Have you ever thought you had forgiven someone (including yourself), only to spend time with them and immediately begin to feel all the anger and annoyance rise up again? Yeah? Me, too. However, does this mean you haven’t forgiven the person? Probably not. There are a few factors at play that can make forgiveness SEEM complicated, but it’s not… as long as you are aware of what’s going on in your heart, mind, and body. As with so many important things in life, it’s SIMPLE, but not necessarily EASY.
If you have done any personal growth or spiritual work in your life, you know how vital your thoughts and speech are in affecting your behavior, mood, success, what you attract, and your relationships. Because of this, I bet you consciously speak a slightly (if not significantly) different language than you did 5, 10, or 20 years ago. By speaking this new language, you have literally changed the neural pathways in your body and brain so that certain situations don’t cause the same immediate and automatic reactions, they once did. CONGRATULATIONS!!! That is not easy work, my friend.
But here’s the kicker: Not everyone around you speaks the new language. The only way they know how to communicate with you is in the old language which can trigger the old (uncomfortable, restrictive, sometime shame ridden) pathways. Yuck! So, what do you do when this happens, as it’s very likely to happen around the holidays when you are with family or people from your past?
First, take a deep breath and be aware of what's really happening. Once you realize, “Oh, this person is just speaking that old language because they don’t speak the same new language I speak” it helps you have compassion and understanding for that person. It helps you not take whatever they are saying so personally.
Second, consciously choose how you will react. It would be very easy for you to slip back into the old language and get wrapped up in that familiar cycle of struggle either with that person or with yourself. Or, you can stop, breathe and carefully craft your response in your new language with compassion for yourself and the person with whom you are speaking.
Third, be grateful. Be grateful to the other for reminding you how far you’ve come. Silently thank them for giving you the opportunity to strengthen that new pathway. Also, thank yourself for all the work you’ve done and for being brave enough to try the new way even though not everyone is going to get it.
WARNING: You may be tempted to criticize or pity the person; condescend them or brag about how superior your new way is. Please don’t. Remember, every person is on his/her own path and that path is not for you to judge. Stay in YOUR center, here. You take care of you.
Besides the old language and pathways, there’s another, more internal factor going on when it comes to forgiveness: your old friend, monkey mind; inner critic; ego; stinkin’ thinkin'; the tapes; whatever you want to call it.
Forgiveness comes from the heart. It is not a mental activity. Once you open your heart and are willing to forgive, you have forgiven. Period. HOWEVER, your brain is usually not so quick on the uptake. For a while, your ego will continue to give you reasons why this person shouldn’t be forgiven. It is natural for us to label and categorize people. That’s how our analytical brains work. But sometimes, when a deep hurt has occurred, our ego forgets to see and communicate with the human in front of us. It begins to communicate only with the persona we have created in our mind that is constantly adding evidence to what a horrible being they are.
Focusing solely on the persona your mind has created keeps you stuck in the heavy bonds of negative thoughts and actions.
Once you’ve become aware that your heart has forgiven, but your brain is still playing the old tapes, my favorite antidote is a simple phrase I learned from Maria Nemeth, Ph.D in her book, The Energy of Money. You can compassionately say to your ego, “Thank you for sharing, but I have already forgiven this person”. That’s it. Doesn’t that feel freeing? You may have to say it 20 or 100 times when you first start, but as with any practice, it will become more natural and eventually a habit.
As stated with every piece on forgiveness, but always a good reminder, forgiveness does not mean you condone the other person’s behavior or that you need to go back for more of whatever they may have said or done to hurt you. Forgiveness is a spiritual release that can be done from afar if you chose to no longer be in a relationship with the person or if they are no longer physically here. You have that choice. Show compassion to yourself by keeping yourself safe, however that looks for you.
However, if you are in relationship with the person and you want to feel freer, more open-hearted and not so darn angry all the time, ponder this while you are with them:
How do I want to respond to a person communicating with me on old pathways?
"Thank you for sharing, but I have already forgiven this person."
Happy Forgiving! I would love to hear about any other forgiveness tools that have worked for you or about forgiveness humps you’re having a hard time crossing. I look so forward to connecting with you. Happy Holidays!
Peace & Love , Jacque
Jacque Saltsman is a Healer and Life Coach who is committed to the empowerment and healing of women locally and globally. Jacque has attended and staffed the Woman Within Training Weekend and sits in an amazing E-circle in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. She can be found at jacquesaltsman.com.