We’ve all heard people say, “Oh, yah, I forgave him years ago.” The truth is given half a chance they’d put a stake through that person’s heart if they could. That’s head forgiveness.
Head forgiveness says, “You deserve to burn in hell for eternity for what you did…. but I forgive you.”
Head forgiveness is not forgiveness, it’s denial.
There’s still an underlying, unresolved grievance. All the pain, and all the anger, and all the fear that has to do with the history with that person, or anyone like that person, is keeping the client in hell - in their mind.
Because the underlying cause of the pain has not been addressed, the person’s Subconscious Mind keeps ruminating over the wounds of the past in an attempt to find resolution. It’s still trying to find a way out. It’s trying to find safety. And it can’t. So, this constant ruminating has a compounding effect, reinforcing the underlying pain.
This is why problems tends to get worse over time.
Authentic forgiveness comes from the heart. When a person truly forgives, they feel neutral toward the person who hurt them. This doesn’t mean that they’re denying what happened. It’s just that they no longer have any emotional charge around those events from the past.
As long as there’s still an emotional charge attached to painful, past experiences, those experiences will continue to be a source of pain in the person’s present life. But past experiences can be transformed to become a source of strength and wisdom.
Old English forgiefan "give, grant, allow; remit (a debt), pardon (an offense)," also "give up" and "give in marriage" (past tense forgeaf, past participle forgifen); from for-, here probably "completely," + giefan "to give" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive").
The sense of "to give up desire or power to punish" (late Old English) is from use of such a compound as a Germanic loan-translation of Vulgar Latin *perdonare (Old Saxon fargeban, Dutch vergeven, German vergeben "to forgive," Gothic fragiban "to grant;" and see pardon (n.)).
Related: Forgave; forgiven; forgiving.
Forgiveness is the Path to Wisdom
Wisdom has been defined as the past cleansed of all the negative emotions. When a person truly forgives, all that remains of a previously painful memory is what was learned as a result of having been through that experience.
This is true emotional freedom. Emotional freedom from the past comes from accepting what happened. It comes from accepting how those experiences made you feel, and then choosing to let go of the Pain Story. This is the purpose and function of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is letting go.
Forgiveness is a releasing of the pain of the past and setting yourself free to BE yourself. True forgiveness is an act of reclaiming your right to be who you are. But there’s a cost.
True freedom requires a willingness to give up the Pain Story. Until the things that make up the Pain Story are released, and allowed to take their place as past experiences, events in daily life can act as reminders to re-stimulate the pattern. Each time the person gets exposed to the same pattern, the distress gets stronger. With each triggering event, the pressure inside builds. And when the pressure gets strong enough the person will start to avoid.
That’s the Subconscious Mind doing its job by stepping in to protect. The Subconscious Mind’s basic drive is to feel good and avoid feeling bad. When it can’t find a way to satisfy the need to feel good, it will default to avoiding feeling bad.
An avoidance strategy is a Subconscious Solution to a problem. In this case, the problem is an uncomfortable feeling. Examples of avoiding strategies include escaping through fantasy, pornography and gambling. Substances such as food, alcohol and drugs are also ways to avoid the pain. These substances provide a way to numb the pain.
The person who turns to substances is unconsciously self-medicating. Often the substance of choice acts as a way to get pleasure, too. This makes food, alcohol and drugs powerful Subconscious solutions. We call them “addictive.”
When a person is out of control to the Subconscious Solution, we call this an “addiction.” But these behaviours are rooted in life experiences, and many times they are rooted in events of wounding.
The need to forgive comes out of an event of wounding.
A wounding event is when a hurt is taken to heart. It’s an event in the past that was interpreted as a betrayal. It might have included confusion, sadness, rage, or humiliation. But whatever happened, it went straight to the heart. So, that’s where the healing has to come from.
Betrayal shatters a person’s ability to feel safe and they lose the ability to trust. Whatever happened, they didn’t see it coming. From this they learned that they can’t predict another person’s behaviour. And if they couldn’t keep themselves safe from harm in that situation, the reasonable decision is that they can’t trust others or themselves.
Some people stop trusting God. They lose their faith in their higher power. And when this happens it leaves the person feeling isolated, vulnerable, and utterly alone in the world. This is devastating for a human soul.
Betrayal of any kind has its roots in the vulnerabilities and insecurities of childhood. So, the first step to forgiveness is the regression.
You need to uncover the events of wounding.
Locate the initial event that holds the perception of betrayal. That’s where the hurt is. Find out what the Story is. Then, focus on releasing all the feelings that got trapped in the Story because of these things.
- What happened?
- Who said what?
- What was done?
- How did that cause them pain?
Where there’s hurt there’s always someone to blame. The problem is that, in childhood, the blame often gets turned inward - especially if the person who hurt them was a primary caregiver or a loved one.
Children are dependent upon others for their survival. They are vulnerable. When someone who is supposed to be a source of safety and nourishment becomes a source of threat it creates internal conflict. That’s the problem
Whether the client’s problem is physical, or mental, or emotional, or some unwanted behaviour, the root of the problem is an unresolved internal conflict. Forgiveness Work is about resolving this internal conflict.
To accomplish this, I used to do a whole forgiveness protocol that involved a process of making forgiveness reasonable. The emphasis was on convincing the client of all the reasons why they need to forgive, then educating them about why they should forgive. This included warning them about what might happen if they refused to forgive. I have since found that forgiveness isn’t something that we do.
There’s no need to try to make the client forgive.
In fact, trying to convince the client can work against you by increasing the internal resistance. Instead, just focus on releasing the feelings trapped inside. The more the client releases, the better they’ll feel. As a result, the Forgiveness will happen automatically.
The more trapped emotions the client releases, the more calm and relaxed they’ll feel. The more calm they feel, the more in control they’ll feel. The more in control they feel the more safe they’ll feel. And the more their Subconscious Mind will trust you to guide the healing process.
Forgiveness is a result of releasing.
Forgiveness is about releasing the negative emotions trapped in the Pain Story. This changes a person profoundly because the more they release the more power they reclaim.
All that unresolved emotional content generates internal stress. So instead of trying to install a new understanding, or trying to convince the client that forgiveness is a good idea, or making forgiveness reasonable, all you need to do is release all the internal stress.
Stress inhibits a person’s ability to think clearly. So, the more the client releases, the more clarity they’ll gain. And the clearer the client becomes, the more they recover their ability to trust themselves.
As they begin to trust themselves, they start to realize they can make better decisions now. And these newer, better decisions are based in adult understanding rather than the fears and misperceptions of the Child. And as your client begins to separate what was true from what was false, they start to make sense of what happened. That’s when forgiveness will come naturally.
The Pain Story is a Victim Story.
It’s a “somebody done somebody wrong song” that defines a person. It determines how a person sees themselves, others, and life in general. Forgiveness sets a person free of their past. This has nothing to do with forgetting what happened. It isn’t denying that something happened. And it isn’t pardoning or condoning a wrong-doing. It’s is coming to a place of acceptance so that’s something of value can be learned from those experiences.
Friedrich Nietzche wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Past events define who we think we are. Either you’re a Victim of Circumstance, powerless because of the wounds of the past, or you’re stronger and wiser for having been through those things because you learned from them.
Forgiveness is the healing.
Forgiveness changes how you feel about yourself despite those wounding experiences. So, if the client realizes that the hurt was simply because the Child misinterpreted what was happening, instant forgiveness happens.
When this happens, often what will follow is that the client will be flooded with feelings of gratitude. That feeling of gratitude is forgiveness.
If something was said or done to hurt the Child, there’s bound to be anger. That’s understandable. It’s reasonable for to feel angry in those circumstances. But where there’s anger, there’s also love. Release the anger and you’ll find that what’s beneath it is the love.
Find the Love and you’ll find the healing.
Anger serves a positive purpose. It’s there to protect. And it can provide a path to the source of all healing. But to find the love, anger needs to be allowed to be a part of the process.
Anger is good. It gives a person a sense of power when they’re feeling vulnerable. The problem is that holding onto anger provides a false sense of power. Because the perceived need for safety is rooted in the powerlessness and vulnerability of a Child, the person has to keep bringing the anger up to feel safe. Releasing anger helps to restore a person’s authentic power.
Forgiveness is a choice.
The choice to forgive comes out of the client's realizing that they do have a choice. It’s realizing that they don’t have to carry the pain one minute longer. They have the power to choose and they can release it in an instant.
This is what A Course in Miracles calls “The Holy Instant.” It’s the moment the client realizes that they can choose to forgive and set themselves free. That’s when healing happens.