Me: How do I forgive?
Forgiveness Expert: To err is human, to forgive is divine.
Me: What the hell are you talking about? That didn’t answer my question at all! I’m trying to understand how to forgive and let go.
Specifically, I want to know HOW to forgive someone for the wrongs they’ve done me in the past; HOW to forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made; and most importantly, HOW to let go so that I can move forward and live a happier life.
Forgiveness Expert: The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.
Me: Dude, seriously…WTF! You suck at this. That cute quote is NOT an answer to my question. Never mind… I’ll figure it out myself.
For most of my life, I struggled with the idea of forgiveness.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I knew that forgiveness was something that I should do, but I could never quite figure out just how to do it (until I learned the 5 Steps I’m going to share with you in a little bit).
To be honest, I always thought that forgiveness was just something that some people could do… while others (like me) could not.
I figured that the ability to forgive and let go just wasn’t part of my DNA.
It wouldn’t be until my 35th birthday that I finally realized why I had such a hard time forgiving (and more importantly, how to do it).
You See, The Problem For Me Was In How I Was Defining Forgiveness
Google the definition of forgiveness and here’s what you’ll find:
“The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven.”
That’s a pretty stupid definition if you ask me.
That definition doesn’t tell you anything.
Didn’t anyone ever tell the Google dictionary people that you’re not supposed to define a word with the word you’re trying to define?
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find definitions from places like Wikipedia, that say something like:
“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well”
And while Wikipedia gives a better definition than the one Google gives, it still doesn’t tell me what I need to know.
How do I change my feelings/attitude?
How do I “let go”?
How do I……. FORGIVE?
And why on earth would I want to “wish the offender well”? (That sounds moronic!)
The problem, like I said earlier, is in how I was defining forgiveness.
To me, if I forgave you, then it meant that I was condoning your actions; and that just didn’t jive with me.
According to my definition, if my girlfriend cheated on me, then to forgive her would mean that her actions of infidelity were OK.
No way, Jose! I’m definitely not OK’ing that kind of behavior.
If forgiveness meant that I had to excuse those kinds of actions, then I guess I wasn’t going to be doing very much forgiving in my life.
Year after year, I searched for ways to let go of the anger, resentment, and hatred I had towards people who had wronged me in the past. And year after year, I failed to find the answer I was looking for.
In searching for information on how to forgive and let go, 90% of what I came across were cute little quotes that sounded nice but were completely useless to me from a practical perspective.
Here are just a few famous forgiveness quotes you may be familiar with:
“Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.”
- Suzanne Somers
“There is no love without forgiveness, and no forgiveness without love”
- Bryant H. McGill
“The weak cannot forgive; Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was you.”
- Lewis B. Smedes
Do these quotes sound nice? Yup.
Are they true? Sure.
But not a single one of them actually told me HOW to forgive.
So, as far as I was concerned, they were useless.
I'd Pretty Much Relegated Myself To The Idea That Being Able To Forgive Just Wasn't In The Cards For Me... Until One Fateful Day In 2014.
I was a few months removed from going through a break-up with the woman of my dreams; the separation was still weighing heavy on my heart.
This woman was amazing in ways I never knew a human could be. She was everything my heart had always wanted, and more.
But when things started to get serious between us, I chose to push her away.
I sabotaged our relationship so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the terrifying prospect of exploring love at its deepest depths.
My heart knew that what I was doing was wrong, but for some reason I just couldn’t help but to say “no” to the unimaginably incredible woman God had so graciously put into my life.
A few months after our breakup, I realized the mistake I’d made. But by that time, it was too late.
I’d had, in my hands, the kind of love that most people only dream of.
Love came right up to me, looked me in the eye, said, “TAKE ME, I’M YOURS”, and I replied back with “GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME”.
What would lead a person to say no to love (the greatest gift life has to offer)?
I Would Find The Answer To That Question In The Audiobook Section Of A Barnes & Noble Bookstore.
You see, after the breakup, I could feel my heart needing something… but for the life of me, I couldn’t quite make out what it was.
Every tear I shed (of which there were thousands) was a signal that something inside me needed healing; I just didn’t know how to heal it.
I knew I needed knowledge.
Not knowledge for my mind, but knowledge for my heart.
So I asked that little voice inside me to tell me what to do.
And when it told me, I listened…
…and off I went to the bookstore.
As I entered the Barnes & Noble, looking for whatever educational/motivational/ inspirational/good-vibey type of thing my inner-voice sent me there to find, I headed over to my favorite section… the audio books section!
There, they had dozens of personal development books and trainings on CD. (Yes, I still like CD’s – don’t make fun of me, #OldSkool )
As I started rifling through the CD boxes, one caught my eye…
It was an audiobook entitled “Radical Forgiveness” by a fella named Colin Tipping.
Mind you, I had been to this bookstore a million times and somehow, I'd NEVER seen this particular title.
But there it was, waving me down.
So I picked it up, and after a brief skimming of its cover, I had a sneaking suspicion that this was exactly what I’d been sent here to find.
After all, if this program could actually show me how to forgive and let go, it would no doubt be worth its weight in gold - 10 times over.
When I got home, I somewhat skeptically popped the first disc into my CD player.
Within the first 3 & 1/2 minutes of listening to the author speak, my skepticism disappeared.
I KNEW that I’d found what I was looking for.
Colin Tipping’s approach to forgiveness was totally different than anything I had heard before.
To say I was blown away would be a severe understatement!
Finally It All Made Sense!
Let me explain...
Tipping’s theory is based around the idea that things happen exactly how they need to happen, in order to give you exactly what you need to grow. In other words, you're getting what your is soul asking for, so that it can learn/grow/heal.
And because things are happening exactly how they’re supposed to…
And because things are happening in a way to ALWAYS give you what’s best in life…
THERE’S NOTHING TO FORGIVE!
Let me say that again.
If something happened… it didn’t happen TO you, it happened FOR you.
And since it happened FOR you, THERE’S NOTHING TO FORGIVE!
Read those last few sentences again - they are what I like to call the “SEXY” of this article. In other other words, they’re the ONE IDEA that, if you truly grasp it, will have a huge impact on your entire life.
This paradigm shift in thinking allowed me to FINALLY let go of all of the hurts and heartaches from my past.
I finally realized that forgiveness had nothing to do with condoning someone else’s (or my own) misdeeds…
It had to do with understanding that those transgressions done to you (or by you) were done for a different reason than you realize (even if you don’t understand the reasons).
I have a friend of mine who is a really awesome woman.
Her husband cheated on her, divorced her, and broke her heart.
Two years later, she met a man 100X better. They ended up getting married and now have two great kids!
Therefore, her ex-husband’s wrongdoing should not be “forgiven” in the sense that makes his behavior OK; but rather, the situation should be forgiven…because it needed to happen in order to give her what she truly deserved in life!
Now, she can actually THANK her ex for the gift he gave her.
How crazy is that?! To be able to say to someone, “Thank you for cheating on me and ruining our marriage.” and mean it wholeheartedly!
So, now that we have a new definition of what forgiveness actually is, let’s walk through the 5 Steps that Colin Tipping outlines in his Radical Forgiveness training and I’ll explain how they helped me heal my heart from the pain I endured.
(Again, these steps are NOT mine, they’re Colin Tipping’s. I only share them with you because they worked for me when literally nothing else did. I’ll likely not do as good of a job teaching this information as the guy who created it; so be sure to check out Colin’s website at http://www.RadicalForgiveness.com and learn as much as you can from him.)
For the sake of example, let's pretend that the thing you want to forgive is a partner who has cheated on you.
THE 5 STEPS TO FORGIVING ANYONE OR ANYTHING
Step 1: Tell The Story (As The Victim)
Colin Tipping's Words (Paraphrased)
“Having your 'victim story' heard, witnessed and validated, is the first step to letting it go. Likewise, the first step in releasing victimhood is to own it fully. In this step, someone willingly and compassionately listens to you tell your story, and it is honored as your truth in the moment.”
For this step, your job is to be in FULL VICTIM MODE. Tell the story of what happened as if everything is 100% unequivocally your spouse’s fault. They’re the one who cheated; they’re the one who made it so that your kids will have to grow up without both parents in the home; they’re the one to blame for everything bad that’s happening.
The important part here is to own being the victim. The reason your victim story is important is because sometimes, in order to move forward, we need to first feel “validated” in our “victimhood”. Or, at the absolute least, we need to feel heard!
Step 2: Feel The Feelings Associated With The Story
Colin Tipping's Words (Paraphrased)
“Your feelings represent your authentic power. Your strength lies in your vulnerability and your willingness to show up as fully human. You cannot heal what you don’t feel. When people access their pain, this is the beginning of their healing.”
Truth be told, this is the hardest step for most people.
Because in this step, you’re forced to reach deep down inside and access the pain that is in your heart.
Tough stuff, but CRITICALLY important for a proper catharsis (cleansing).
You have to genuinely feel all of the feelings associated with being a victim. This is a physical thing (not a mental thing). You can’t just think about the situation, you’ve got to FEEL THE FEELINGS associated with it.
As you allow yourself to really feel the feelings, that are deep inside you, and as you let those feelings come out (in the form of tears, punching a pillow, or whatever), eventually, you’re able to “clean out all of the bad stuff” that needs to be cleaned out in order to make room for the next step.
Step 3: Collapse The Original "Victim" Story
Colin Tipping's Words (Paraphrased)
“This is where we make a conscious choice to withdraw the energy we have given to the victim story, and begin to realize that this story is mostly our interpretation of events based on our limited perception of reality. And that since there is probably more to it than meets the eye, it is largely an illusion.”
Collapsing down the story helps us realize that our interpretation of events may not be the actual truth as to what’s going on.
Acknowledge that the reason you’re so angry towards them is because of the story you’re telling yourself about the situation. In other words, recognize that the reason you’re so angry is because of the “victim story” you keep telling yourself.
Once you’ve acknowledged that the situation could possibly mean something else (other than what you’ve been telling yourself it means), then you’ve created space for alternative meanings.
In other words, Step 3 is where we simply pose the question: “What if this situation actually means something other than what I’m telling myself it means?”
“What if my spouse cheating on me doesn’t mean that I’ve missed out on happily ever after? Given that I don’t know what’s around the corner, what if it ACTUALLY means that I GET to have happily ever after?”
Step 4: Reframe The Story
Colin Tipping's Words (Paraphrased)
“Here we specifically replace the ‘victim’ story with another story: the Radical Forgiveness ‘story.’ This new story expresses our willingness to see that what appeared to have happened, far from being a tragedy, was in fact exactly what we wanted to experience for our soul to be able to grow. Therefore, what happened was absolutely perfect.”
In this part of the process, we acknowledge our own role in the situation. Not that we consciously did anything “wrong” or that we’re at “fault” in the traditional senses of those words… but rather, that we “attracted” this situation so that our soul could learn the life lessons it needed to learn in order to put us on a better path.
In other words, this is where we change things from: “This happened TO me” - to - “This happened FOR me”.
Step 5: Integrate The New Story
Colin Tipping's Words (Paraphrased)
“It is necessary to integrate change at the cellular level. That means integrating your new story about the situation into the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies so it becomes a part of who you are.”
In this part of the process, you make your new, empowering story as much a part of you as your old one was.
You let go of the old victim story of: “My cheating spouse did X, Y, and Z and it’s all their fault and yadda yadda yadda…”
And you replace it with the new story you came up with in Step 4.
Once this is done, you make the new story a permanent part of you.
(You can get Colin’s Radical Forgiveness training to learn more about how to integrate your new story into every fiber of your being as he’s much more suited to explain this process than I am.)
The bottom line is that now, when you think about the situation, the thoughts/images /feelings that instantly come up are those of your new, empowering story… not the old, disempowering story.
In other words, your “truth” around the situation changes!
How To Forgive And Let Go - A Quick Recap...
OK, so now that you've learned the steps on how to forgive and let go (a.k.a. the Radical Forgiveness Formula), let's do a quick recap so that it's all fresh in your mind.
Step 1: Regarding the situation you want to forgive, tell the story as if it's 100% THEIR FAULT fault. Tell the story as if YOU are the victim, so that the "victim" part of you feels validated.
Step 2: Really FEEL THE FEELINGS associated with your victim-story. Cry, punch (pillows not humans), scream, or do whatever you have to do to fully express the "upsetness" that's inside you. As Colin Tipping says: "You can't HEAL what you don't FEEL". You must FULLY feel all of the "negative" emotions.
Step 3: Now that the victim side of you has been heard (and fully felt), entertain the possibility that what happened may not actual mean what you think it means. When a seed of doubt is planted into the story you've been hanging on to, this helps to collapse the victim-story you've been telling yourself all this time.
Step 4: Replace the old story you've been telling yourself, with a new, more empowering, story. Accept that things were happening FOR you, not TO you (even if you can't fully see how yet).
Step 5: Once you've got your new story about the situation, integrate the new story into every fiber of your being. Whereas before, when someone would mention the situation you'd go into sad/angry victim mode... now, when someone brings up the situation, you instantly (without effort) go into "empowering story" mode. You've LITERALLY changed the meaning of what happened.
Now that the meaning you've given the story is EMPOWERING, you don't feel the need to carry all of the negative weight anymore. You can release it and live a happier life. 🙂
Congratulations - you've just FORGIVEN!!
My Story... The Conclusion
After I'd listened to the Radical Forgiveness CD I’d purchased from the book store, my heart started to heal.
But I wanted more healing.
So I went online to do more homework on the Author to see if he offered any additional training.
As it turns out, he was holding a three-day Radical Forgiveness workshop in Atlanta (not too far from where I live), starting one day after my 35th birthday.
So, I plopped down the money and gave myself the greatest birthday present I could’ve given myself. A three-day immersion into the concepts and ideas I’d learned from his audiobook.
At the end of three days…
I’d finally forgiven my past.
And most importantly, I’d finally forgiven myself.
I LITERALLY felt about 80% lighter when I left the workshop.
And my forgiveness had NOTHING to do with accepting or excusing anyone else’s behavior or actions (including my own).
Instead, it had everything to do with understanding that there was nothing to forgive in the first place, and that everything that happened was happening so that I could grow.
Learning all of this and seeing it work, once applied, was like winning a golden ticket.
I realized that the reason I pushed that wonderful woman out of my life was because there was no room in my heart for the kind of love I felt for her (due to the fact that my heart was filled with things that needed to be forgiven).
Once I forgave those things, I created enough space in my heart for love to reside.
And although she was gone, I forgave myself for pushing her away because I realized that causing myself that much pain, was EXACTLY what needed to happen in order for me to be pushed towards finding the medicine my soul needed.
In other words, had I not pushed her away, I might not have been motivated enough to go seek the healing I needed.
Now that I’ve forgiven, there’s room in my heart for love.
And it would’ve never happened without her.
And for that, I thank her… and I thank myself - because I’ve learned how to forgive, and how to let go.
Did you catch that?
I just thanked myself for causing myself the greatest amount of pain I’ve ever felt (pushing love out of my life).
When you can actually THANK the person who hurt you for the gift that came wrapped inside of the pain (even if you don't fully understand the gift), THAT is when you know you’ll have truly forgiven.
If, like me, you’ve had a problem with forgiveness, I highly recommend you get Colin Tipping’s book (or audiobook) and discover his system for yourself.
Let me know how it improves your life.
Speaking of challenging events that occur in our lives, your statement: “we “attracted” this situation so that our soul could learn the life lessons it needed to learn in order to put us on a better path” was a realization that I needed! I can apply this to my life, as I look back at the “bad times” and see them in a new light! Thank you for sharing your story and recapping this book that I will begin to read! I appreciate your writings!
I have read a lot of articles on this topic but this one hit home. Thank you!