Why Forgiveness Is So Important and How To Do It

Issue 6. January 6, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

photo credit: Gus Moretta

In 1994 I kicked my father out of my life. It wasn’t one particular thing he did, it was really his lack of acceptance of me for who I am. We ended up being estranged for 11 years before reconnecting.

During those 11 years I did a ton of work to try to forgive him. I said a forgiveness prayer for years, went to a two-day workshop on forgiveness and read a ton of books, all of which told me why to forgive. But not how to forgive.

Eventually I figured out how forgive him which I’ll tell you about in a moment. But first I’d like to go over what I learned about why we need to forgive because it’s really important to understand that so we can actually forgive. Here are some of the most poignant thoughts and quotes I learned about forgiveness.

  • “Lack of forgiveness is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die” (i.e., it’s toxic for us, not for them!).
  • “We are very largely what we remember” says Bishop Desmond Tutu. “Forgiveness is giving up the idea that the past could have been different.”
  • “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with the pain.” ~ James Baldwin
  • “Forgiveness is an act of the imagination. it dares you to imagine a better future, one that’s based on the blessed possibility that your hurt will not be the final word on the matter. It challenges you to give up your destructive thoughts about the situation and to believe in the possibility of a better future. It builds confidence that you can survive the pain and grow from it.” ~ Larry James

After many years of work on forgiveness I finally came across a book that told me how to forgive. It’s by the Dalai Lama (The Wisdom of Forgiveness). He says it’s all about compassion. When I read that, I then was able to look at my father as a person, not as just my father. It was the first time I’d ever done that and it caused me to have compassion for him – he did not get the life he wanted and that must have sucked.

Realizing that caused me to depersonalize things in a way I never had before – my father wasn’t doing this to me, he was doing things. I then wrote a letter to my father which rekindled our relationship. But it was still always strained. I could never quite figure out how to relate to him. But I let go of the my decades-long resentment.

The situation doesn’t get all tied up in a neat bow. He died in 2018 and were estranged again and had been for the last couple of years before he died. I simply couldn’t tolerate his dysfunctional behavior so I let him go. I have no qualms about having been estranged from him when he died.

My experience is that forgiveness is something that may need to be done again and again. It gets easier over time, and the times in between needing to forgive become fewer and farther between.

Oh, and we need to forgive ourselves when we mess up. And then move on. Think of it like a this – if you were walking down the stairs and slipped, you’d get up and continue down the stairs. You wouldn’t give up and throw yourself down the rest of the stairs! So forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Remember – you are flawsome!

Things I don’t want to live without…

My food scale. In case you don’t know, I’m in recovery for compulsive overeating, which means I follow a food plan. Part of the plan includes weighing and measuring my food. When I got this particular scale it was meant to be my travel scale, but then my bigger scale broke and I never replaced it. I’ve had this little scale for about 6 years!

I love it because it’s digital and it’s so easy to use! Some people may think weighing and measuring my food is a torturous chore. But for me it = freedom! When I weigh and measure my food, there are no games in my head (“was that enough?” “should I have more, or could I have more?”). Because I’ve weighed and measured, I can eat the food and let go of the games in my head! It makes me feel safe to weigh and measure my food.

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