If you are a religious person you might wonder where God fits into this approach to Forgiveness. If you are judging or condemning yourself, then you also need to forgive yourself. You might be thinking, “It is up to God to forgive me.” If so, then consider this. Who is it that has blamed you, judged you, or condemned you? You certainly are, or you would not have a problem or an issue about what you did. If you are judging or condemning yourself then you also need to forgive yourself. You need to deal with the ways you blame yourself, judge yourself and condemn yourself.
Another thing to consider is this. How do you know that God has not already forgiven you? Do you know the mind of God? Probably not; so why ever assume you do, especially when it comes to something as important as Forgiveness? Do you really think it is a good idea to decide how God will judge your actions and try to preempt that by punishing yourself in advance? We can be tempted to mete out self-punishment in subtle or roundabout ways. We can deny ourselves good things, or sabotage ourselves when we are about to succeed in an important situation. Yet, with this type of myopic and limited attitude we assume we know the mind of God in regards to our affairs. Better to learn to forgive by practicing on ourselves, or others, and then we might have an inkling of how God is likely to see things. If you feel the need to pray for Forgiveness, then by all means do so.
Once there was a man who was a servant of a great Lord of a large country. One day, he was helping to prepare a feast to celebrate the return of his Lord from a visit far away. The servant was rushing when he bumped into a door and dropped a delicate and very valuable serving bowl which smashed into many pieces on the stone floor. The servant was so horrified that he ran away and hid himself from the wrath of his Lord. In his desperation he thought hard about how to assuage the punishment he felt sure was coming to him. He thought it would have to be something that would cause himself much pain, so he decided to cut off one of his hands. He did so and his yells of agony attracted other servants who found him, bound his wound, and took him to his Lord who had just returned When the Lord found out what had happened he said to this servant. “Foolish servant you have dealt me three blows when only one was by accident. You broke a most valuable serving bowl, but that is small matter. You took upon yourself the right to administer justice within my household when this right has not been earned by you. Furthermore, you decided to wound yourself, and gave no thought to how this would reduce your ability to serve me. These last two are by far the greater errors. Now you must live with knowing that you punished yourself far more severely than I would have. Owing to your wound you have crippled your ability to serve me and you have therefore crippled your ability to advance your station in life.” The story above illustrates how self-punishment, whether out of a misplaced sense of “loyalty to God,” or simply out of guilt and shame, is completely misplaced. Usually, it serves no useful purpose and in fact cripples our ability to offer anything useful to the people and the life around us.
Self-punishment misdirects our energy and makes it less likely that we can find a useful and constructive form of making amends to those we have harmed. It adds one error on top of another. The way to live a worthy life is to become more aware of others and how we can live harmoniously with them and how we can serve a purpose larger than ourselves. Becoming even more self absorbed by immersing ourselves in unnecessary guilt and shame just takes us in the direction of living a selfish and self centered life. That is surely not a direction that any religion, worthy of the term, would endorse.
Whatever you religious beliefs, practicing The Four Steps to Forgiveness, can only enhance your experience of your religion. It will help you to be awakened and express your natural spirituality, so that you will become more authentic in your expression of your spiritual values.
As you experience Forgiveness by practicing it, you will speak and take action less and less out of what others have told you is right, and more and more out of your own direct experience of spiritual truths. You will become more aware of the inner essence of your religion and less spiritual truths. You will become more aware of the inner essence of your religion and less concerned with the outer layers which have built up over time. These outer layers (rituals and dogmas) can sometimes hide the inner essence of a religion and sometimes they can help reveal it. Practicing Forgiveness can help you tell the difference between the outer layers that reveal the highest and best within your religion, and those which obscure it. You can, of course, adapt Three Steps to Forgiveness to better fit the needs to your religion if necessary.
Step 1. I want to forgive myself for:
Pick one specific thing.
Example: I want to forgive myself for saying hurtful things to my brother.
Step 2. Unhappy Feelings
Write a list of the feelings you have around the event. You need to acknowledge those feelings to release them to move forward.
Examples; “feel happier,” “be free,” “be more relaxed,” and so on.
Step 3. Forgiveness Affirmation
“I forgive myself and I accept the peace and freedom which forgiveness brings.”
In the silence of your mind, say your affirmation to forgive yourself slowly at least three times.
Notice how it feels, then go back to go through all the steps again, making any changes you want, to what you wrote earlier. Keep going round the steps until you feel a sense of lightness and ease.
It is better to do the steps in writing at first. Start with small things, though you will find that with forgiveness, there are no small things. Even forgiving yourself for what seems a petty, minor thing that happened long ago can cause big changes. Go round all the steps at least a few times and you will see how your ability and capacity to forgive builds within you as you do so. Add things; change the words you use (if you want) as you go around. Linger over the steps where you feel movement happening within you.
Of course none of this excludes making amends or apologizing where this is feasible and would Of course none of this excludes making amends or apologizing where this is feasible and would good you can do; rather than the bad you cannot undo.
Author: Adv. Maher Farzeen Ilyas
(The Writer is currently a permanent faculty member of UOL (Department of Law) & and having expertise in Islamic Jurisprudence especially in Family Laws)
-Writer’s view may not necessarily reflect views of the Moderate Thoughts Research Center.