Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One minute of forgiveness

In my line of work, I hear a lot of awful stories of transgressions that people have had visited upon them. Neglectful parents. Relationships ended by acts of betrayal. Friendships rendered apart by a moment of thoughtlessness.

As a therapist, I invest a lot of time "joining" my clients, walking in their world as much as I can. Just like them, when I hear about these terrible things my first response is a defensive, protective one. How dare those people do that! (Please bear in mind, this happens on the INSIDE. I don't tend to blurt these things out. That's another post for another time.)

When this happens, I usually realize that I need to take a step back and gain some balance. And when I gain that balance, and a little more clarity, it often becomes apparent that my client could benefit from an act of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not something I foist easily upon someone. The act of forgiveness can be complicated endlessly by emotion, by habit, and by a lack of understanding the process. Before I lay that on someone's head, we make sure that forgiving isn't just a way of avoiding the emotions underpinning the situation.

No matter the complications, though, true forgiveness can be an amazingly powerful act. And, just like the one-minute reboot and the one minute of gratitude I posted about before, it can be a simple and energizing thing to do in your day. Here's how.

Find that spot you found for your one minute reboot. Get comfortable. Breathe. As before, observe what comes up for you, and then let the thought go. Worried you're doing it wrong? Observe that worry with kindness, and put it back into the stream. Soon, something will come up that you resent, or feel wounded about. Trust me on this one. If you can't find one, stop reading this blog. You're actualized! You made it!

Still reading? I thought so. Now, take that little grudge and let's hold on to it for a minute. If it's a huge one, a life-altering transgression, let it know that you'll be back after some practice, and let it go down the stream. We'll start small. Take the little grudge (that person who cut you off in traffic is a great start) and observe it. Observe the emotion that comes with it. And stop for a minute to consider that the act is OVER. It's in the past. You're in the now. That's a good place to be, sitting there in your comfortable spot. You're in the perfect place right now to just let it go. Just focus your compassion, not on the universe, not on your year or your month or your day - focus your loving compassion on that tiny act you hold in your mind. Say it - "I forgive." Say it again. Flood that act, that crappy driver, with all of your compassion. Don't worry, you'll make more.

And, just forgive. It's a radical act of acceptance, and when you practice it, it gets easier. Just like all the one-minute things in the world, they take some repetition. If your only act of forgiveness today is forgiving yourself for being crappy at forgiveness, so be it. You forgave something after all!

If you have to read this a couple of times to get it right, that's okay. I forgive you.


  1. This post is probably the most important bit of advice to peace ever. I used this just last night in avoiding a fight, it took away my frustration and we were able to talk. You rock.

  2. @Irishsassy - wow, awesome. Thanks for letting me know.
    @omnidesign - You're so very welcome. Please feel free to share the link!

  3. This helped during a little bit of a rough patch today, between reading your blog and then this comment. Thank you - I love reading your stuff!

  4. Samantha - I'm so happy to hear that it had some impact. Thank you SO much for letting me know that. And thanks for reading.

  5. This one actually made me cry. And I don't know why. Granted, I had an anxiety attack last night and didn't get much sleep, which leaves me more emotional than usual - but clearly this is something I need to turn my attention to.