Find Freedom in Forgiveness

June 2015

Richard Smoley

Richard Smoley is an author and philosopher specializing in spirituality and religion. Graduated from Harvard and Oxford, he has published eight books. His latest, The Deal: A Guide to Radical and Complete Forgiveness, explains how forgiveness provides the key to a happy life. Visit
www.richardsmoley.com.

Think of forgiveness like housecleaning. When clutter builds up in your house, you throw or give away things you no longer need. Forgiveness is essentially the same process. When you carry grievances and grudges, you have a lot of things going on inside that are not doing you any good. In fact, they are poisoning you. Make a point to release grievances and grudges. Getting rid of the mind’s clutter and filth will lead you to greater happiness.

Granted, forgiveness can be tough. Sometimes, holding grudges becomes an unconscious habit. You may clutch on to your grievances because you think you can’t live any other way.

Grievances may be personal: you remember what someone did to you in the past and can’t let it go. Other times, you may feel collective grievances as you dwell on the injustices suffered by your people. This suffering is part of your identity.

In fact, people sometimes refuse to forgive because, at a deep level, they don’t know who they would be without their grievances. Their grievances have become who they are—or who they think they are.

Often the first step to forgiveness is to become aware you’re holding grievances and realize you want to let them go. It’s important, too, to remember that you are not your grievances.

The world’s spiritual traditions lead us to connect with a deeper, truer Self beyond our thoughts, emotions, and sensations. In meditation, watch your thoughts and feelings as if you’re watching a film. The more you can identify with this Self, the easier forgiveness will be.

Over time, the grievances and grudges will release their hold. Until this happens, refuse to get angry with yourself because you haven’t forgiven the right way or you haven’t done it completely.

Little by little, you will release your grievances and experience forgiveness and greater personal freedom.