Here’s What to Do When You Can’t Forgive

Yesterday, during a break from the nonstop snowstorms here in the Northeast, I strapped on snowshoes and went outside for a walk. As I trudged through the powdery, fresh snow, I made a spontaneous decision to dedicate my walk to forgiveness. 

Turns out, I have a lot of work to do when it comes to forgiving others. I fancy myself a fairly loving and compassionate woman. If you were to ask me about holding grudges, I'd tell you that I'm someone who lets things go. But the truth is I'd be lying. 

Who we think we are is often quite different from who we really are.  At least that's what I discovered on my trek through the woods. As I made my way up and down the hills in my neighborhood, the number of people I needed to forgive surprised me.  

When someone did come to mind, I repeated the following words, out loud, like a prayer: I forgive you _______.  I bless you and I let you go. 

For more than an hour I continued this practice, step-by-snowy-step.  Someone came to mind, I repeated the prayer, someone else came to mind, I repeated the prayer, the same person came to mind again, and I repeated the prayer over and over again. By the end of my walk, I came face-to-face with what I like to forget when my ego gets wrapped up in the pain of the past: 

My angry thoughts are what hurt me now, not the people from my past. Investing my energy in painful memories is what keeps the chips on my shoulder firmly in place.  

I'm the one fostering feelings of resentment and bitterness with my hostile thoughts .I love the idea of forgiveness.  I'd love nothing more than to think about someone, say a prayer, and be done with the past for good. But life doesn't work that way. 

Healing comes before forgiveness. Understanding and compassion are conditions of release. Spiritual vision is what's needed to see beyond the smallness of my humanity. 

Every now and then I catch a glimpse of life on the other side of forgiveness - a brief, enlightened moment when a small voice beneath my righteous mind tells me that love really is the answer and that hurt people hurt people because of pain, not because of some perverse pleasure.  

I'd like to trust that voice more and I'm open to learning how. In the meantime, I'm grateful for my desire to forgive. It's a good first step. And, given what my little date with forgiveness taught me about how far I still need to go, I guess I'll begin with me...

Feel free to use this affirmation, too:

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When you forget that we humans are inherently good, this is the perfect video to watch. The innocence of a child is a powerful reminder of the pure place where it all begins.  Check out the video here. Thanks, Kim!

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Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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