Your Spiritual Practice: Forgiveness
In this series, Your Spiritual Practice, we offer straightforward, realistic advice from Stephanie Ludwig, PhD, MA, MDiv, Director of Spiritual Wellness at Canyon Ranch® Tucson, on how to use spirituality to help you navigate your way through some of life’s biggest challenges. “One quote I like a lot is, I believe, attributed to 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope: ‘To err is human; to forgive, divine,'” says Ludwig.
Here’s how to find more forgiveness:
1. Become more aware of your own shortcomings rather than those of other people, or try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. “We sometimes get very concerned about what other people are doing and we don’t look at ourselves,” Ludwig notes. By seeing your own imperfections you encourage empathy, which can make it easier to forgive.
Forgiveness may also mean forgiving yourself and feeling real sadness and remorse (not just guilt) about your own behavior. “When we really feel this [about something we did], we’re not likely to do it again,” explains Ludwig. “After we have felt remorse it’s essential to let it go. It’s important to practice both forgiveness of yourself and also forgiveness of others.”
2. Realize that when you forgive you’re not condoning another person’s actions. People get caught on this a lot, says Ludwig. “You’re not saying what they did was right, you’re just letting yourself be free by forgiving them and accepting what happened and maybe even who they are.”
3. Be grateful for what that person might have taught you. “There’s a beautiful quote from Kahlil Gibran, who wrote ‘The Prophet’: ‘I have learned silence from the talkative; tolerance from the intolerant; and kindness from the unkind. Yet strange I am ungrateful to these teachers.’ So it’s the idea that the people you want to forgive are actually your teachers,” Ludwig says. We can experience more peace when we can remember to be grateful in these often trying moments. “Try simply saying, ‘Thank you for being my teacher and for reminding me how best to be,’” suggests Ludwig.