Forgiveness is a hard concept to grasp. Especially when we feel justified in our resentment when someone has done something "wrong" or "bad" to us. However holding onto resentments has detrimental effects on our health, both physically and mentally.
I first learned about self forgiveness through the University of Santa Monica in 2005. They taught us this concept of forgiving ourselves for judgments, for old beliefs, for limiting stories about ourselves, life and God. Self forgiveness was one of the many tools I learned in that school, almost 13 years ago, that still supports me on a daily basis and the clients that I coach.
Self forgiveness is not about what we did or didn't do, what we said or didn't say. It is about forgiving the judgment around the action or the thought or buying into the limiting story about ourselves, others, money, love or God.
Try it for yourself. Say the following outlaid followed by a judgment you have about yourself or others:
I forgive myself for being...
I forgive myself for thinking...
Now try saying it this way:
I forgive myself for judging myself as...
I forgive myself for buying into the belief that...
Did you notice the difference? You don't have to forgive yourself for being a certain way or thinking a certain way. That in and of itself is another judgment. We are the way we are. We think the way we think. When we forgive ourselves for judging that we are bad or not enough for being the way we are, is freeing. When we forgive ourselves for judging the way we think as wrong, is healing.
What is also important about self forgiveness is following up the forgiveness with what is true. The truth is you are doing the best you can. The truth is you can choose differently next time. The truth is you are enough just as you are. The truth is you can love yourself no matter what.
Because the truth is...
When we forgive ourselves (and others) we create space, and in that spaciousness the truth about who you really are, is revealed.
In addition to the spiritual upgrade, learning how to practice forgiveness on a daily basis has physical longevity and mental benefits.
Physically speaking, it was found in a 2011 study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine that people who forgave unconditionally were more likely to have a longer life than those who did not practice forgiveness. Additionally, when you are constantly in anger and fight or flight, you can have an elevated blood pressure and heart rate which can have detrimental effects on your long term health, according to John Hopkins Medicine. When you reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, you also improve the quality of your sleep. So practicing forgiveness with yourself and others can improve insomnia and sleep, as this study noted also in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Our immune system responds to forgiveness also. In a study conducted by the CDC, it was found that patients with HIV who practiced forgiveness with those that they perceived had hurt them, had higher CD4 cell percentages (meaning a stronger immune status), according to the Society of Behavioral Medicine.
Mentally, when we practice forgiveness with others, we are more likely to mirror that understanding nature with ourselves as discovered in this Baylor University study. This will improve the mental and emotional benefits of self-acceptance, self-trust and ultimately self-love. This amazing study showed that forgiveness is one of the most important qualities of successful and long lasting relationships. It also found that forgiveness was more important than the amount of time that passed, the relationship satisfaction, and degree of commitment in overcoming hurt from an infidelity.
The practice of forgiveness is one of the hardest habits to master in the realms of self discovery. Above all else, remember that whoever you are forgiving was once a child, you were once a child, and we all deserve forgiveness and by forgiving it doesn't mean its okay. Integrating the ritual of identifying what we are judging, what beliefs we are buying into that keep us in a state of suffering, forgiving ourselves and then stating the truth, will leave you feeling the lightest you've ever known.