By Shawn McAndrew
While the world continues to spin, we continue to exist on it and ride the waves. Some days, the waves are high and wild. Other days, the waves are mild and soothing.
Compassion and Forgiveness
To get from wild to mild, sometimes we have to go to a place of compassion and forgiveness. Recently, Hoffman began offering the Path of Fierce Compassion and Forgiveness program, which looks at ways to be compassionate and forgiving for ourselves and others.
To get to forgiveness, we first have to look with compassion at the situations and people who trigger us. Without compassion, we cannot have deep understanding of why we are triggered. We cannot understand what patterns are at work and where they came from in our childhood.
Forgiveness is not always an easy step to take. Our patterns may prevent us from forgiving others, and ourselves. This is where compassion comes into play.
Compassion Is Caring
Recently, while participating in this program, I learned that, “Compassion is a feeling that arises when you see another person suffering and you have a desire to help them or relieve their suffering. Compassion allows you to observe, hold space for another, without becoming entangled in their drama and pain.”
I know that compassion is not empathy, sympathy, or altruism. Compassion for another helps us to move into our heart, which helps our heart rate to slow down, reduce stress, and release “feel good” hormones.
Next Step: Self-Compassion
Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, says that self-compassion is the act of being touched by and open to your own suffering, “not avoiding or disconnecting from it, generating the desire to alleviate one’s suffering and to heal oneself with kindness.” In other words, if I perceive self-failure or inadequacy, extending understanding and kindness to myself is an act of self-compassion.
During the Path of Fierce Compassion and Forgiveness program, I had an opportunity to look at the perceptions, reactions, and patterns that served to protect me as a child. These patterns, when activated today, tend to hinder me and get in the way of happiness, joy, fulfillment, and love. Having compassion for both the perceived perpetrator as well as for myself allows me to disconnect and heal the pain and traumas I suffered as a child.
Having compassion can get me to a place of forgiveness, which does not mean letting the other person off the hook. Real forgiveness is about recognizing the pain and suffering that another person has caused me and being able to safely express whatever repressed hurt and anger needs to be aired out. Ultimately, forgiveness is about me – something that I do for myself.
Forgiveness is vital for one’s emotional health. Studies show that forgiveness leads to less depression, anxiety, stress, and anger. It also lowers blood pressure and risk of heart attack, as well as improves sleep and reduces pain. All in all, forgiveness is about one’s own healing, not about the people who did the harm.
Forgive Yourself, Too
One of the suggestions toward the end of this two-day virtual program was to write a self-compassion letter to myself every day for a week. Research shows that by doing this, we are more likely to be optimistic and have increased happiness. Try it out and let us know if it works for you.
Ultimately, all this is to say, forgive yourself. Forgive those who have hurt you. Carrying around that load of resentment and pain isn’t doing anyone any good. Chances are, the person you are holding resentments against isn’t even aware that you are feeling this way. They are off doing their life. Do yours; do you. Walk in your own footsteps.