(1) to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
(2) to give up any claim to requital (compensation or retaliation)
(3) to grant relief from debt.
"To forgive is to abandon all hope of a better past."
- author unknown, quoted by Jack Kornfield
In considering the harm we have caused this expression is helpful: “It’s not my fault, but it is my responsibility.
1) Opening to the pain – feeling the distress of what happened.
2) Self-compassion – which has three steps:
a. Mindfulness: Feeling what we’re feeling with acceptance
b. Common Humanity: This is a normal part of human life, many people feel this way.
c. Self-Kindness: What do I need right now? May I be kind to myself.
3) Wisdom – understanding that the situation wasn’t entirely personal but was also influenced by many factors beyond immediate control of each person.
4) Raising the Intention to Forgive – “May I begin to forgive myself for what I did.” “May I begin to forgive them for that they did.”
5) Taking Responsibility – we commit to do our best to learn from each painful situation and not to cause harm.
Forgiveness is not simple. When we have been harmed, hurt, betrayed, abandoned, or abused, forgiveness can often seem to be out of the question. And yet, unless we find some way to forgive, we will hold that hatred and fear in our hearts forever. Imagine what the world would be like without forgiveness. Imagine what it would be like if every one of us carried every single hurt, every single resentment, all the anger that came up, when we felt betrayed. If we just kept that in our hearts and never let it go, it would be unbearable. Without forgiveness, we’re forced to carry the sufferings of the past. As Jack Kornfield says, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” In that sense, forgiveness is really not about someone’s harmful behavior; it’s about our own relationship with our past. When we begin the work of forgiveness, it is primarily a practice for ourselves.
Forgiveness does not gloss over what has happened in a superficial way. The practice is not about planting a smile on our face and saying, “It’s okay. I don’t mind.” It’s not a misguided effort to suppress our pain or to ignore it. If you’ve suffered a great injustice, coming to forgiveness may include a long process of grief and outrage and sadness and loss and pain. Forgiveness is a deep process, which is repeated over and over and over again in our hearts. It honors the grief and it honors the betrayal. And in its own time, it ripens into the freedom to truly forgive. And if we look honestly at our own lives, we can see the sorrows and pain that have led to our own wrongdoing. We’re not just victims; sometimes we also need to be forgiven. And in this way we can finally extend forgiveness to ourselves and hold the pain that we have caused in the heart of compassion. Without such mercy we would live in isolation or in exile.
Forgiveness releases us from the power of fear and allows us to see kindly with a wise heart. First, we need to understand forgiveness: then we learn how it is practiced, and then how we may forgive ourselves and others….The power of forgiveness releases us from the power of fear. Our practice of lovingkindness can be enhanced by our practice of forgiveness, because it allows us to see with kind eyes and to rest in a wise and peaceful heart. In any moment, we can learn to let go of hatred and fear and rest in peace and forgiveness—it’s never, ever too late. But in order to cultivate a truly loving and kind heart, we need to develop the practices that cultivate and strengthen forgiveness and the natural compassion within us. Our ability to forgive allows us to make space for our ability to meet suffering—our suffering as well as the suffering of others—with a kind heart.
The Prayer Before the Prayer
I want to be willing to forgive
But I dare not ask for the will to forgive
In case you give it to me
And I am not yet ready
I am not yet ready for my heart to soften
I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again
Not yet ready to see that there is humanity in my tormentor’s eyes
Or that the one who hurt me may also have cried
I am not yet ready for the journey
I am not yet interested in the path
I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness
Grant me the will to want to forgive
Grant it to me not yet but soon
Can I even form the words
Dare I even look?
Do I dare to see the hurt I have caused:
I can glimpse all the shattered pieces of that fragile thing
That soul trying to rise on the broken wings of hope
But only out of the corner of my eye
I am afraid of it
And if I am afraid to see
How can I not be afraid to say
Is there a place where we can meet?
You and me
The place in the middle
Where we straddle the lines
Where you are right
And I am right too
And both of us are wrong and wronged
Can we meet there?
And look for the place where the path begins
The path that ends when we forgive.
From The Book of Forgiving: the Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu