Forgiveness: The Radical Self-Care Act You Might Be Missing

Forgiveness: The Radical Self-Care Act You Might Be Missing

The act of forgiving someone is such a simple concept, in theory. But make no mistake: Negative emotions are deep, mysterious, and difficult to transform. When you get hurt, your survival mechanisms are hardwired to fight, or else run as far away as you can get. But those impulses are limiting; it’s not enough to scream and yell at someone who’s hurting you; you must also love yourself enough to move on. Forgiveness is not about letting the “bad guy” off the hook; it’s about taking the hook out of your own heart.

This kind of self-care isn’t an all-or-nothing act; it’s about responding honestly and with kindness to the truth as it emerges. It’s not your job to call out the wrong in others; all you need to do is to align yourself with what’s right for you.

On the latest episode of Self Service, I recommend a forgiveness ritual that can be particularly useful during this time of year, when Valentine’s Day and general celebrations of love may reopen wounds both new and old. For the greatest impact, start it with the solar eclipse on February 15, and do it daily through the whole lunar cycle (or at the very least until the next full moon, which happens on March 1). But keep in mind, of course, that it’s unrealistic to say “I forgive so-and-so,” and then be done with it. Forgiveness takes time, patience, and care. And know, too, that this ritual for forgiveness can be done at any time, and it’s really simple. Here are the steps:

  • Make a list of every person that you have resentment towards. This includes the big ones—heartbreaks and traumas—down to the little, petty stuff (i.e. your friend still hasn’t Venmo’d you for the dinner you went out to two weeks ago.)
  • Once this is done, go through each name and breathe. Stay present with the feels that you have about them.
  • Then, forgive them. When you can’t forgive them, forgive yourself.
  • Repeat.

It’s helpful to remember that forgiveness is not consent. Forgiveness is an act of self-healing that will set you free. It allows you to acknowledge your pain without aligning yourself permanently with it. Forgiveness supports your ability to accept your past without reliving it or attempting to change what’s unchangeable. Sometimes it’s a process, and sometimes you can have a cathartic shift, but it’s always soothing to your soul on some level.

When someone is a dink, that’s their problem; but when you harbor feelings of hate, vengefulness, or resentment, you unwittingly turn it into your problem. People do shitty things. And when they do shitty things, it’s a reflection of their shit—not of your value. Forgive yourself for clutching someone else’s poison and holding it close to your heart. Forgive yourself for your part. Forgive yourself for not taking better care of you.

You don’t need to get wrapped up in the story of what someone else did or didn’t do to you; it’s done. It’s over. Now it’s time to love yourself enough to let go, so you can then fill yourself up with what you truly want your life to hold. When you let go of what no longer serves you, it has the consequence of leaving room for what’s meant to be. No one can take your good from you, so don’t give it away willingly, love.

Holding on to the pain another has caused you does nothing but keep you down. If the best revenge is success, you must start within, because you can’t be truly successful if you’re unhappy and haunted by the past. So go through your list, be still with the resentments you hold toward another, and see if you can feel some forgiveness in that stillness.

And if you ever get stuck, try releasing yourself with this affirmation for forgiveness: “I freely forgive you. I may not understand you or your actions, and I don’t need to. All bonds between us are broken. It’s done and finished forever.”

Breathe into it, and let it fill you up from there. If you can’t find it in you, forgive yourself for not being ready to let go, and try again tomorrow. Do what you need to do to get free.