The first thing I think of when I hear the word “forgive” is the old phrase “forgive and forget”. That phrase is used often and when it is said I always get the feeling that whatever needs to be forgiven is not all that serious. I interpret it that way because if I can forget a wrong, it must not have been all that bad.
Before I accepted my addiction and began recovery, I had this notion that it was I who had to forgive because everyone did things to me! I ignored the “forgive and forget” because the wrongs that were done me were way too serious. The evil wrongdoers would have a place in my mind so that I could constantly remember what they had done. There was no way I could forgive (why should I?) and I would never forget. I probably would also make sure that anyone who would listen would know what had been done to me. This was an extra boost because now I could be a victim. Pity party, anyone??
So what happened to us when we were harmed in some way? We drank, drugged, shopped, gambled, ate or did whatever our addiction dictated because we didn’t know anything else. We replayed experiences, incidences and people over and over in our heads. These could have happened a day ago or 20 years ago. It didn’t matter. They became a part of our life. We liked it because we could continue to make excuses why we held on to our addiction. (As I write this, I have to tell you that I feel the misery.) We allowed all of these to hold us hostage.
When we make a decision to admit our addiction and begin a recovery program, we inadvertently begin to learn about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a skill that can be taught but rather creeps into our hearts and souls gradually. Most important is that we must recognize how arrogant was our thinking when we truly believed it was up to us to forgive, forgetting that there were probably a lot more folks out there who we needed to ask forgiveness of. It was all about us then but today we know different.
A while ago in my quest to focus on meditation I was particularly drawn to American Buddhist, Jack Kornfield. He teaches that we can cultivate forgiveness through meditation and repeated practice make forgiveness a part of our lives. I particularly love the word “practice”. I like to think that I “practice” forgiveness as one of my principles. The more practice, the more peace and serenity. I am convinced that the practice of forgiveness should be a part of daily prayer or meditation.
I want to share with you my experience with forgiveness meditation and I would invite you to try this on a regular basis. Remember it is practice. About one year ago I made what I now call an “error in judgment”. This error was going to have serious results so I had only one choice. I had to ask for forgiveness. I also had to remember that being forgiven did not mean there were no repercussions for my mistake. I accepted that fact. So I remembered the forgiveness meditation I had read about (and, by the way had read in a number of other books written by other American Buddhists) and determined it was what I needed to do…it was what I had to do.
The forgiveness meditation is about forgiving others; asking forgiveness of others; and then asking forgiveness of yourself. I read that it was a good idea to envision the faces of those you think about during this meditation. There are no “right” words but this is what I say:
I forgive all who have harmed me in any way intentionally or unintentionally. May I forgive them.
I ask forgiveness of all whom I have harmed in any way intentionally or unintentionally. May they forgive me.
I ask forgiveness for harming myself in any way intentionally or unintentionally. May I forgive myself.
I follow up with the Serenity Prayer. The first time I practiced this I said these words non-stop for over an hour. I cannot tell you in words the peace that came over me. I try now to say these words every day because this is the “practice”. The other benefit that comes from the repetition of these words is that is does become meditation and for many of us, that is something we can only hope to conquer.
Forgiveness is difficult. It means letting go of resentments and pain. Some of us have been deeply wounded and so forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness softens our hearts. Forgiveness is a “get out of jail free” card because it releases us from the prison of our own minds and of our addictions. Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves. Cherish it.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
Like Grateful Recovery on Facebook. Kathy L. is the author of The Intervention Book now available in print, e-book and audio