Forgiving Our Choice
Hopefully, as you work through this visualization exercise, you will start to be able to say the phrase “I chose to feel _____” with more conviction. You will likely start owning your choice more fully and deeply because you plausibly see the other options that were on the table during that event in your past.
When we realize that our emotions are our choice, we begin to walk the path of forgiveness.
The first part of the act of forgiveness is to say “I forgive myself for choosing to feel ______, when I could have felt ______, _______, or __________.” You hopefully find peace in saying this sentence. You may also be quieting your voice of regret and attachment who may say “you should have felt curious, but you (idiot!) chose to feel sad.”
Try to hear yourself saying back “I forgive myself for choosing to feel _____.”
Forgiveness is not rumination or pity. Looking back and thinking ‘I forgive my [stupid / worthless / ignorant] self…’ or saying ‘I forgive myself, but I wish I had done _____…’ are not moments of forgiveness. To truly forgive is to honor that humans feel these emotions, that you are human, and that you felt this way. To move forward with forgiveness is to recognize the other choices of emotions you wish to embrace for your present. We’re moving to put the past to bed.
If you are struggling with this moment, or need more clarity, a walk can help, with some beautiful natural surroundings, as you try to reframe “he made me feel angry” to “I chose to feel angry, when I could have felt surprised, curious, or balanced.”
And that reframe is forgiveness – in one fashion. It is the act of taking the energy out of our past, and restoring our power to the present. It is re-storying and opening up the past, through boldly and powerfully focusing on our choices. It is experiencing a loving sense of balance (perhaps balance with pain) while sitting under a fruiting tree of forgiveness.
…and this is the beginning of the path. In stepping through forgiveness in the past pages, you may have the experience that you’ve arrived a world away from where you started. And, there is still room to move and grow through our forgiveness journey – in the next pages, we start to think about different and branching paths – what about the person involved in our event? What about changing our behavior, or inviting a change in the behavior of others, to invite a more compassionate future? What’s next, now that we’ve revisited, released and soothed our past – leaving memory in its own territory– and inviting possibility into our present?
We’re already becoming well-equipped.
Let’s retrace our steps, and then step onwards…
The Four Steps of Forgiveness Review
Step 1: Take A Moment
~ What are you holding?
~ Who or what are you directing a lot of ‘negative’ attention to?
~ What past event revisits you in painful/traumatic ways?
Step 2: Own Your Emotion
~ What did you feel? What feeling arose from within you?
~ Invite your emotions to take up your full head and heart
~ Label and experience the depth of that feeling
Step 3: Reframe the Emotion
~ Notice that is your own feeling – dismiss external thoughts – focus on you!
~ Transform faux-feelings into genuine feelings – and feel into them.
~ Pause, and allow the experience to ripen – allow your emotion to wash over you.
Step 4: Forgive Your Choice
~ What were the other options in the moment?
~ How can you hold them with the same understanding of plausibility as you hold the emotion you chose?
~ Can you envision another person choosing differently? Can you imagine yourself choosing differently?
~ How would the person you would like to be have chosen in that moment?
Step 1: “S/He or It made me feel ____________, because”
Step 2: “I feel ______________”
Step 3: “I chose to feel _______________.”
Step 4: “I chose to feel ________, instead of ________, _________, or _______. And in owning that choice, I find peace with having made it, and understand my power in choosing differently in the future. I release my attachment to that singular emotion, or how I “should” have felt – and I release that story of hurt. My past returns to its place – a memory, instead of a mandate.”
The Next Steps
From where you are now, the paths of forgiveness branch outwards. You have the opportunity to walk each and every one of them. There is no ‘right’ motion here, nor ‘more effective’ next step. The choices depend on what you’re feeling and where you would like to go in your journey to become who you want to be.
Perhaps this is the time to cultivate empathy and forgiveness for the other person in your scenario.
- Work through the ‘Compassion for the Other’ page
Perhaps this is the time to move further into yourself and explore what forgiveness feels like as a way of being.
Perhaps this is the time to explore the practice of tonglen and learn more about the global human.
- Read through the appendix pages on Tonglen
- Check out some of the recommended reading on Tonglen from the bibliography
- Pick up a newspaper and move from observation to deep feeling as you read the stories
Perhaps this is the time to gain more knowledge around other paths and visions for forgiveness.
- Check in to the recommended reading list in the appendix.
- Perhaps you’re interested in exploring the links between forgiveness and mourning
- Perhaps you’re interested in the relationship between religion and forgiveness
- Perhaps you’d like to hear more about people who are currently living forgiveness
Whatever your choice(s) here, the remaining pages of this Path of Forgiveness will help to set your feet towards that moment. To that end, you may wish to skip forward to the most pertinent section on where you wish to go next. While all of these sections may serve you in one way or another, they also represent distinct practices: choose what feels like the next logical step for your growth.