A Vow of Forgiveness

When I feel the desire to be unkind,
to judge harshly, to pull away,
or to blame,

I vow to wake up in that moment and
remember that all of us want to be loved,
to love, to be touched, to belong,
to know we are good, to be seen.

I vow to pause,
put my hand on my heart, and
say, “Please forgive me” —
to my own heart first and then to others.

I vow to love all the parts of me
that I tend to treat not so kindly.

I vow to extend kindness and regard
to all those I meet – stranger, colleague, or dear one.

I vow to go gently, to soften, and
to be fiercely devoted to compassion-

this includes caring for myself
and having the wisdom to discern
that sometimes the kindest act
is to love ourselves and others so fully
that we let go.

I vow to forgive –
letting go
letting go
letting go

so only love remains.

Lisa McCrohan © 2018

In our families at home and in our “families at work” with colleagues, we live and work so closely with one another that we are bound to hurt one another.  A colleague dismisses your idea.  Your spouse pulls away from your bid for intimacy.  Your child shouts at you.

Some hurts deepen over time when they aren’t tended to.  What hurts us today may be a build up from several years of misunderstanding, disregard, fear, and stress.

Right now you might be thinking of someone at home or work who has hurt you.  You might feel resentment and anger rising.  You might ask, “Why in the heck would I ever forgive him or her?!”

There was a person I resented for many years.  I wanted this person to change.  They didn’t – or at least not in the ways that I wanted them to change.  Over time, it became clear to me that I had to figure out a way to interact with them where I was not full of anger and resentment.  I needed this FOR MY OWN SANITY and for my heart to heal.  I realized that for me to suffer less, I had to learn to forgive them.

It wasn’t worth it to carry such resentment in my heart. It wasn’t worth it being so easily triggered by this person.  It wasn’t worth it to give them such control over my emotional wellbeing.  It wasn’t worth it to live with such tightness in my heart and belly.  It wasn’t worth it to withhold my love.

At some point, the professional and personal coaching and psychotherapy clients of mine decide that it’s “just not worth it” to hold on to such hate.  Maybe you are starting to feel this way, too.

Practicing forgiveness can impact your leadership, parenting, partnership, and friendships.  Forgiveness is good for your mental and physical health.  A 2011 study of married couples in the journal Personal Relationships showed that when the victim in the situation forgave the other person, both experienced a decrease in blood pressure.  Not forgiving someone is associated with more anger, arousal, sadness and feelings of not being in control, according to a 2001 study in the journal Psychological Science. Holding on to negative feelings at work may lead to disengagement at work, a lack of collaboration, and aggressive behavior.

When a leader forgives at work, she models that we all mess up, we are all imperfect, and we all have the power to come together as a team to be an even stronger organization that makes even a greater impact in this world.   When a parent forgives, a child learns that they can’t NOT be loved.  When a partner forgives her spouse, she builds connection and a bridge to intimacy.  And when a friend forgives, he shows that bonds can become even stronger after struggleS

Here are Seven Keys to True Forgiveness to support you in being the kind of leader, parent, partner, and friend who leads with authenticity and compassion.

Seven Keys to True Forgiveness

1.  Forgiveness is NOT a “once and done” linear process.  It is messy and slow.  It takes time.

it took me a year or more of holding the intention of forgiveness for a big shift to finally take place in my heart and translate into my actions.  Yes, years.  If that depresses you, imagine holding onto that resentment you are feeling now for another few decades and then being on your deathbed and finally realizing that you wasted decades of holding back your love and gripping our heart so very tightly.  That’s not how any of us want to be in our last days.

Now imagine living out the next few decades with a bolder, stronger, more loving heart. Imagine having compassion for yourself and being able to respond to the other person with compassion and boundaries.  Imagine, as the mystical poet, Hafiz, says, “One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enuugh.”  Imagine that you can look back and see that you have loved boldly and freely.  That’s how you want to live, isn’t it?!

2.  Forgiveness is NOT condoning your colleague, spouse, or child’s behavior.  Forgiveness can mean that you honor yourself and establish boundaries, announce, “I will not tolerate that kind of behavior anymore,” or decide to not have a relationship with the person.  Forgiveness can mean finding safety and honoring your personhood.

i learned that I could advocate for myself AND forgive.  I learned that forgiveness does not condone a person behavior; it emboldens us to be very clear about our boundaries and take actions that are compassionate for all involved – including ourselves.

That might sound almost impossible right now to you.  How can you forgive AND have boundaries and compassion?  It’s possible.  When you start with a Vow of Forgiveness, you begin to see the possibility awakening within you.

3.  Forgiveness is an act of self-love.  You acknowledge that holding onto resentment and hate have caused you suffering.  And you are no longer willing to “be loyal to your suffering” and wrap your identity around the story of betrayal or hurt.

i was wrapped up in a particular story.  I came to experience that forgiveness was an expression of bold self-love.  And from such love for self, I started to let go of resentment that I carried.  And it felt lighter. I began to suffer less.

4.  Set the compass of your heart.  Decide that your intention is to open to forgiving.

i put it on my heart that I would be about forgiveness.  That was my intention and my compass.  Such a compass helped to guide me when I was triggered and wanting to go into old habits that no longer serves me or the situation. It was like a nudge saying, “This way, my Love.”

5.  Allow yourself to grieve.  Often this is where I come in with my clients — holding space for them to safely and skillfully allow the range of feelings they have to be acknowledged with mindfulness and compassion.  Grief involves acknowledging the loss, reckoning with fear, and wrestling with anger.

Yes, you’ll grieve.  You’ll grieve about what could have been, what wasn’t, what you’ll never have, and what you so very wanted.  You’ll be angry and sad.  And then Hope will begin to glimmer.

6.  Recognize your connection with all of humanity.  Over time, your hurt becomes just “hurt” — the universal hurt that happens in our human existence.  As you depersonalize your hurt, you begin to connect to compassion.  You remember that all human beings suffer and experience hurt.  A vastness begins to fill your heart.  Your capacity for love expands.

At some point, all my decades of my training in mindfulness and compassion kicked in.  It made sense – MY suffering was actually THE suffering that all human beings face.  Depersonalizing it was a game-changer for me.  I began to see how connected we all are. I stopped thinking just about me and clinging so tightly to MY story of suffering.  It just “was.”  And that started to heal my heart and I was less triggered so often.

7.  Vow to forgive on a daily basis.  Forgiveness is an approach to life.  It is a daily self-care practice.  It enables you to put down what accumulates in a day so that you are not weighed down by the everyday ways we hurt each other.   It also deepens your capacity and courage to continue in the messy and slow work of forgiving the deeper hurts.

I let sh%! go now!  If anyone knows me they know I stick in a situation and want to “make it right” with a person.  I analyze the hell of out things.  I am intense and want to “talk it out.”  Uuuugh!  That no longer always serves me!  It also doesn’t serve me to hold onto or take on anyone else’s stuff.  Over the years, I have reclaimed what is mine, identified the action of integrity I’ll take, and let sh%! go!

Having a Vow of Forgiveness close to you on a daily basis enables you to not take on what isn’t yours and to move forward with clarity and boldness.  Rather than being weak, as we think it would make us, it actually makes us a fierce force of compassion and true strength.

When we make a Vow of Forgiveness, we allow room for ourselves and others to be human. And I swear, this lightens us, liberates us from our suffering, and frees our energy to act with true Love.

*******

There is a Grace – a mystery – that is bigger than our sorrows, sufferings, and stories.  It holds them with regard and the utmost of compassion.  It reminds us that who we really are is Love.

To support you in forgiving, I recorded this Forgiveness Meditation. It guides you through first getting grounded, then slowly acknowledging how you have been hurt and how you have hurt others.  And it guides you in the process of unburdening yourself from carrying these stories.

As the Bhagavad Gita says, “If you want to see the brave, look to those who can return love for hatred. If you want to see the heroic, look to those who can forgive.”

It is a courageous and heroic act to take the fist step in learning to forgive – yourself and others.

For more on forgiveness, read my story on “loving people as they are is an exhale for the soul” and this post on accompanying my friend in his last few days after battling an addiction.

If you are in need of personal accompaniment and want the support of an experienced coach who is also a trained psychotherapist, please grab a consult with me and explore working with me (via Skype or in person) to support your own liberation.

Blessings,
Lisa
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