If step one of making forgiveness a focused practice in your life is deciding that you want to, that it’s important enough to devote some of your attention toward… then step two is having just one, single, solitary moment where you spontaneously forgive something fairly large.
Let me break that down.
By ‘fairly large’, I’m not talking about someone stepping on your toe, or interrupting you, or cutting you off in traffic. Yes, all of those need to be forgiven, too, but I’m looking at the larger versions of those: someone breaking your foot, someone constantly silencing you, someone hitting your car with theirs. We’re looking at a moment in your life where you were not at all to blame, a moment in your life that everyone around you would understand completely if you did not forgive.
By ‘forgive’, I’m talking about the sort of deep release involved that is mental, emotional, and spiritual. I’m talking about the incident or series of incidents that were forgiven no longer being important to you. They no longer carry an emotional charge if they come up in conversation, and they no longer plague your thoughts. You haven’t at all forgotten that those things happened to you, but the events in question no longer define who you are, how you see yourself, and how you see the other person. There is a discernible shift and you are tangibly different from one moment to another, from before, to after.
By ‘spontaneously’, I really do mean it suddenly happens and your only responsibility was in allowing it to happen, and no longer holding on.
So, yeah. This isn’t something you can control, though you can influence it happening, if it hasn’t already. You can set your intention and work on some mantras, though. If you’re not sure of where to start, here’s a list: I want to forgive. I want to be able to forgive. I want to be the kind of person who forgives. I can forgive. I am open to forgiveness. I am the kind of person who forgives. It is easy to forgive. I forgive more and more deeply. Forgiveness is good for me, and I embrace it fully. I want the benefits forgiveness has to offer. I forgive myself and others, easily.
And then one day before you know it, you’re there, and it’s really like waking from a dream and discovering that somehow, you have a parachute on your back, and somehow you’re several thousand feet up in an airplane, and somehow you’re standing at the open door, totally and completely ready. And the decision draws down to a simple, a so simple yes or no. Everything else is prepared, perfectly situated, totally ready.
All you have to do is jump.
So here’s what it looked like for me.
The scene was my wedding reception, which I had turned over entirely in the planning (and I do mean entirely) to my mother-in-law, who was hosting it for us. One of the many, many details she took care of was to provide corsages to every member of our closest family so people from the other side might know who the honored guests were. I have no memory of her asking if my step-mother should get one, and she probably didn’t ask. If she did, I might have given the same answer I gave to everything – ‘whatever you decide will be lovely’.
And if you had asked me privately if I would have wanted my step-mother to be recognized as an honored guest at my wedding reception, I would have politely informed you that we didn’t really have that sort of relationship. You’d get the polite answer, because no one who knew me well would have asked. Those who knew me well knew how much I struggled with incandescent rage toward my step-mother from a very early age.
So she gets a corsage at the wedding reception, due to the thoughtful and kind planning of my mother-in-law. And she very naturally thinks that I intended to honor her. When she tearfully thanks me at the reception, I do not correct her.
Partially, I don’t wish to embarrass either one of us, despite the fact that this is the woman I have unabashedly hated for the last 18 years.
But mostly, I’m stunned. Because I’ve just woken up from a dream of pain and horror and rage and lack of control and the past is less real to me than the present moment. And I no longer care what kind of person she is. I no longer care that she hurt me, my mother, my sisters. I no longer care that I’ve hated her for more than half my life.
And I don’t want to carry all this pain and anger anymore – this becomes such a startling, shocking revelation to me that I just put it all down. All at once.
I tell her I forgive her, and I mean it.
I think I probably cried a little, too.
Did we spontaneously become best friends? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Did I allow her to continue any of her negative behaviors anywhere I had to deal with them? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Did we even become friends after?
Did I forget anything of what she’d done to me?
Do I hate her still?
That was the day I experienced true forgiveness for the first time. It was spontaneous and my only input was my freewill – I didn’t have to try to forgive her, and to be honest, resisting for the long shocked moment before I actually responded took more effort than just giving in and saying yes.
And it wasn’t that I hadn’t been trying and believing that I was forgiving for the thirty-three years of my life before I got married and had a reception to celebrate the event. But until that moment at my wedding reception where I spontaneously forgave something fairly large, until that moment it was all sheer force of will, and I could never truly let go. The pain would linger. The anger would come back up again. I’d try to forgive. I’d want to forgive. I’d say I’d forgiven and I was doing all the things I thought were involved, but I could never figure out how to let go completely, deeply, and in a truly real sense.
It was a tiny moment in my life that served as a pivot and allowed me to enter into this amazing, life-changing world of true forgiveness. But then again, a pivot is a tiny thing that serves to move very large things with ease.
And if you want that moment and you haven’t experienced it yet, you can have it, too. You really can. Unfortunately, patience needs to be involved. (No one wants to hear when something requires patience, don’t worry; it’s not just you.) And the key here is to not necessarily focus on what you think you need to forgive. My advice to preparing for this moment of spontaneous forgiveness of something fairly large is twofold:
1. pick one or several of the mantras in the beginning of the blog post and use them. Start making it clear to yourself, the Universe, and anyone who cares that forgiveness is important to you and you’re ready to participate.
2. practice loving other people to the best of your ability. Forgiveness is actually the other side of the coin to love, and so if you up your game when it comes to love, forgiveness will want to level up, too.
You can do it. Start now.