As humans, we blame ourselves for various perceived shortcomings in life. But some of us really get stuck there.
We blame ourselves for not being more disciplined or not being able to do it all. We blame ourselves for not being there for a loved one.
There’s an easy tool I use to practice forgiveness, but I’d like to first speak about what happens when we blame ourselves.
When we refuse to forgive ourselves, we refuse to practice compassion with ourselves. If we cannot be compassionate with ourselves, it can be very difficult to truly demonstrate compassion toward others.
Without forgiveness, we live in a destructive cycle and create further dis-ease in our lives and those of the people around us.
We deprive ourselves of a full human experience in which people make mistakes and learn from them.
And we stay stuck in the past and never fully move onto the present, which is where contentment lives.
I know because I’ve blamed myself and carried guilt, too.
My mom passed away almost 10 years ago from a prescription drug overdose.
For a long time, I blamed myself for her death. I could see that it wasn’t my fault at an intellectual level, but I still carried the burden deep within me.
And on the flip side, I have made actual mistakes that hurt other people and punished myself for a long time before learning to forgive.
Both forms of self-blame are equally destructive.
You might be reading this and saying to yourself, “Yeah, I get what you're saying, but I still can’t make it go away.” Or you might still feel on a subconscious level, “No, you don’t get it. I deserve to be punished and feel pain.”
Regardless of where you are, you’re likely reading this because you want something to change.
This simple forgiveness exercise can have a profound effect.
There’s an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness called Ho’oponopono, which literally means “to make right”. It means to make right in your relationships with yourself and with others.
I recommend finding a quiet place where you can lie down or sit comfortably while placing one hand over your heart and the other over your belly.
There are 4 parts to this practice. Speak in second person directly to yourself.
I’m sorry. This step is the opportunity to apologize to yourself for anything you have done, thought, or said that is harmful and destructive. It is an opportunity to take responsibility for the pain you may have caused yourself or others.
Ex: Melissa, I am sorry for making you feel you are responsible for your mom’s suffering and death.
Please forgive me. This is the reconciliation phase. It’s the turning point for opening up to compassion and true forgiveness.
Ex: Melissa, please forgive me for the pain I’ve caused you.
Thank you. Here we have an opportunity to express gratitude and give thanks. Maybe there is a silver lining that helped you learn and grow in some way.
Ex: Melissa, thank you for helping me see this painful pattern and transform it into something that can help me heal and share with others.
I love you. You can simply end it with a short I love you as a declaration of love, compassion, and acceptance or add a statement of intention.
Ex: Melissa, I love you and I intend to continue to cultivate self-compassion and forgiveness so that you know you are whole.
Speaking all 4 parts of the Ho’oponopono practice make it complete. It is not always necessary to fill in the blanks. Merely saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you” can be powerful on its own.
I encourage you to apply the same phrases if you are apologizing to a loved one. And you can use them in your own meditative practice to heal a relationship with someone who no longer with you.
Forgiveness helps us to heal our pain and that of others.
With kindness and compassion, we begin to repair the world.
Melissa Renzi is a Licensed Social Worker and 200-Hour Certified Yoga Teacher with a passion for teaching students to befriend their bodies and grow a curious mind to heal past pain and manage anxiety. She has practiced yoga for 20 years and at the forefront of her teaching is making yoga accessible and approachable to all. She leads retreats on self-care and introversion all over the world. You can learn more about her at www.MelissaNoelRenzi.com.