Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Whether we harbor resentments and anger at ourselves or others, three sacred gifts: acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness are the salve to heal our emotional and spiritual wounds.
When we find ourselves stuck in a bad mood, many times what lies underneath is an emotional block. We aren't accepting circumstances out of our control, not willing to show compassion toward ourselves and others, or unable to forgive ourselves or others for some mistake or injury.
Acceptance means that we open up to the reality of the past and present. We can't change the past and the only power we have is in the present. People are flawed. We aren't fully in control of ourselves. There are many forces outside of our control. If we struggle with these truths of life, we stay stuck in toxic emotions. We won't be able to open up to the present where there is aliveness and vitality.
To accept means to let go. We have to let go of our idealizations of who we wish we were or who we wish others were. To let go of these projections is to allow real life to arise in the moment. It is to let go of the rope that we are tugging on. It is to stop the exhausting struggle with our fantasies and let in what truly is.
The world is chaos and confusion. People aren't predictable. People aren't in total control of themselves. Most of how our bodies work is unconscious. We do things with only a little bit of consciousness. To believe otherwise is to be in denial. Before we can truly change, we first must accept our deep limitations and the limitations of others.
Compassion is a pretty word for kindness. In clinical settings we want people to take us seriously so many therapists use the word compassion or self-compassion. It makes us feel special I think, but really all the word is expressing is kindness.
I saw a bumper sticker that said "my religion is kindness." Yes. This is what it means to have compassion. It means a commitment to kindness. It doesn't mean being oblivious to the intentions of others or the pain that people cause. It doesn't mean allowing someone to abuse you. It means to cultivate and develop a kind heart.
This kind heart must start with a kind heart toward yourself. If your heart isn't kind toward yourself, it can't truly be kind to others. That type of kindness is artificial when it hasn't grown out of a deep kindness that includes oneself. Genuine kindness isn't manipulative. It's based in the deep respect for the sacredness of life and an appreciation for our fragility. Kindness shows that we understand.
Forgiveness doesn't mean not addressing the impact of someone's actions or our actions on others. Forgiveness must start with a genuine acknowledgment of what happened and why. Forgiveness without reflection is empty.
Forgiveness is about letting ourselves heal--not about letting someone off the hook. When we forgive, we can still create new boundaries in our life to prevent that type of harm from happening again. Forgiveness doesn't mean to forget. In fact, if we forgive and forget we are only likely to perpetuate the bad behavior. If someone lies to us or doesn't do what they say they will do, we can forgive them, but it doesn't mean we don't establish limits on how we interact with that person.
Forgiving ourselves can be even harder than forgiving others. We beat ourselves up for saying something "stupid" in a meeting. The entire week passes and we are still punishing ourselves for a small slip of the tongue. We have to open up and accept that we aren't perfect. We have to be kind enough to allow ourselves enough space to let in forgiveness. And finally, we must forgive ourselves.
The three sacred gifts of acceptance, compassion and forgiveness work together to keep us flowing through life with grace. Grace arises when these gifts are deep within our bones. Life can wear away our grace and spirit and leave us bitter and broken. When we practice watering the sacred gifts, we water our own joy and vitality. We grow gracefully into whole human beings and away from being rusty robots. There's no right time to open up to these gifts. They are always available if you invite them in.