Why Learn How to Forgive? The Importance of Practicing Forgiveness
Health is not just an external journey. To be truly healthy, you must dedicate time to turning inwards. In a traditional sense, the word healing simply means to return to wholeness. Sometimes the most magical way to return to wholeness is to tap into the spiritual side of health. We can start this journey to wellness by practicing forgiveness. You can create your unique forgiveness practice in order to distance yourself from feelings of rage and resentment in order to cleanse yourself emotionally and spiritually, which, in turn, affects you physically.
Benefits of Forgiveness
The goal of a forgiveness practice is to help you express your negative emotions and release any anger or resentment that you’re holding onto. Some benefits of forgiveness include:
- lower levels of depression
- less anxiety
- reduced hostility
- less nicotine dependence and substance abuse
- increased positive emotions
- higher satisfaction with life
- increased hope
- more social support
- fewer health symptoms
Ultimately, forgiveness liberates us from the vicious circle of obsessing on the negative emotions that can overwhelm us. It also allows us to overcome resentment in a positive way and improve our health, our relationships, and our lives.
Practicing Forgiveness for Ourselves and Others
We are all in the process of evolving and growing. In this process of being human, we have been hurt by others, but if we look at things fairly, it is also likely that we have incidentally hurt others, too. To examine this deeper, you might ask yourself questions like:
- Who have I not forgiven?
- Who do I need to receive forgiveness from?
- Where have I done things inappropriately because I didn’t know any better at that time in my life?
- Why have I called in this injury or illness?
Truthfully, there aren’t always clear answers to these questions, and that is okay. The value isn’t in the answers. It’s in the act of contemplation. There are many simple forgiveness practices that you could integrate into your life, but learning which steps to take as we learn how to forgive takes practice.
Learning How to Forgive
There are various ways forgiveness is related to both your physical and mental health. One pivotal way practicing forgiveness works is to examine the grievances and resentments you’re holding onto that might be playing into how you feel emotionally and physically. Reflect on grievances as a way to release the past and move into the future clean and clear. In order to cleanse our physical being of illnesses such as cancer, we can use our spiritual self to increase our odds.
A Mauian Kahuna, or medicine man, once told me that “Lack of forgiveness … is the true cause of cancer. Anger, resentment, hurt. That is what makes cancer cells.” In the Mauian tradition, there is a forgiveness practice known as ho’oponopono, a prayer that has been passed down for generations and is defined as “mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.”
Although the ho’oponopono ceremony is sacred, a westernized version has been released to the public:
- Bring to mind anyone with whom you do not feel total alignment or support.
- In your mind’s eye, construct a small stage below you.
- Imagine an infinite source of love and healing flowing from a source above the top of your head (from your Higher Self, God, or whatever you connect with). Imagine opening up the top of your head, and letting the source of love and healing flow down inside your body, filling up the body, and overflowing from your heart to heal the person on the stage.
- Say to the person: “I am sorry, Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.”
- When the healing is complete, have a discussion with the person and forgive them, and have them forgive you.
- Next, let go of the person, and see them floating away. As they do, cut the cord that connects the two of you (if appropriate). If you are healing in a current primary relationship, then assimilate the person inside you.
- Do this with every person in your life with whom you are incomplete, or not aligned. The final test is: Can you see the person or think of them without feeling any negative emotions? If you still feel negative emotions, repeat the ho’oponopono process.
There are many such forgiveness practices throughout the world and if ho’oponopono does not resonate with you, offer a prayer that speaks to your spiritual practice.
Practicing forgiveness is a powerful tool for our health – mental and physical – so finding a practice that resonates with you is the first step. As we let go of the past and learn how to forgive, we make room for the present. As we release resentment, anger, and hurt, we make room for joy, love, and happiness.