“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
– Lewis B. Smedes
Sometimes in life we have the experience of being hurt by someone else. This hurt is often the result of perceived dishonesty, betrayal, disappointment, etc. When dealing with strong negative emotions that cause hurt and pain, it can be easy to get wrapped up in them. One powerful way from which we can escape that emotional suffering is through forgiveness.
One of the most important (and sometimes one of the most difficult) ways that we can extend our forgiveness is towards ourselves. We all have had errors in our thinking which have led to mistakes in our actions. Many of us still hold our wrongdoings against ourselves. We feel guilt for our actions and their effects. However, guilt is a wasted emotion. There is never a reason to feel guilty about anything. ANYTHING. Let me explain…
Guilt blocks forgiveness. You cannot forgive yourself and feel guilty at the same time. Just as you cannot hold a loving thought and a fearful thought at the same time.
When you stay stuck in guilt long enough, it can transform into shame. This means that you move from feeling guilty about your actions to shameful about the person you are. If guilt becomes an emotion that defines you, then you may start to believe that you’re no longer a good person that made a mistake. Instead, you have become a bad person who can do nothing right. It only serves your ego to stay stuck in guilt. It does not honor the divine nature of the loving spirit that you really are. Guilt keeps you from fully loving yourself and from being able to truly forgive.
What is important is the acknowledgement of the error. The realization that you may have acted in a way that was not loving is all you need to make a different choice the next time. As we grow, so do the choices that we make. Reflection of our past mistakes can help us understand that we were acting under a more limited consciousness than what we currently have in our present state of awareness. In the moment of our mistake, we acted/reacted as best as our consciousness would allow. Understanding this concept can save us from a lot of self-inflicted guilt and shame.
Just as we should not judge others for their actions, we also should not be so harsh in judgement of ourselves. When we recognize an error in someone’s thinking, we should send that person love. And if it is us who has made the error, we should send love to ourselves.
You may be saying, “But this person intentionally tried to hurt me! How can I forgive him/her? How can I love him/her?” In these situations, I try to always remember the saying, “Hurt people, hurt people.” Only a person that is suffering through a lot of emotional pain could intentionally try and inflict hurt upon another. A person who is full in love would not seriously entertain the thought of trying to hurt someone else. When you come across a person who is in the midst of such hurt and pain, compassion for them is a helpful and loving response.
Some people also hold the notion that forgiving means that you’re allowing acceptance and approval of the mistake that was made. That’s not at all what forgiveness does. Forgiveness allows you to release the anger/frustration/blame/hurt that you have been holding so that you can return to the peace and love that is of your natural state. A lack of forgiveness does not hurt the trespassers, it only affects the one holding the animosity in their heart.
I have found that prayer can be effective in fostering forgiveness. I heard Marianne Williamson mention the practice of praying for your enemies for 30 days straight and it is something that I recommend to my friends when they are having difficulty forgiving someone. Embarking on such an honest devotion towards forgiveness can help to create new peaceful circumstances and new loving perceptions. I recommend praying for peace in the relationship, forgiveness in your heart, and well-being for him/her.
When we can allow ourselves to forgive, then we can move into a space of sincere love for the person we felt we were betrayed or hurt by. Forgiveness is a tool that allows us to shift our perception from fear to love. It allows us to see past the human imperfections and see the perfection in each divine soul. And if we all exercised forgiveness and allowed love to guide our perceptions, imagine all the beauty we would see in ourselves, in each other and on our planet.
“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us. ”
We live in a world of polarity. This polarity is most often noted by the duality in nature. We have male and female, up and down, left and right, large and small, short and tall, light and dark, night and day, etc. Although duality seems to be most obvious in our world of physicality, there is often a middle ground which makes our polarized spectrum one that’s more of a trinity than just a simple “this or that”. For example, between hot and cold is warm, and between big and small there’s medium. I think that the fairy tale story of “The Three Bears” and Goldilocks best exemplifies this. Without the complement, we wouldn’t be able to truly know what a thing is. And sometimes the best way to understand something is by realizing what it is not.
For me, one of my biggest revelations was being able to see how all emotions are extensions and expressions of either love or fear. These are the two extremes of the polarized emotional energy spectrum. Love or fear is the motivating force behind everything we think and do. All of the positive emotions that we have like joy, gratitude, peace, happiness, compassion, etc. are expressions of love. The negative emotions and feelings that we have like anger, sadness, jealousy, depression, self-doubt, etc. are all extensions of fear.
The connection of each individualized feeling to its root of love and fear may not be so obvious. But if you reflect on those moments when you have felt one way or the other, I think it becomes clearer to see how they are the grounding forces behind everything we do. Perhaps you may be asking, “What does being jealous have to do with being fearful?” When we are jealous of what someone else has or has achieved, what is really happening is that at some level, we are not fully seeing our own worth. We fear that we are not good enough to have what it is that we want, and in turn we envy those that do. This fear arises because we have brought into an illusion of lack–which is untrue because we live in an abundant universe–however, we think that if someone else has something, then there is less for us.
Love is the cure for fear. Fear and love cannot coexist in the same thought. You’re either moving in the direction of one or the other. Thankfully, at any moment you can choose to think another thought. Living with love will open you up to a world full of exciting experiences. On the other hand, fear keeps you trapped from being and fully understanding the love that you are.
As a whole, we have traveled so far from our true nature which is love. We have identified with something that we are not (fear) and in the process have created an understanding of love that is unlike what it really is. When I speak of love, I mean unconditional love. A love that is neither jealous nor controlling. One that requires nothing. A love that gives without any expectation of return.The fear-based reality that has dominated much of the human experience can be changed by choosing to be and express love with every thought, every word, and every action.
All actions and emotional reactions are a result of beliefs that we hold. When we believe that something is good, we react in a positive way and vice versa. The helpful thing about fear is that it shows you where you hold a belief that is out of alignment with your true self (love). You can use your fear as a guide post for seeing where you can change your beliefs and adjust the way you look at a situation in order to see it through a lens of love. Once you face your fears and transmute it through loving energy, you can free yourself of the fear that you once held towards that thing. In fact, the thing that you once feared could become one of your greatest pleasures or joys.
When I catch myself thinking a negative thought, I stop and remember LOVE. I don’t beat myself up for it. Instead, I just move onto to a thought that is in the direction of love. By consciously monitoring our thoughts, we can began to live our lives more consistently aligned with our true selves. When I notice a pattern of negative thoughts, I find it helpful to ask myself “What am I afraid of?” This springs honest reflection that allows me to get to the root of the pattern and shift my thinking into thoughts that are more in alignment with love and not fear.
Love is the only thing that is real. It is the truth and it is eternal. Fear is the biggest illusion. Although it seems real, it is not at all. Think of a time when you had to do something that you were terrified to do. Once you did that thing, everything that you feared about it, you probably did not experience. You survived through it and you can see that the fear was all in your head. When we realize that there is really nothing to be afraid of, we can move out into the world and perceive and respond to all events with love. Freedom from consistent fearful thinking will help us to see the loving light within us and to express that in ways that will help others recognize their own light, and ultimately make this world a more loving place for all.
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
― C.S. Lewis
One of the biggest things that I have come to understand is the power of perception. Our perceptions shape our world based on the lens through which we view it. To take that a step further, situations in and of themselves are in a sense meaningless. Yes, meaningless. It is you that brings the meaning to it. The Universe shapes and moves itself according to the way in which you perceive it. This is much like how two people can witness the same event and have very different experiences of it.
For example, two people might witness a concert by a music artist at the same place and at the same time – side by side. One person could see the show and think that the artist did very well, was entertaining, and full of energy. The other person watching the same show might think that the artist was underwhelming, a little dull, and uncaptivating in their delivery. The first person might have left the show feeling like he had a great time, and the second person might have left feeling as though he didn’t get his money’s worth. How is it that they could have two different stories to tell from the same concert? Because, it is all subjective. If life’s situations themselves held all the meaning, we would all get the same thing from it, but we know that is not true.
The meaning that we give to life is based off of the beliefs and values that we hold. It may be hard to truly see how some things are not intrinsically good or bad. It is because we have such sure understandings of our morals and values, that it can be difficult to imagine someone else seeing what we judge to be bad, as a good thing. For example, many of us would agree that harming or killing children is a very bad thing. However, there are some societies and groups of people that will kill a newborn baby girl, for the simple fact that she is not a boy. This practice is known as sex-selective infanticide. For many of us, their actions would be bad/wrong. For them, it makes sense as the right thing to do.
We do not see things as they are, instead we see them as WE are. It is through who we are as a person that we determine what a situation or event means to us. As we change as people, so do our perceptions and our ideas of things. There was once a time in the United States of America, where formal slavery was acceptable. Not only was it acceptable but it was written law in our country. Now we have a law that states that the exact opposite is permissible. The same can be said for women’s voting rights, equal education, and other political and social issues. As we have progressed as a society, we have formed new ideas about right and wrong . What was right for us two-hundred years ago, is no longer what is right for us today. Through our personal growth, we will also find that old habits, behaviors, and beliefs that we were once accustomed to, no longer serve the truth and vision of who we are now and who it is that we choose to be.
I am currently enrolled in a poetry course and I am seeing how the interpretation of the conversations we have with one another throughout our lives, is similar to analyzing poetry. In class, we closely review various pieces to see what we notice in terms of symbolism, structure, and meaning. The great thing about it is that each reader can notice and gather significance from the poem in whichever way best sits with them. The author had a purpose and meaning behind the way he or she crafted their poem. The reader might be able to take away from the poem what the author intended or the reader might interpret a different meaning that was developed through their own unique perspective. The same is true for when we interpret the words and actions of others. We can choose to see them with love or with fear. Often misinterpretations happen because communication was received and then filtered through a lens that altered the meaning from one person to the other. The best way to avoid misinterpretations is to not make assumptions and to ask questions to clarify and be sure that both parties understand the information that is being shared.
This ties in with expectations. When you go into a situation expecting to see a certain thing, you probably will. If you open up and allow the greater good of all possibilities to flow, you never know what great things you could perceive.
This all reminds me of those eye illusions in which you can look at a picture and see a dancing couple or see a tree. Both are there. Like Oscar Wilde says, “The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.” Again, both are there. It’s all about what you allow yourself to see in it. Sometimes you see one or the other and sometimes you can see both. Just because you cannot see the good in the situation, does not mean it is not there. It’s like how there are never truly any days when the sun is not shining. The sun can sometimes be blocked by the clouds, but if you were to board a plane and shoot above them you could see that the sun was there all along. Shining bright as ever.
So even in situations when you cannot SEE the good, KNOW that it is there. KNOW that it hasn’t left. KNOW that your situation is part of a greater divine plan that was set in order for you to experience and grow in the ways that you need to.
One of my favorite quotes is by Dr. Wayne Dyer who said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” The freedom to give meaning to the situations in life is empowering. You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how you choose to see it. Choose to look through a lens of love and of positivity. Choose to give each situation a meaning that is uplifting. Trust that everything happens for your best. And allow yourself to see that the good is there, patiently waiting for you to invite it in!
“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
You may have heard this saying before and I think it rings very true. As we grow through life, we began to identify those things that make us feel good and those things that do not. In turn, we often learn through reaching a breaking point what we are willing to deal with and what we are not. When we begin to inner-stand those things for ourselves, we can make stable choices and set clear boundaries as guidelines for what we are willing to accept into our lives.
One of the core spiritual principles is that everything in your life is a reflection of you. All of the situations that are present in your life are there because you allow and tolerate them to be there. There are no victims, just “allowers”/volunteers. This is not meant to discredit your truth or your experience of a situation. Yes, you may have been hurt. Yes, you may have been transgressed against. But you cannot experience a thing that you are not a vibrational match for. In other words, all of the things that you experience: the good and the bad, are there because either consciously or unconsciously you invited them in. You energetically allowed them to happen. This may be a lot to take in and understand but when you own your part in the experience, you can then take charge to change it. If you continue to look at things through the eyes of a victim with thoughts like “They did this to me“, then you will continue to suffer in the same perpetuating patterns. By taking responsibility for your choices, you gain the freedom to move from that situation and choose something different for yourself. It is all up to you and YOU can choose to bring an empowering meaning to any situation.
You teach people how to treat you. You set the example for others. When you treat yourself well, others will see that and know how to treat you too.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who is in a relationship that was causing her a lot of stress. She told me that she had not been happy for a long time and that she was feeling emotionally rejected and abused many times when she shared her feelings and concerns with her boyfriend. She also told me that prior to entering this relationship, she had never had a boyfriend before. Because of that she had no idea of what to expect or how to really go about being in one. For that reason, she did not set any boundaries for herself, nor for what kind of behavior she is willing to accept in a relationship. She had no prior experience to look back on and had never considered that setting boundaries might be something that could be beneficial for her to do. Fortunately, after some brief time apart, they both decided to start over and work things out again. I suggested to her that this was a great time to now set boundaries for the things that she will no longer tolerate such as the verbal lashings and emotional attacks. Since then, she says that things have been much better and I hope their relationship continues to grow from the foundation that they now have established.
I believe that boundary setting in relationships is very important. These do not always have to be laid out explicitly at the beginning of a relationship; although, sometimes they can. I think it works well to share your feelings in the moment when you are feeling disrespected. Simply just let them know that what they are doing or saying to you is not acceptable. From there, they will know not to do that the next time. If that unacceptable behavior continues after you have made your feelings clear, then you may want to consider letting go of the relationship. By allowing someone to continually disrespect you, you are not honoring yourself.
This topic relates back to self-love. The things that you are willing to tolerate in your life show where you are in your level of consciousness. Put more simply, it shows how much awareness you have to choose and act from a place of love and not fear. When you are full of self-love, self-confidence, and self-respect, you will be able to more consciously choose those things and allow those things that are aligned with where you are. As you raise your consciousness and your standards, you will not allow some of the old things that you used to. It is up to you let people know what is acceptable behavior for you. Know that it’s never too late to start displaying and requesting the respect that you deserve. It’s better to let your concerns be known than to continue to be demeaned or disrespected.
When you carry yourself with respect, people notice that and reflect it back to you. Self-respect is a visible expression of the love that you have for yourself. For example, the attention I get when I walk into a place with a suit on is different from the attention I get when I walk into the same place with some sweatpants. This is not to say that you cannot respect yourself in sweatpants. However, the way you carry yourself and the way you choose to present yourself is a reflection of the way you feel about yourself on the inside. The outside is always a reflection of the inner. Sometimes positive outer circumstances can trigger that internal confidence and respect. Just by putting on some nice new clothes, you may automatically feel better about yourself than if you throw on that balled up shirt you had lying in the corner. Something as simple as getting a new haircut or putting on a pair of glasses could be the spark to get you started to building your inner love, confidence and respect. It is important to note that the true means for building your self-respect is not dependent upon outside circumstances. It comes from going within and loving and accepting yourself where you are, as you are.
Outside of just your relationships with others, this same idea holds true for your relationship with yourself. Many times we set out to accomplish certain things, but then make excuses that keep us from actively working toward achieving our visions. When you allow yourself to continue to make excuses for why you haven’t done a thing or why you’re too tired, or too old, or too young, etc. you end up with the same results and not with your realized dreams and goals. You don’t have to put up with the same excuses you have been making for yourself. You can lovingly set a new boundary that will no longer allow the excuses. From there, you are bound to make progress towards manifesting what you desire.
When you do have to make the choice to let go of things that no longer serve your highest good, understand that it is okay to feel bad at first. Just know that the choices you make are equal to the amount of love that you have for yourself. As you gain more love and respect for yourself, you may find that you have to let go of some things to allow for new situations to come into your experience that are more aligned with where you are right now.
Setting boundaries is one way in which you can honor the miracle of life that you are. You are deserving of all good things, but it is only when you come to know that to be true that you will begin to allow the good to flow more easily into your life. Don’t hesitate to let go of those toxic relationships, friendships, etc. Ask yourself today, “What are the new standards that I accept for myself? What do I need to let go of? How deeply do I love and respect myself?” With honest reflection and authentic self-love, you can open yourself up to an amazing new idea of the vision for your life.