Carrying the weight of past hurts drags down our energy, health, and enthusiasm for life. Forgiveness is a practice that is scientifically proven to help us feel happier, more optimistic, and more self-confident.
Forgiveness is NOT about:
- condoning behavior (failing to see it as wrong)
- excusing behavior (failing to hold the offender as responsible for their actions and the pain they’ve caused)
- forgetting behavior (failing to remember that the pain happened)
- or reconciling the relationship.
- a decision only you get to make. No one can force you to forgive if you are not ready.
- a trainable skill. You can learn how to forgive others and yourself.
- a journey of understanding, exploration, and effort. It will not happen overnight and it may not be easy, but each step takes you closer to closure and healing.
- about peace, not justice. The people who hurt you may never be punished for their actions, but that shouldn’t prevent you from moving on with your life.
The Nine Steps through the Major Arcana for Forgiveness
(based on research by Fred Luskin)
1. The High Priestess
Journal about the experience and identify exactly how you feel about what happened. Then, tell at least one trusted person about your experience.
Commit tofeeling better. Forgiveness is something you do for YOU, not for anyone else.
3. The Hanged Man
Understand that you do not need to reconcile with the person who hurt you if you don’t want to. Forgiveness is not about making them (or others) feel better. It’s about making YOU feel better.
Recognize that the pain you are feeling now is from the hurt feelings, thoughts, and physical upset you are experiencing NOW. The pain and upset you are feeling NOW is not coming from the experiences of your past. That pain is over and will always remain in the past.
Learn and practice stress management techniques. At any moment that you feel upset, use these techniques to soothe your body’s fight-or-flight response.
6. The Devil
Understand you can never control someone’s else’s behavior. While you may want love, friendship, understanding, or an apology from others, nothing you do or say will ever guarantee you get what you desire. Hoping for their love and acceptance is healthy and understandable, but attempting to force or control their behavior is ineffective and unhealthy.
7. The Star
Use your energy in positive ways to reach the goals that matter to you. Don’t define yourself by the pain you hold or the experiences you’ve survived.
8. The Sun
Remember that a life well-lived is always the best revenge. Surround yourself with love, beauty, and kindness. Be grateful for what you have, rather than focusing your energy on what you’ve lost.
9. The World
Change the way you look at your past so you become the hero of your life. Remind yourself that your choice of forgiveness is a heroic act. You’ve grown and changed because of your past experiences and the process of forgiveness. You are now able to take the lessons you’ve learned and move on to a better future.
Images shown are The High Priestess and The Sun from the Revelations Tarot by Zach Wong © 2005 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., Strength and Temperance from The Green Witch Tarot by Ann Moura and Kiri Ostergaard Leonard © 2015 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., The Hanged Man from The Linestrider Tarot by Siolo Thompson © 2016 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., Death and The World from the Robin Wood Tarot Deck by Robin Wood © 2002 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., The Devil from The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck available at www.thewildunknown.com, The Star from the After Tarot Kit by Corrine Kenner, Pietro Alligo, and Giulia F. Massaglia © 2017 Lo Scarabeo, Italy.