Most people do not know what true forgiveness is, and so, most people are not able to take advantage of the vast benefits forgiveness offers.
Forgiveness has the power to set us free. It changes the way we see hurtful events and dissolves the past so we can move forward without them weighing us down.
Sometimes, people are unwilling or unable to forgive because they feel doing so will somehow invalidate their experiences. Or they feel if they forgave a hurtful act it would make that event okay. There is nothing farther from the truth, however. Forgiveness doesn't change events, it only changes what those events mean to us. It heals our relationship with those events so we can review and learn from them without the emotional baggages that compromise our ability to see clearly.
Other times, people don't know how to forgive. No matter how hard they try to remove themselves from what has hurt them, they feel themselves repeatedly pulled right back into it. This is because we strengthen what we fight. The path of forgiveness is never one of separation. We don't free ourselves from the hooks of past events through denial, attack, or apathy. Forgiveness asks us to dive into these events and transform them into something new. Through forgiveness, we literally change the way we look at events, so that they cease to mean what they once meant. This is how they dissolve.
But what does it mean to feel that "there is no longer anything to forgive?"
Most people who struggle with forgiveness cannot even fathom such a relationship with the events they are holding onto as the cause of their suffering.
To better demonstrate the power of forgiveness, allow me to give you an analogy.
Imagine you are walking along and I come over and hand you a box. Without questioning it, you start carrying this box with you. And then someone else walks up to you and hands you another box, which you put atop my box and start carrying. Every once in a while, people come up to you and hand you boxes, which you choose to carry.
Pretty soon, you are carrying a great load. Your steps are slow and sluggish, your energy is low, you're frustrated and angry. And it is no wonder -- you are being weighed down by all the boxes you're mindlessly carrying.
One box can be a punch in the stomach, another might be something someone said to you at a party, another is that thing someone did you are not able to forget.
These events happened once at one point in time, and yet you have chosen to carry them with you all this way.
Forgiveness means you put all the boxes down where you stand, and you say, "Thanks, but I'm not going to carry these with me."
You move forward lighter. You move forward as your Self.
This is true forgiveness. You can acknowledge that the box exists and it was given to you, but your relationship with that box changes. The box, of course, is the event.
So, in practical terms, if I punch you in the stomach, you can acknowledge that punched you in the stomach -- this event happened -- but by forgiving the event, you choose to not carry it with you into the future. You leave the event exactly where it is: in the moment the punch happened.
So, how can you do this? How can you let go of an event the moment it happened? How can you truly forgive?
The only way true forgiveness happens is through love and compassion. There is no other path into forgiveness than this.
In that moment that I punched you in the stomach, you apply love and compassion to the situation. You literally change the way you see the situation, by looking at it through a lens of love and compassion.
Your internal dialogue changes from blame and self-pity to something like, "I wonder what is going on in Ellie's life today that she felt like she needed to hurt someone. I know that only people who are hurt will hurt others. For her to want to inflict this much pain means she must be in a great deal of pain herself. I wonder what is going on."
Notice, that the event -- even though it was a direct punch in your stomach -- is no longer personal? The attack is not something that is done to you, but rather the hurtful act of someone who is hurting.
Can you see how different this already feels?
Can you see the power behind being able to see the world in this way?
Can you see how the world would shift if all of us made the shift away from blame and self-pity into compassion?
I hope you can already see how an event begins to dissolve as we see it through this new lens. This is true forgiveness.
When we practice true forgiveness, an event that we previously saw as a sin transforms into a mistake, and because we all make mistakes, it is a small step for the mistake to dissolve into a wrongdoing that never happened.
I may have punched you in the stomach, but when you forgive me fully, this act is no longer a wrongdoing -- it transforms into a cry for help.
After all, isn't every act either an expression of love or a cry for love?