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  • Dr. Shelly Harrell

Weekend Wisdom: The Healing Work of Forgiveness

Forgiveness sets the stage for a new act to begin. -Iyanla Vanzant

Among the most challenging inner healing work to do is that of forgiveness. I have often described the forgiveness process as one of releasing and letting go, of breaking the chains that keep us tethered to a past we cannot change. A "new act" in our lives cannot meaningfully begin if we remain chained. I have connected to this chain metaphor for many years. It captures the truth that unforgiveness keeps us from being fully free to optimally move forward, particularly in the relational aspects of our lives.

However, the more of my own forgiveness work that I do, another metaphor has begun resonating more strongly. Forgiveness can also be experienced as opening a valve so that toxic resentment, blame, grudges, guilt, shame, bitterness, etc can be let out. Forgiveness requires opening our hearts to be filled with more love and compassion. This opening of our hearts not only lets love and compassion in to cleanse and dissolve the toxins, it also provides a route for the poison to get out. The only way to dissolve unforgiveness is to meet it with love and compassion. The valve metaphor also captures the ongoing, and often gradual nature of forgiveness work. We may keep that valve open for awhile, but then we may close it back up when we get hurt again, or when we get defensive about our role in another's pain. When the valve is closed, those toxins are operating inside us and influencing how we relate to ourselves and others. Each time we engage the work of forgiveness, we are able to live our lives with fewer inner toxins, and have more and more of love's fuel to draw upon as energy. The bottom line is that forgiveness requires both metabolizing and releasing the poisons with the magic ingredients of more love and more compassion (for ourselves and others). I've also learned that some experiences in our lives require engaging the work of forgiveness over a longer period of time.

Where are you in your inner healing work of forgiveness?

With Peace, Love, and Soulfulness,

Dr. Shelly Harrell


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