4 Surprisingly Simple Steps to Forgive Anyone for Anything

People and situations show up in our lives so we can learn and grow. Though I wouldn't encourage you to seek out pain, it's not something to avoid either. It's just part of life -- and it can be a gift.
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2013-08-15-PictureForgiveness.jpgPhoto credit: iStockphoto

In my last post, I talked about forgiveness and how lack of forgiveness can hold us back from becoming who we wish to be. Unforgiveness saps our energy, monopolizes our thoughts and keeps us stuck in the past. Whether the negative incident is large or small, we need to release it completely so that we can focus all of our energy and intelligence on what we desire, not on what hurt us in the past. Make sense?

When I first talk about forgiveness to new students, I often get pushback. "But if I 'forgive and forget' that person, aren't I just giving them permission to do what they did to hurt me again?"

No. Forgiveness is not about condoning a behavior or accepting it in the future. According to Huna, the indigenous wellness practice of the Hawaiian Islands that I teach, our job is to fully forgive the other person (and ourselves!), then forget the incident but retain the learning. Let go of the sting and release the bitterness, but hang on to the wisdom.

We're wired to learn from our experiences so we can apply that learning to our future. But when an experience has hurt us or damaged us in some way, it's often hard to see through the pain to catch the lesson on the other side. Unfortunately, the kind of forgiveness most of us have been taught does not help us to fully release this pain, so we never get to the nugget of wisdom there.

Here's how the typical apology goes. You and your spouse have a fight. After a while, one or the other of you says, "Honey, I'm sorry." Your partner says, "Me, too." You kiss and make up. Then 10 days later -- or 10 minutes later! -- your hackles rise again and you start fighting about the very same issue. Or even worse, you never bring the subject up again but you spend years seething in silent resentment. This traditional Western method of forgiving is flawed and lacks some key ingredients.

It wasn't until I became fully immersed in Huna that I understood what true forgiveness is. The forgiveness process the ancient Hawaiians used is called ho'oponopono. Personally, I use this process with myself every day to release both small and large hurts so I can be fully present with all my energies flowing freely.

I've taught ho'oponopono to literally thousands of students. The word "pono" doesn't have a good translation in English. It's a feeling of congruency and calmness, that everything feels right in the world. It's feeling so totally at peace with a person or situation that nothing needs to be said. That's pono. Ho'oponopono means to become doubly pono.

The ancient Hawaiians believed it was important feel calm, clear, and congruent with everyone around them at all times. So they used the practice of ho'oponopono on a regular basis. By doing so, they stayed clear of any resentment, anger, or hurt that might clog their energetic and physical bodies. The practice of ho'oponopono includes retaining the wisdom gained from the bad experience. You are free to re-establish a relationship (or not) with the person who hurt you or not. It's your choice.

Here are the basic steps of ho'oponopono that I teach my students and use in my own life. If the person who has hurt you (or that you've hurt) is willing, you can do this process together. But it can be equally powerful if you do it alone using your imagination.

Both give and receive. In ho'oponopono, you don't just say "I'm sorry," to one another. Instead we each take turns and say, "I forgive you. Please forgive me, too." Can you feel the difference? Asking for and offering forgiveness is a much more active, committed and vulnerable process.

Say all that needs saying. It's important to give each other space to say all that needs to be said without hedging or holding back. This can be tough and you don't want to try it in the heat of battle! Wait until you are both calmer about the situation -- and take lots of deep breaths. Do your best to not interrupt one another. Accept the other person's statements as their truth. When you've both shared your thoughts and feelings completely, you should have an experience of "I've said it all, and I'm done."

Flow love to the other person. Uh oh. Does this seem unrealistic? Are you having trouble even imagining sending loving energy to the person who just wronged you? Think of it this way. Aren't we all doing the best we can, given what we know and who we are, at any point in time? Even when someone has intentionally harmed you (which honestly is pretty rare), that action came from some old wound or misunderstanding, didn't it? Part of ho'oponopono is to open your heart and offer love and compassion to that other person (and to yourself!) no matter what.

Release the hurt, retain the learning. People and situations show up in our lives so we can learn and grow. And most of us find that we learn even more from times that are difficult and people who hurt us. Though I wouldn't encourage you to seek out pain, it's not something to avoid either. It's just part of life -- and it can be a gift. In ho'oponopono, the objective is to forgive each other and ourselves, release the negative emotions, and extract the learning from each difficult situation.

Until next time...


Dr. Matt

Got questions? Please respond here or contact me through my Facebook fan page or my blog.

Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership, where students learn Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna and Hypnosis. To find out more about Huna, access Dr. Matt's free webinar Huna and Energy Explained: How To Increase Your Personal Mana/Energy - Part 1

For more by Matthew B. James, Ph.D., click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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