Updated: Jul 8
If You’ve Been Holding On to Hurt, This Powerful Shift in Perspective May Help You Make Peace With Your Past
I never felt comfortable with the word “forgiveness.” It always rubbed me the wrong way, like a scratchy, too-tight sweater.
You mean all I have to do is tell the offender “I forgive you,” and those three puny words magically settle the whole matter? Even if there were decades of hurt with no acknowledgement or apology? Rubbish.
And yet, for over 10 years, I kept trying to force myself to do exactly that. Not because I couldn’t let go of what happened or because I hung onto resentment. Simply because I wanted to release the hurt and make peace with my past.
So, I did what this nerdy bookworm does best. I strolled on down to the library, checked out every book on the subject and buried my nose in them. When I came up for air a few months later, however, I perplexingly found myself as lost as when I’d begun.
Despite nearly every book insisting that forgiveness wasn’t approval, my brain couldn’t reconcile this notion. I mean, sure, technically I knew that “I forgive you” didn’t mean “I condone what you did to me.” And yeah, even if I forgave the offender, this didn’t let them off the hook. But it still gosh-darn felt that way.
Many of those same books also urged me to “let it go” for my own well-being because, after all, forgiveness was “for myself, not the other person.” This sounded nice on paper. But it didn’t translate so well into reality. After almost 20 years of trauma, I couldn’t just release this leaden weight like it was a bunch of balloons.
But here's the realization about forgiveness that transformed my view—and that ultimately helped me find the peace I so desired. It’s been said several ways, but I like how Neale Donald Walsch describes it best:
"Understanding replaces forgiveness in the mind of the master."
What does this mean, exactly? Well, for me, it meant viewing my past from what I’ve come to call “The Soul Perspective.” That is, zooming out of my singular experience and my human bodysuit to look at the situation from the standpoint of my soul. You know, what you might call your spirit or higher self or what have you. To consider why that crazy cat who thought it was a swell idea to come to Earth might have also thought it was swell—or at least beneficial—to challenge me in such a situation. For instance, to cultivate my strength. Or to deepen my empathy and spur my future work with others facing similar trials. Or to prepare me for even more difficult challenges ahead (thanks a lot, Universe!).
In equal measure, “The Soul Perspective” also asks us to view the other individuals involved from a soul level. What might they have stood to learn or develop from it all? How might they have played “teacher” to us, no matter how horrid the misdeed or hard the lesson?
Oh, and lest I forget, “The Soul Perspective” also unavoidably involves eating a big ol’ slice of humble pie, as we recognize that being flawed is inherent to being human—our, ahem, perfect selves included.
Grasping the Paradox
Wanting to see the situation from this higher perspective is all well and good, but actually doing it is usually a wee bit harder.
For me, I had to be ready and willing to go beyond my heart’s hurt feelings and my head’s fixed beliefs and my ego’s need to be right, to view things from a truly open space. But, when I finally performed this deep inquiry (after the requisite wrestling match with my ego and its associates), I recognized one of the Universe’s profound paradoxes: while everyone may not be doing the best they can, they’re doing the best they can from their level of consciousness.
From this place, I finally understood the truth behind the maxim "hurt people hurt people.” I also had to acknowledge that we may indeed make what intuitive author Caroline Myss calls "sacred contracts" with other souls regarding our life roles, which can cause great suffering yet lead to great awakening.
From this place, too, duality disappeared. There was no longer “good and evil.” There wasn’t even “right and wrong.” There was simply a bunch of very human humans, playing out their roles toward a greater end.
When I fully got all this, forgiveness became utterly unnecessary. It was no longer a case of needing to forgive anyone. It was simply a case of understanding. Of clear-seeing.
What a revelation that after a lifetime of bristling against that scratchy sweater of forgiveness I kept trying to shove over my head, I didn’t even need to put the damn thing on!
As Neale Donald Walsch confirms, at a certain point forgiveness “can actually be an obstacle to one’s spiritual development.” Since each of us are individuations of Divinity, he explains, “our soul cannot be, and has never been, hurt, damaged, or injured in any way. So, we never have to forgive anyone for anything, as each experience in our life has done nothing but move us forward on our soul’s evolutionary journey.”[i]
The Transformative Power of Acceptance
At the end of the day, whether you call it “forgiveness,” “understanding” or “letting that shit go,” what’s more important is the energy behind it. That is, not forcing it nor fighting it. And not dismissing your past pain nor drowning in it. But instead, meeting your pain with gentleness and compassion, and seeing that there isn’t anything to do, per se. There is only to accept (which, reminder, doesn’t mean throwing a party over what happened, just accepting that what happened happened).
Passive as this approach may seem, on a quantum level it is seismically powerful. Because when we accept, we’re no longer resisting the energies, or judging them, or even labeling them. We are simply allowing them to move through us, which helps unhook the energetic entanglement keeping us bound to the people and to the pain.
This can be truly transformative. Indeed, this is where the magic happens. Applying this approach with my clients, I've witnessed radical transformations from just this potent internal shift alone.
So, if you’ve been asking yourself “How do I forgive?” consider that this may not be the best question. Instead, try asking: “Will I accept that these hurts happened, and will I transmute their energies into a greater form—one that serves my soul’s evolution (and, just maybe, even the souls around me, too)?
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Lisa Berzack is a soul-centered coach, workshop leader and writer devoted to helping people find inner healing and live a more empowered, awakened life. She is also the author of a forthcoming self-help memoir. To read more of Lisa's work, see her upcoming events or work with her privately, visit www.PainIntoPower.com.
[i] Neale Donald Walsch, “We’ve been told that…God Says We Must Beg God’s Forgiveness,” The Global Conversation, Aug. 16, 2015, https://www.theglobalconversation.com/blog/?p=8764
© Lisa Berzack, 2021.