“Forgive the person you hate the most. This is your intention for our class together tonight.”
Wait, what? Why would I want to begin a yoga class with this intention? Did I really need to be reminiscing about a time in my life that I really wanted to forget?
After hearing these words, I selfishly began to question my yoga instructor and her motives behind making me do such a seemingly tortuous task. My ego was not comfortable with this. This was my time! This was a place to be blissful and connected to my inner peace.
I sat, confused, and I took a deep breath. Several deep breaths. Hate seemed like such a powerful and intense word, but I focused within. For the first several minutes of class, my mind was a projection screen of unpleasant memories, emotions and feelings.
As I moved through upward and then downward dog positions, I continued to hear her words, “Inhale love. Exhale hate. Again, forgive the person you hate the most.”
I noticed that I started to sweat nervously. “Is this really possible to do in just an hour and a half?” I thought to myself.
It took every ounce of my being to search deep into my memory bank for all of my greatest teachers and what they taught me about forgiveness.
Again I heard her words, “Forgive the person you hate the most.”
OK… OK, I got it.
In that moment, I surrendered and my ego crumbled. Everything I learned since childhood came pouring through me. I had no more excuses about why not to forgive this person. Instead, I embraced several reasons to do just that. I focused passionately on those reasons as I stretched my body and mind simultaneously…
So what were the reasons? Let’s discuss…
1. Forgiveness allows us to take responsibility for our own happiness.
Most of what we attract into our lives is a mere reflection of what is inside of us. Our thoughts and actions create our exterior world. The Law of Attraction teaches us that like attracts like, and we will never experience a happy ending at the end of an unhappy journey. By holding onto anger and resentment (even in our subconscious mind), we are pre-paving our journey to be filled with anger and resentment. The way we feel and the emotions we hold are what we use to create all of our future experiences. (Read The Secret.)
2. Forgiveness allows us to see everyone in our lives as a teacher.
Family members, spouses, friends, bosses, etc. – everyone is brought into our lives to teach us more about ourselves. Thanking them for being a part of our journey and teaching us lessons that we now no longer need to learn is an incredible step in expanding our consciousness.
This same philosophy applies to our negative, failed relationships too. Once you truly learn the lesson behind why a negative relationship came into your life, you will then no longer attract situations and future relationships that attempt to teach you the same lesson. You get to graduate and grow so you no longer keep repeating the same unpleasant experience over and over again.
3. Forgiveness helps us stop playing the victim card.
Adjusting your perspective to a place of forgiveness and gratitude allows you to no longer play the victim card. Most of the time you are not a victim of anything other than your own vibration and level of attraction. When you continue to blame someone else, you automatically give control of your life to someone else and thus set yourself up to be a lifelong victim.
4. Forgiveness makes us aware that most people are doing the best they can.
Have compassion for where other people are in their lives. It might not be where you are, but most people are doing the best they can at their particular level of awareness and understanding. (Read The Four Agreements.)
5. Forgiveness embodies the concept of “what goes around comes around.”
We are all human and we have all done “unthinkable” things. And deep down, we all yearn for the same forgiveness. When we release others from the penalties of their actions, we create a space where our own thoughtless actions against others can be forgiven as well.
6. Forgiveness forces our own level of consciousness to expand.
The process of growth is continuous. The moment we stop learning, searching for lessons and expanding our consciousness, the ego steps in and takes over. We are always moving toward something greater, and forgiveness helps us get there faster by eliminating our ties to dead weight from our past.
7. Forgiveness teaches us to keep our expectations tempered.
We should never be expecting anything from anyone. When we do this, we give up our own power to decide. We alone are the creator of our universe, and when we are connected to our own inner source, we no longer “need” anything from anyone. It’s still nice to receive things from time to time, but we don’t need these things to move forward with our lives. (Read Forgiveness Is a Choice.)
8. Forgiveness teaches us to tone down our instincts for self-preservation.
Too often we injure one another simply because we are trying to protect ourselves (financially, emotionally, etc.), even when it’s at someone else’s expense. We have all done it. Becoming aware of this pattern allows us to stop needlessly injuring others for our own benefit. And as you know, what goes around comes around…
9. Forgiveness creates a space to let go and love.
Not everyone and every situation is meant to be a part of our lives forever. Sometimes they are only there long enough to help us open the next chapter of our story. Letting go creates space to let new people and experiences in.
In addition, we are all connected. We have never met another person that we have not loved in some small way. Sometimes we just don’t consciously know how to understand it and show it. Simply put, forgiveness in and of itself is an act of letting go of our differences and connecting with our oneness and love for each other and the world we inhabit.
10. Forgiveness is the best revenge.
A bit of sarcasm in this one, but it’s so true. You can always seek revenge positively by creating a better future for yourself. Because nothing annoys an adversary or negative force in your life more than seeing you smile after you have genuinely forgiven them and moved forward with your life.
In most walks of life, I think it’s fairly easy to say, “I forgive so-and-so.” Deep down, though, the resentment and anger still lingers within us and in our subconscious minds, which then impacts our future experiences.
For me, it took an hour and a half of complete and committed intention, stretching into odd shapes, chanting mantras, and inhaling incense for me to fully embrace all of the lessons I had learned throughout my life, and to finally forgive.
As we walked out of this yoga class, my friend and I looked at each other and, at the same time, said, “Wow!” I could now understand exactly where my yoga instructor was coming from and why she had pushed us breath-by-breath to forgive. I was extremely grateful. Typically when I leave yoga, I feel lighter, but this time…
I felt free.
Who would you like to forgive? Who would you regret not forgiving before you die? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
Photo by: Quantumlars
Christy King says
Great post. Reminds me of something one of my best friends told me many years ago, that holding on to anger hurts ME a lot more than it hurts the other person.
As to who I’d like to forgive, I think (in large part thanks to my friend’s advice), I’m all “caught up” on forgiving. Not holding any anger or grudges – I’m in a good place.
Ah, you left us with some hard questions here. Truthfully, I can say there’s no one I need to forgive. For whatever reason I seem to get over things quickly. Either that or I haven’t been caused any injury that can warrant long-term resentment.
Great points though. I really see no use in holding onto a burning flame of hatred towards an individual (save from the cases of extreme injustice, of course.)
It’s very hard to forgive, therefore as a temporary measure, I find it *a little* better to focus on what I want for myself and my future self.
Although this article holds many healthy principles for letting go, it’s also important to note that forgiveness is a choice and is a gift that should be bestowed when it is emotionally authentic to do so. In my mind, “letting go” is a form of acceptance, which is a separate thing from forgiveness. Acceptance is what helps us process anger and move on. Forgiveness may come later or it may not. I understand not holding grudges and letting go of the past, but I am not sure that this necessarily means forgiveness in all cases.
Nice message. I have a lot of people and things to forgive. I’ll start with myself and move on to the list. Very powerful stuff. Thanks to my sister for giving me this link.
Megan Pangan says
This really sums up the power of forgiveness perfectly. When I learned to forgive, it felt like I could finally release myself from my own prison.
I agree with RHF, in that I feel like forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.
Forgiveness is for *you* so you don’t weigh yourself down with resentment and hate forever. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This can be hard enough for those of us who’ve been hurt deeply, who’ve experienced an immense amount of pain, particularly for long periods of time.
However, just because you’ve let go of this anger does not mean that you need to welcome this person back into your life, or that you should pretend that the slate has been wiped clean between you two, etc. In some cases, you just need to free yourself from the pain this person/thing caused and let yourself move on with your life, with a lighter load on your back and a brighter future ahead of you.
Of course, this all depends on how you define forgiveness in your own journey…
Forgiveness is sometimes easier said than done. It’s something I work on constantly. Thanks for sharing this article. Glad I found it.
Anil MN says
Thanks for this boost of optimism! Forgiveness is one of our greatest virtue. I totally agree with your thought that forgiveness allows us to take the responsibility for our own happiness.
And to me, forgiveness is part of the process of letting to. Forgiveness is letting go completely and moving on with or without the person you have forgiven.
What if these people continue with the same behavior?
This literally saved my life. I needed to forgive my enemies to have some semblance of peace and to stop beating myself up and playing the victim.
“Hurt people, hurt people” as they say…I was hurting myself or finding someone to do it for me until I let go of my hatred and replacing it with acceptance.
I did it in a similar way. The bible tells us how to do it. Jesus says to pray for your enemies until the feeling leaves. Once a day I prayed, God please help give “blank” a happy life and please help me to forgive him. Amen. I did it once a day for around 2 months for my ex who I had a huge resentment against. All of a sudden my feelings changed from anger to feeling sorry for him. I turned the corner and the resentment was gone.
In daily life when someone gets under my skin instead of reacting to them I pray, “God, Help them, Fix me”. I use a silent mantra approach and it works every time!
This is really the way to traveling light by dropping the rock. Try it and see for yourself it feels. Acceptance replaces anger.
I have found your blog very useful, it came at the right moment of my life… great post! My life is a bit better now, i have accepted the pain and understood i cannot continue like that and i have been trying to go over it but in the very inside i feel there’s still something i cannot get rid of: when i go on the street and hear tourists speaking her native language, or when i see something she cooked for me for example.. it brings so much non-sense drama and painful memories i cannot stand. Any suggestions on this? Will time heal this? Thanks.
I would like to forgive my father. But it is really difficult. He left us many times, tormented our lives and it has affected me in many ways. Once, he threatened to kill us all in the middle of the night. He womanized and abused my mother. I will never forget those sleepless nights.
I am a happier person now but it is really hard to let go of my resentment and anger towards him. After 10 years of no contact with him, I finally met him again on the day of my mother’s funeral. I feel like I am talking to a complete stranger. I could not find the words to say. He’s dad, but at the same time, he is no longer. How do I begin to forgive him?
I would love to forgive. I have done a lot of forgiveness but I still can´t let go about one thing:
I was molested by a cousin of mine and I cannot forgive my mother. She loves him so much and she never believe me anything and so I had to grow up with him always around me, knowing that she would never believe me and so I still hear today what a nice person he his, and how he is going to make his fiancee happy. I can´t forgive her and I can´t forgive me for never exposing him and letting someone marry him without letting her know what kind of person he really his. If they have children and he molest them I´m the one to be blamed. Because I knew and didn’t tell but nobody would believe me… It has past more then 10 years. It still lingers in here.
tara dillard says
When I realized damages done to me by alcoholic spouse were not done-to-me they were merely collateral damages it was almost instantaneous forgiveness.
Been floating ever since. Even allowed me to happily pay all expenses for our amicable divorce from 30 year marriage.
Garden & Be Well, XO Tara
#3. Forgiveness helps us stop playing the victim card.
Being the victim suggests being justified in your hurt. People reinforce your station as victim with comments like: “How could he do that to you. That was the meanest thing. I wouldn’t do that to my worse enemy.”
And this is the place I got stuck. Listening to friends, enjoying the sympathy, and giving away my power once again. Remaining a victim comes with a high price.
Forgiving someone is a practice for me. I forgive and then the memories of what they did will sometimes seize me when I’m not paying attention. This conjures angst. Then I have to remind myself that I forgave that person and seek the truth of the matter— that they have their own hard journey and I have mine. The hatefulness that they exhibited towards me had nothing to do with me and it still doesn’t. This helps me to hold on to my power and move on. It also helps me to remember the love I have for them.
Memories of the pain seem so real. We have to remind ourselves that the painful event is gone and over and the only pain we face now is the memory of the pain. It is no longer real. It is only real when we believe it is real. Let it go.
Mark Whittington says
RHF, I doubt that genuine forgiveness ever starts from ’emotional authenticity.’ As was said, we forgive others for ourselves; it really becomes irrelevant whether the other is even sorry. Forgiveness does not mean ‘re-accepted.’
PAS Advocate says
In most cases I’ve been able to get through the process of forgiveness. Even when we know it is not same as condoning the behavior, to forgive in the face of repeated hurtful behaviors… it’s tough.
Sylvia Metos says
Thank you so much for this article on forgiveness! Before I’ll be able to forgive anyone for their real or perceived crimes, I’ve got to forgive myself for my involvement. The process of forgiveness is quite often a slow and sometimes painful process. But well worth going through fire without getting burned any longer!
Matt in GA says
A very nice, and important, message. However, I have been trying to forgive someone for two years now. No matter how hard I try, I still have difficulties. But I will try this.
This really resonates with me today. My divorce will be finalized this Friday and part of moving on needs to be forgiveness. Although I am not in contact with my ex, I still spend hours having one sided arguments with myself about how hurt I am and the “only if he would have” thoughts. I need to forgive and let this go so I can truly move on and be happy. I have just been keeping myself very busy to keep these thoughts at bay but as soon as I stop they come back. Thanks for the article.
As Douglas wrote, I will start with myself. Thanks for the eye-opener, I keep beating up myself. Funny, somehow you are always on the spot, Marc and Angel
In my quest to recover from perfectionism, I have come to realize forgiveness is in the forefront to healing. #4 (…doing the best…), #7 (expectations), #8 (self-preservation) have tested me especially. We are human, after all.
Resentments harm only the container they come in. The key is forgiveness combined with distance.
I have a question about #2 – Forgiveness allows us to see everyone as a teacher and thank them for teaching us things we now no longer need to learn – what if I don’t know what a particular person whom I hate has taught me how then do I move forward. What he has done to me has only made me lose confidence in myself (this is work related). So can someone enlighten me further? I struggle with this.
My dad and my brother, I have such anger and hatred inside of me for what they did to my dying mother that I am not sure how to forgive them. They have left me alone, without my mom or any blood family. I have created a small circle of family through some friends and I wish I could forgive or not hate them, but I do not know how.
Like Vincent I tend to forgive quickly. While I have been subject to many hurts and the ultimate betrayal in my lifetime (a spouses affair after 16 years of my life with this person thinking that this person was my best friend.) I accept the circumstances for what they are; and this has been one of the hardest things for me to forgive in my lifetime. But I have forgiven him and it is freeing to forgive. As much hurt and pain that this caused me; the power of forgiveness is much stronger than the ties that bind you to the hurt.
You learn more about yourself when you are able to release fears and forgive. We can not change the past but we can change the future. Your past DOES NOT determine your future. The ultimate happiness in life is being able to forgive and wishing the best for that person. Everyone is brought into our life for a reason and only God can determine why certain people are brought into our lives.
For the past few years, I have struggled to forgive my parents and other family members for keeping the truth from me about who my father was. Although it took some time to get over, I realized that if I continued to focus on anger and resentment, I would never accomplish anything in life. All the lessons in this post are exactly what I had to do in order to move on and start living my life. Anger, unforgiveness, and resentment are not worth it trust me.
Traci Johnson says
For me, forgiveness does not mean I have accept someone back into my life or condone their behavior, as if everything is ok. Forgiveness means letting go of the inner feelings of anger and resentment I have toward that person and accepting them as they are. Everyone is on their own journey and walking their own path. Some people never find inner peace. But I forgive those people because I truly feel that most people are doing the best they can with what they have and what they know.
I say to myself, “They are doing the best they can right now. I am not going to be angry or resentful toward them, I am moving on in my own life and I hope they can find peace and move on with their life.” Just because I forgive someone does not mean they have to be a part of my life. If they asked me about it I would tell them I have no hard feelings but we no longer have a place in each other’s lives and need to go our separate ways.
Just my take on forgiveness. Thanks for the great article and tips!
I have actually forgiven two people in particular who have caused a great deal of grief and pain in my past. I wish it was all mutual, however I played a role in the whole ‘hurting’ process for one in particular (my ex-husband) and some people just cannot forgive. For me, my wish isn’t to forgive anyone as I do so eventually anyway. It’s my nature. I can forgive, but I don’t have to forget whatever happened. I wish one person in particular would forgive me for hurt I brought upon him in the past. Wishful thinking, but that’s it for me.
I have been thinking about this topic more in the past week or so. Your post encouraged me to go ahead and post my thoughts, and a poem I wrote years ago, about forgiveness on my blog. I focus more on the person being forgiven than on the one doing the forgiving. Thank you!
David Rapp says
The hardest person to forgive is yourself: the victim, the Grand Master of Personal Calamity, etc. I think one aspect I learned the very hard way was that when I forgave myself a lot of other people were forgiven too. It just got easier to forgive others once I learned to forgive myself. But its also a work in progress…the more you work at it, the more you progress.
I think forgiveness is a type of acceptance, but with much more intense emotions wrapped around it. Its the emotions that keep it alive, and the thoughts that go along with it. If you can work to change the thoughts, you can choose the response (emotional, mental, etc.). Its a wicked bitch to learn. Mindfulness is the technique I am working on.
Lastly, the idea that you don’t need anything from anybody only goes so far. That is true independence, self-reliance at its core. But the highest state of being (enlightenment, neutrality, etc.) still requires other human interaction to go past your limitations. That is interdependence. I don’t know about you, bu if you told me that I can gain enlightenment alone…it really loses its appeal.
Dr. J says
This is another great reminder and perfect timing. I’m struggling to forgive/forget the sense of betrayal, abandonment, isolation, exposure from my ex-husband. I strive to move forward and have made great progress, but the heartache is real! I pray daily for the feelings of hurt to be gone… some days are better than others.
I will awake tomorrow, again, hoping to move one-step closer to forgiveness and closure.
Mary Lynn says
This one made me realize that I don’t hate anyone! I thought a long time and I could not think of one person I hated. I probably did when I was younger or used hate to mean something else, but now at 66, it is a wonderful feeling to know I hate no one!
Thanks, Mary Lynn
This is an amazing post and so true. Forgiveness is a choice. A lot to think about here…
Couldn’t agree more with #2, it’s right on the Mark. Not only do you forgive the culprit but you learn the lesson and forgive yourself.
For the second time this week, the message is EXACTLY what I need to hear. The best way to help myself is to forgive the person who hurt me. Thanks so much for this greatly needed perspective!
All I had to do was read the first one… “like attracts Like”. Then I knew that this is one of the best posts you have ever done. As a scientist, this resonated with me. Love your blog. Thank you!
Psych Central has some good thoughts on what What Forgiveness Is Not…
•Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending it didn’t happen. It did happen, and we need to retain the lesson learned without holding onto the pain.
•Forgiveness is not excusing. We excuse a person who is not to blame. We forgive because a wrong was committed.
•Forgiveness is not giving permission to continue hurtful behaviors; nor is it condoning the behavior in the past or in the future.
•Forgiveness is not reconciliation. We have to make a separate decision about whether to reconcile with the person we are forgiving or whether to maintain our distance.
Forgiveness has long been a subject matter that I find so incredibly difficult to define and has proven to be a life long search. How can we “forgive” when the other party isn’t seeking it? If one believes in Christianity one knows God can not forgive us unless we specifically set out to seek Her forgiveness. Pop psychology has informed us time and time again that we must forgive those who wronged us (or even those who haven’t forgiven us) in order to find peace. Isn’t forgiveness a mending of a broken relationship? There are people from our past that we are not seeking to reunite with, but hold a great deal of anger towards. I’ve come to believe it’s more of an acceptance of that situation. I’ve still not learned how to correctly accept certain events in my life.
However, thank you for this post, it’s a fascinating subject matter that I do not believe to possess a solid foundation or understanding…but then again, maybe it’s just me.
Lovely post, we all need to be reminded of the power of forgiveness…
“Love holds no grievances.” Lesson 68, ACIM.
Whatever it is I can’t forgive in another is what I’m holding onto myself. Holding a grievance forfeits my power to something outside of myself, out of my control. Forgiveness restores me as the authority of my own life, uninfluenced by the past.
I forgive my sister-in-law. She wants to be bitter and hateful, and I took it with a smile, making excuses for her and allowing my resentment toward her to build up. I find it extremely gratifying to forgive her for x, y, and z…. then move on in my life. Lesson has been learned, but I am not hanging on to the anger or resentment. I forgive her. Period.
I have only been reading your blog for a few months but have shared some of the postings with my sons and friends so thank you.
A great expression that relates to #7 is
“expectations are planned resentments”
That is one of the things I am working on to try and tone down expectations of myself (but need them to strive for the higher purpose in my life) and others because no one else plays by the same rule book of life that we each carry.
Jay R says
This is a great article and I find this applicable in 99% of situations – but I still struggle to find forgiveness in my heart towards psychopaths, since nothing changes for them no matter what way they have it. Having said that, having those kind of people eat away at you only results from an absence of forgiveness..
I forgive myself and my ex-wife for hurt we caused each other.
I’ve alwars struggled with forgiving people who have hurt me. Most of the hurt, I admit, arises from having expectations of the other person which isn’t met or can’t be fulfilled. However, is it not ‘natural’ for expecation to be created the moment you let someone into your life? Your reference in this post seems to be about things when you say ‘it’s nice to receive from time to time’ but what about expecting this person you let in – to be honest, to be decent, to be respectful, to be kind?
Sarah Anne says
Wow. I am in awe of these beautiful comments! Thank you all for sharing my post and sharing your own stories.
To answer a common question – “What if these people continue with the same behavior?” My teacher explained to me that as I constantly work on myself slowly I will change the vibration in which I attract certain circumstances + people in my life. As he says, “You attract what you are, not what you want.” A hard one to accept and take responsibility for… I know!
As I continued to study these concepts I learned from several great teachers that we often have contracts with people to learn certain lessons which ultimately will bring us back to LOVE. Sometimes our greatest challenges/struggles shed light onto where we can do the greatest work…. because we have learned compassion and can help other people going through the same thing.
My father always told me (when I was angry/resentful) to have compassion because when people treat you poorly…it is because they are hurting terribly inside. When I have hurt others it has been when I too was a place of sadness or insecurity.
Hope this helps you on your own path! 🙂
Lots of love, Sarah Anne
Reason 11: Hate can be strong as love. Do you really want to give so much attention to a person you don’t like? When you forgive you will stop thinking about the person and that’s the best release.
I am going to try this tonight when I go to yoga. There is someone I need to forgive as well as myself!