A popular spiritual teacher recently posted, Forgiveness is the only way to heal.
But is it really?
The thread burst with feisty comments. Some people shouted, Yes! Others scorned the idea.
Many people want to forgive, but don’t know how. They feel like it’s a necessary step to let go of the past and move on.
As a stubborn Taurus, I’ve resisted forgiving others for small remarks and monumental wrongdoings. I concluded, If I hold on to what happened, I’ll avoid getting hurt again.
So I held on for years, sometimes a decade. Those awful memories swirled in my mind and jabbed at me, disrupting my relationships, work and health.
Sometimes, we must stew in our pain until the water boils over.
That’s when we start looking for another way to live.
Myths about forgiveness
What does forgiveness mean to you?
Perhaps we learned as children that forgiveness signals new beginnings. That it’s essential to “forgive and forget”, so that we can heal.
But our assumptions about forgiveness can actually hinder us.
When my husband Loïc and I tangoed in a hellish codependent relationship, we made a common assumption: Forgiveness means excusing the other person’s actions. But that just opened the door to more emotional abuse.
Our weak boundaries eventually taught us to hold the wrongdoer responsible for their actions. We lovingly called each other out. Tended to our wounds. And strived to do better.
At times, I still felt a knot in my stomach even after a long, heartfelt conversation. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean the pain disappears—and that’s okay.
It takes time to heal.
Loïc often reminded me, Forget our mean remarks, just heed the lessons. But I couldn’t just forget. A part of me believed it needed to remember, so that I could protect myself.
So I mindfully embraced my pain as long as I needed to. I mourned the loss of childhood joy and my utter lack of resilience and self-worth.
Slowly but surely, welcoming my fears brought relief and clarity. Instead of pressuring myself to forgive, I met myself exactly where I was, over and over.
My loving awareness soothed me and gave me strength to move on.
We don’t need to tell the person we forgave them. Nor do we need to forget what happened. We can choose if we want to include them in our lives.
We don’t even have to forgive anyone—that f-word is too loaded anyway.
Ultimately, we liberate ourselves by taking care of our wounds.
How to forgive when it feels impossible?
Instead of forcing ourselves to forgive, we can simply pay attention to our healing process.
Forgiveness isn’t key to making peace with our past—rather, it’s allowing our emotions to just be.
Mindfulness meditation helps us acknowledge our anger, hurt and sense of powerlessness, while staying grounded amid the turbulence. Writing a letter to the person often sets us free (no sending required).
As we fully experience our feelings, we can practice cultivating compassion: We all suffer. I’m not alone. Connecting with a support group eases isolation.
If and when we feel ready, we can gently consider the “gifts” of our suffering.
Perhaps we learned how to love ourselves more (by setting boundaries, for example). Or we discovered a desire to help others who’ve experienced something similar.
Above all, we give ourselves permission to proceed at our own rhythm.
We can’t control what other people say or do, but we can take charge of how we relate to our experience.
For me, forgiveness comes naturally as a byproduct of healing, of staying open to all my emotions.
What matters most is giving ourselves closure from the past, so that we can rise from the ashes and thrive.
You’re whole, underneath it all
It’s wonderful, isn’t it?
We don’t need to know how to forgive.
As long as we welcome our emotions, we can rest easy knowing our loving awareness brings relief.
Oftentimes, staying open to our inner world causes resistance. We may try to resolve things or force ourselves to forgive. But that doesn’t get us far.
Sooner or later, we must make the conscious choice to surrender to our mind’s pull. Our gentle presence creates space for the tremendous energy of our emotions to finally release.
Then our mind’s momentum slows down enough for us to witness our true nature—whole, serene and vibrant.
About the author
Annie Moussu is a spiritual coach offering practical wisdom to awakening souls. The world needs your inner peace. Sign up for her newsletter to get blog articles twice a month.
Further reading to learn how to forgive when it feels impossible: