Why Forgiveness is So Important
This week I had a powerful lesson in contrast. I discovered that someone I have known for over a decade, someone I have loved, appreciated, and made many sacrifices for, has been nurturing a lingering resentment toward me for many years. Her resentment finally boiled over a few days ago, and when it did, it completely blindsided me. I was stunned and hurt, and after I got over my initial shock, I allowed myself to feel everything I needed to feel. Anger, resentment, and a desire to strike back all flowed through me, followed by sadness and acceptance. Eventually, I felt compassion and forgiveness.
How was I able to reach that point of compassion and forgiveness? I allowed myself to feel. I let my emotions flow through me without resistance and without chiding myself for feeling the way I did. When I felt anger, and other negative emotions, I didn’t stop to go sight-seeing, nor did I set up camp or buy real estate. Doing so would have stranded me there, and I would have eventually acted on my thoughts, leading to a cycle of more anger and resentment from and toward the other person. So, I kept moving until I reached a place where I could forgive.
I’m not going to lie to you. It wasn’t easy. I was really upset. But I knew that holding onto my resentment would have harmed me more than the other person. You’ve probably heard this quote before, but it bears repeating:
“Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
This quote has been attributed to dozens of people, but Buddha is the most frequently cited source. I first heard it almost 25 years ago, but I never really paid attention to its truth until I started to let go of the emotional baggage that prevented me from creating the life I wanted to live. That’s when I understood that when I held onto grudges or blamed other people for my circumstances, I harmed no one but me.
So I learned how to forgive the people I thought harmed me, and in the process, I learned how to forgive myself. I forgave myself for hating or blaming others. I forgave myself for the mistakes I made. I forgave myself for being a less-than-perfect human being. I continue to forgive myself every day.
Why is forgiveness so important? Because without it, we can’t move forward to create the lives we want. Without it, we can’t be truly happy. To use a more modern analogy, you can’t drive your car when it’s placed in park, the emergency brake is on, and the rear tires have boots on them.
So how can you let go of a grudge or lingering resentment that you’ve held onto for years, maybe even decades? It feels so familiar it’s almost like an old pair of shoes. The grudge has molded itself to you and it fits so well you feel naked without it. There are dozens of ways of releasing a grudge, one of my favorites being The Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin. The most effective method of forgiveness I’ve learned however, is the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.
In its simplest form, Ho’oponopono involves 4 steps:
- Recognition of your participation in whatever has created your circumstances.
- Full acceptance of responsibility for creating everything that currently exists in your life.
- Focusing on the person for whom you feel the resentment.
- Repeating the words, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you,” in that order until you feel a complete release of your negative feelings.
That’s it. I know it sounds crazy that something so simple can be so effective, and yet it is. The most amazing thing of all is that you’ll discover that when you forgive others, you inevitably forgive yourself.
What resentments or grudges are you holding onto? Do you want to keep them, or are you ready to let go and feel better? Which is more important to you? Being right, or being happy? Once you decide what you want and you’re ready to forgive (especially yourself), you’ve taken one of the most important steps toward the next stage of your amazing life.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.