How Do I Know When I’ve Truly Forgiven Someone?

by Asatar Bair on August 6, 2010

“To err is human, to forgive, divine” -Alexander Pope

Did someone hurt you? If so, you’ve probably struggled through different emotions, from denial, to anger, to acceptance. You know you should forgive people. You know that carrying the anger is a burden that weighs on your heart.

Sometimes you may feel like you’ve forgiven. Then something new happens, and the anger and hurt comes back.

So how do you truly know when you’ve forgiven someone? And what do you do when you want to forgive, but you can’t seem to get there?

Let your feelings flow. If someone hurt you, the first step toward forgiving them is to fully and deeply feel your emotions. How often we neglect this! We let our minds take over. I’m so over this right now. But am I, really? I find that I know when something has truly disturbed me when it comes up in my meditations. Every day, I’m searching my heart for any hurt or bitterness that may have accumulated. I want to know about it so I can work on it, not let it build up. The first step is to truly feel. That means not judging, not categorizing, just simply feeling, being with your emotions. A key here is to use your breath. Breath moves emotion like nothing else. And emotions want to flow; flow is the very nature of emotion. As soon as you tap into the river of feeling, you feel your emotions changing. You can’t forgive until you’ve really felt the pain.

Take a different point of view. So often we see our beliefs, opinions, and point of view as who we are. What you believe about a situation is only a tiny piece of who you are. You can try on a different belief, just like you would try on a new shirt. Try to see things from the perspective of the one who hurt you. People always have reasons for what they do. When we’re outside, those reasons are obscured, and people seem crazy. But from the inside, even truly deranged people often seem reasonable. When you look at life through the eyes of another, you gain insight that is simply not available from your own limited perspective. I would suggest that you meditate on your heart before you try to take on another point of view. It works better when your heart is energized. A secret to doing this: look for something that you admire in the other person. Even the smallest thing will work.

The next step is the toughest, and also the most valuable. If you can do this, you have truly forgiven.

Merge the hearts. Breathe in and out through the heart of the one who hurt you. Take everything that is in his or her heart into your own. For this to be real, and not merely a mental projection, you have to take everything. There can be no filtering, no holding back. Take in everything in his or her heart, and give everything in your heart, until you can no longer feel any difference. Make a bridge of light and breath between your hearts.

Look at the sensation in your body, the thoughts in your mind, the images you see, and the emotions you feel. The sign of a real experience is a physical sensation, an emotion, an image that comes out of no where, or a thought that follows no other thought. These are messages from your heart that cannot be faked, and that you will trust more and more as you build your experience of Heart Rhythm Meditation.

Let me give you an example of a situation where I used this practice. It was with a guy you might know: G.W. Bush.

I was mad at him for stealing the election of 2000, and for leading the country into a war that I felt was pretty clearly based on lies, ignorance, fear, and the desire for revenge after 9/11. I felt embarrassed that he was representing the United States to the rest of the world. Maybe this point of view is correct, maybe not. That matters less than the fact that holding onto that anger and resentment was like holding a poison in my heart. It was difficult to give up the feeling that I was right and he was wrong. I used the steps above; I felt my feelings, I worked on taking his point of view.

You know what I used to help me? G.W. Bush is a fitness aficionado, like me. And I read that he is very disciplined about his fitness. So that is admirable, and I know how hard it is to stay healthy and fit.

It was when I did the practice of merging hearts that things really started to flow and transform. I discovered where I was resisting, where I was just doing this as a thought experiment, and made it real. The amazing thing about the experience is that I now feel some real affection and love for G.W. Bush.

I could not have imagined that I’d be able to say that before I did this.

I still think that he lied to the nation and that his Administration was a low point in the American presidency, but I don’t carry the weight of anger and hurt at him in my heart anymore. It made me feel bigger inside. We have to get along with people with whom we disagree; we have to let our humanity be more important than our divisions.

Forgiveness is a cleansing of the heart which has to be done regularly and deeply. I hope this article gives you some tools you can use to forgive and cleanse your heart.



lori peterson August 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm

i like the comments of breathing through the heart to forgiveness i have a co worker that drives me nuts because he lies to the tourists about sitka to empress them .i work as a tour guide and really think fact is alot more interesting than tall tales and the visitors are not that stupid……really what a jerk…….i am going meditate and i will forgive him.

Asatar Bair August 9, 2010 at 7:44 am

Hi Lori,
I’m glad you have a person who springs to mind. Let me know how it goes! Thanks for your comment.

Savvy August 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I can’t say anymore, or any less. Just thank you.

Asatar Bair August 9, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thank you for your comment, Savvy. There’s a lot of feeling in what you say, and what you didn’t say.

Martin Bortnick August 9, 2010 at 8:21 am

This is a very good article. Forgiveness is so important and so difficult for so many of us. All of us are wounded in life. I have found that my heart rhythm meditation has helped me to connect to my hurts and to have compassion for those who have hurt me.

Asatar Bair August 9, 2010 at 11:58 am

Hi Martin,
I’m so glad to hear that HRM has proved helpful.
Thanks for your comment.

andree morgan October 3, 2010 at 3:52 am

Hi Asatar,
I really like this article. I like that it has practical steps to take to allow forgiveness to occur. I have struggled with trying to forgive and then realizing I haven’t , it easily gets pushed below the surface hidden from awareness. It springs up . I will try this method. It makes good sense. Thanks. Andree x

Asatar Bair October 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

@Andree: Yes, that is exactly the problem, right? You tell yourself you’ve forgiven and it turns out that was wishful thinking. Thank you for your comment!

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