"I'm not okay. You're not okay. But that's okay." --Colin Tipping, author of Radical Forgiveness
If you have been reading this blog for awhile, or if you read my previous blog, you know that Colin Tipping is my forgiveness guru. He has written a couple of absolutely fabulous books on the subject, leads workshops on Radical Forgiveness all over the world, and has even created a forgiveness worksheet that you can use to forgive others and set yourself free (these worksheets can be downloaded for FREE on his website).
And this is one of my favorite quotes on forgiveness. I love it for its truth and simplicity. I am not okay, at least not all the time. And neither are you. But that's okay. It has to be, because IT IS.
At the same time, we all want to do our best, to improve and to move forward into ever greater expression of our TRUE SELVES. The selves we want to be, the selves we are meant to be, the selves we were before we were hurt and mistreated and became confused about the world we were born into.
A truly great way to move in this direction is to do forgiveness work and that is what I am going to focus on this month: 30 Days of Forgiveness.
Over the next thirty days I am going to forgive thirty people - one per day - I invite you to join me.
To do this, I am going to use an exercise that I have adapted from one of Colin Tipping's books. The exercise is called The Forgiveness Letter.
For this exercise you will need 2-3 blank sheets of paper, a good pen or pencil (one that will not run out with a lot of writing), and 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time.
This uninterrupted time is very important because the exercise may stir up some intense or negative emotions and you will want to give yourself time to fully process and move through them before you have to interact with anyone. I know uninterrupted time can be hard to come by, especially if you live with others or are a parent, but please take this time for yourself.
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The Forgiveness Letter
Choose the person you are going to forgive and start a letter to them, Dear __________.
***Before we go any further let me emphasize YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MAIL THIS LETTER. This letter is for the purposes of healing and forgiveness only and should not, under any circumstances, be mailed.
The Forgiveness Letter has three parts:
Part 1: Telling Your Story
This is the story you have been telling yourself - and probably many others - about what happened. The "facts" of the situation from your perspective. In this part of the letter you are not yet looking at the situation from their point of view or trying to understand their perspective, you are just telling your side of the story. Do this with as much detail and honesty as you are comfortable with. Feel free to use salty language and say what you really feel. Do not hold back. Really let them have it in this section. When you feel that you have completely exhausted everything you want to say, start a new paragraph.
Part 2: Seeking Understanding
In this part of the letter you try and see the situation from their perspective. What circumstances or situation(s) in their life - either past or present - made this seem like the right thing to do TO THEM? What behaviors on your part may have contributed to this situation and their behavior? Is there anything you have learned since this happened that has changed your view of the situation, even a little bit?
In this part of the letter you can still express your feelings, sense of hurt and disappointment, but you try and see the bigger picture a little bit and start to bring a little bit of objectivity and distance to the situation. What would you tell a friend in a similar circumstance to help her/him understand what happened? You are not excusing the behavior of the person who hurt you, merely trying to understand it. When you feel this section is complete, move on to paragraph three.
Part 3: Finding Forgiveness
In this part of the letter, you look for the greater meaning in this situation, you try and see it from a Universal or Spiritual perspective. What did you learn from this situation? How did this learning benefit you? What was the gift that you received from this event or relationship? What gift do you believe they received? If you believe - as I do - that every situation has some good in it, what is the good here? You may have to dig deep if this is still an open wound for you, or if the situation was severe or long-lasting. Do the best you can do right now. Some hurts are going to take more than one letter to reach complete forgiveness.
If you have been struggling with something that someone did for a long time, if it is a very deep hurt (severe abuse, abandonment by a parent, etc.) you may want to spend the entire thirty days on this one person. Do a letter every day and see how things shift and change over the thirty days. Allow yourself to move in and out of remembering and pain, discomfort and release, ultimately to forgiveness.
The Releasing Ritual
Once you have finished the letter it is time to do a releasing ritual in order to let go of this situation. There are a variety of ways to do this and feel free to come up with one of your own that is not listed here. Here are a few ideas:
- Burn the letter in your fireplace
- Shred the letter and throw it in the recycle bin
- Rip the letter into many small pieces and discard it
- Wet the letter and throw it on your compost pile
- Write the letter in a word processing document and delete it
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I am so glad that you have decided to join me on this 30-day journey of forgiveness. I would love it if you would post your thoughts and experiences both on this blog and on the 30 Days of Forgiveness Facebook page as we go along.
Feel free to use any other forgiveness ritual that you know of either in conjunction with or instead of this exercise. I will be sharing my experience, my favorite forgiveness quotes, and some other forgiveness tools (including the Violet Flame Meditation) on this blog over the next month. Check back daily for inspiration and information!
And, please, if something comes up that feels too big to process or go through on your own, do get some help. Call your local crisis line, find a counselor in your area or simply talk to a friend. Don't go it alone, help IS available!