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Why Forgiveness is Medicine

Ahhh, the F word – and no, not the one you’re thinking of. I’m talking about forgiveness –  a formidable word and resentment’s sworn enemy. But, the truth is, it ain’t all that powerful if we don’t practice it on ourselves, as well as others.

What’s the outcome of holding anger over someone for something they did? Suffering. What’s the outcome of holding anger over ourselves for something we did? Suffering. So, it seems the old phrase, “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies” has some merit to it. Who it’s directed at doesn’t matter – resentment keeps us stuck and in mental-emotional purgatory.

A Mantra for Forgiveness

As part of my healing and growth, I’ve been working on forgiving others who’ve hurt me, while simultaneously forgiving myself for how I’ve hurt myself. My main tool: the Hawaiian practice of forgiveness, Hoʻoponopono – it translates to correction in English. The mantra goes like this:

I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

When repeated, the words are seen as a form of mental and spiritual cleansing that corrects negative thought patterns connected to sickness in the physical world – and karma, in the non-physical world.

Putting it into Practice

Hawaiian psychologist and shamanic practitioner, Dr. Hew Len, used Hoʻoponopono in his work with the criminally insane by holding his hands over their files, repeating those words and accepting 100% responsibility for their actions.

As he worked on himself, the patients began to heal. A year and a half later, those who’d been shackled at the ankles and wrists for violent behaviour became unshackled, free to leave the premises in short-spurts. Their levels of medication dropped dramatically. Their behaviour improved drastically. The cause and effect here aren’t necessarily clear, but it’s something to think about.

The Bottom Line

I’m not sure that we have to accept responsibility for the actions of someone else, but it can’t hurt to own up to the things we’ve done. Where there’s acceptance, there’s freedom to act and freedom to change. Forgiving someone for their painful or unjust behaviour towards us doesn’t mean we’re saying that it’s ok. It just means we’re giving ourselves the opportunity to let go of the heavy weight of blame and our connection to that part of our past. It’s a crucial component of healing and moving forward. We can’t do that until we cut the string.

When we apologize to ourselves for self-blame, self-harm, self-destruction or something along those lines, we open the doors to self-love or at least, self-like. I’m learning that we simply can’t become the person we want to if we stay connected to these limiting ways of thinking and being. What I’m trying to say is, forgiveness can be really tough but it’s the next step for all of us to heal in the present moment and let go of the past.

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