Step 7 – Learning to Forgive
Once we have reached Step Seven in the forgiveness process, we have come to a very special place. There are certain things we have come to realize about our minds and the way we think. We may have realized that in a sense we have operated from two minds – our ego self and our spiritual self or the place of our divinity. When we function from the lower self, we believe that responsibility for whatever has taken place is outside of ourselves, not within. When we work through our higher or spiritual nature, our divinity helps us see through our illusions and misperceptions. Our spiritual essence is that part of our self that is in touch with the creative force and reminds us that this force is always within us. It is the part that tells us that there is another way we can go about living and interacting in this world. In Step Seven, the spiritual self is awakened, setting the stage for a transformation to take place that only forgiveness can bring.
This step not only asks us to understand what has taken place in another person’s life but also to recognize that what we see in them is the outer covering and not their true inner being. When we are able to see their inner light, no matter what the outer actions are, we are seeing with spiritual sight. All of us wear different outer clothes but are the same at the depth of our being, and so we look for their light and do not focus on the outer covering. When you can open your heart to others, no matter what the circumstances are, and not lose sight of their spiritual essence, a transformation within you takes place. Your life changes to a more meaningful existence and you experience the wonderful fruits of your labor. For some people these changes happen gradually, and they may not notice how profoundly they have changed. For others, their transformation can be so deep that not only is it a profound moment in their lives, what they chose to do becomes an incredible service to mankind.
When we make the commitment to forgive others, we are sometimes given a gift. If we find that we are struggling to forgive but know in our heart the commitment is there, sometimes a mysterious energy intervenes. We can experience this force as a surge of energy or the feeling of inexplicable love. Some people call it grace, and others call it a third factor that transcends anything they have ever experienced. At this point in our healing process, we open ourselves to the entirety of what is. In that opening we allow ourselves to be at one with a situation, or with life as a whole, and a profound healing takes place. There is nothing we can do to create this experience except to say to ourselves, “I take responsibility for my anger, guilt and pain and give it over to that which is greater than me.” If our request is heartfelt, we will get the help we need. This can be one of the most profound moments of our life when our prayers are answered.
With forgiveness the past, although not forgotten nor rationalized away, is not longer a haunting or burdensome issue. Instead, we experience a restoration of a sense of wholeness and of inner direction and an opening up of our heart to others. We can acknowledge that others act in a way human beings do, out of their fears, needs and perceptions, and that we are no different. This understanding makes it possible for us to live in a new and fuller way.
Last, the spiritual dimension of forgiveness cannot be over-looked. It is the transforming nature of forgiveness, coupled with what some experience; that involves more than our own will that makes forgiveness so profound. Once forgiveness is experience at this deeper level, we can realize the larger meaning of the injury. The sense of relief from the hurt itself seems to be only one aspect, perhaps even small, compared to the freedom we experience from forgiveness. The future opens with amazing possibilities, and we feel a fuller kinship with others and at the same time humbled by what seems to be a gift that only forgiveness can bring.
For your journal exercise, rewrite your forgiveness story, this time with the understanding you have gained going through the forgiveness process. Include in your story the understanding you have gained about yourself and the perpetrator. How has your thinking changed in terms of how you choose to see the world? Did you struggle with letting go of your anger and guilt and, if so, what happened or what did you need to have happen to finally let go? Did you experience a moment of grace and if so, how has that changed you? Finish your story with what you would like to do or say that you may not have been able to do yet.
Reflection: As you think about what you learned through this process what has seeing the world through spiritual sight taught you? What have you learned and gained from the forgiveness process?
And remember, forgiveness is the science of the heart. It is the anchoring of a new wisdom rooted in compassion. For those who have the courage to follow its path, forgiveness reminds us how to live wit love in a world filled with guilt and fear.
We are the ones who determine how much anger and hatred we will experience in our lives, as well as how much compassion and forgiveness we will extend to others. We have been given opportunities to hate and the wisdom to transcend our hate. Think of the personal power we much have to move beyond old choices and to respond to life from a place of spiritual wisdom. Our pain and suffering provide us with the chance to learn how to forgive and to know our truest, most beautiful nature. Forgiveness is the gift given to us to transcend our darkness and like alchemy, turns it to gold.
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As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.
For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.