on you knees. Every nurtured action was slammed to the ground or ripped apart, and it felt like an atom bomb blasted your heart.

As my co-contributor Carl Bendix recalled, “It felt like a lawn mower ran over you, but with forgiveness those seeds can sprout again.”

As you sat there, anger and sadness might have been your first reaction, then (perhaps) a desire for revenge. Eventually, your friends and family said, “I understand your situation, but it is time for you to let go and forgive.” In that moment, your anger may have flared and you said or thought silently, “There is no way I ever will forgive him, her or the circumstances.”

But when you are in pain, you are the one who suffers, since you are trapped in your emotions. It feels like a ball and chain wearing you down. Then the day finally arrives where you see there is no way out of your own entrapment than to forgive. It might not happen overnight, but the day will come where you know it’s time to let go and feel your freedom again.

As always, you have choices:

  • Do the work it takes to get through your pain and then forgive.
  • Stubbornly hold on to your anger, pain, hurt and live in misery.

There is no right or wrong here; you choose your own path in life. Choice number one is the one to your freedom, and although it might not be easy to let go, I am sure that through forgiveness you will feel stronger and find your long lost freedom again.

“Forgiveness is a workout for the soul that makes you stronger, more loving and compassionate at the same time.” – Ana Holub (author of Forgive and Be Free)

I believe we are all loving and compassionate beings at our core. When we understand the pain or the situation of another, we will forgive.

After you have forgiven the other person, you enter into a second phase – should you nurture those old seeds again or is it time to move on and find another field to sow your seeds of love, passion and devotion?

“You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’” – Maya Angelou

Now, the third phase has arrived on your doorstep: forgiving yourself. You might find this more difficult than to forgive another person, as we all know it takes two to tango. In order to heal, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Why did it all happen? What was my role in this play?”

To begin forgiveness for yourself:

  • Remember that the past is the past. It’s over. Take charge of the situation so it won’t become your future.
  • If you need it, talk to a counselor.
  • Acknowledge that you did the best you could at that time, and now you know differently.
  • Learn from the situation, stand your ground, and act accordingly.
  • Move forward without judgment.
  • Sow fertile seeds of self-love.

I have been in many situations when I not only needed to forgive others, but also when I needed to forgive myself. Forgiveness is a journey of inner courage. It gives us great joy and wings to freedom.

And remember…

“When you forgive someone, when you are generous, when you withhold judgment and you love, when you stand up for injustice – you bring in that moment heaven to earth.” – Bob Bell

More from MariaShriver.com

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A Few Tips to Make You A Better Solo Traveler

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