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Understanding Forgiveness - Part 8

How to Ask for Forgiveness


This Weeks Video

A key element of a contrite spirit is having the courage to ask for forgiveness. Metanoia is a word with Greek origins which means to change one’s mind. Seeking forgiveness is in essence a change of mind. In Christian terminology it’s called repentance. In one moment you have a state of mind that is judgemental, critical, offensive, or even careless, that triggers a response of hurt, in all of its various expressions, in another. Then, in a moment of metanoia, your realise that your behaviour was the catalyst for triggering a response of hurt in someone else. Of course, we can also be very self-critical and judgemental that has the capacity to fuel a response of self-hurt, resulting in compounded poor self-esteem, diminished belief in one’s ability, giving up etc.

Metanoia requires awareness and empathy. These are the foundations to the change of mind that takes place in this context. Invariably, when we judge or criticise someone, we are relating to them through our perception of who they are, which in nearly all cases, is more about us than it is about them. It’s the filter we have created from our own limited beliefs and understanding that we project onto another.

Asking for forgiveness requires two things, firstly; your capacity to see your projection, the filter that you have that distorts how you see reality. This results in you asking for forgiveness of the person you have related to in this way. Secondly, it’s about being self-forgiving that you chose to act in a way that took you out of your peace. In both instances it’s seeing the motive for the behaviours as a call for help. If you recall in the earlier blogs in this series on Forgiveness, the notion was presented that there are only two motives for all behaviour, it’s either a call for help, or extending love. This is as applicable for you as it is for another person.

It must be pointed out at this juncture that you are not responsible for how someone else responds to your judgement or critique of them. They have the choice to see your inappropriate behaviour as a call for help too, and could choose not to react to your judgement or criticism. The only thing that you are responsible for is not having love and peace as your priority, both for them as well as for yourself. Obviously, if your actions resulted in much more serious implications, then you do have the obligation of restitution, but in terms of how they respond, that is their responsibility.

So let’s discuss what the key elements are for ‘genuinely’ seeking forgiveness.

  1. Make eye contact with the person/s from whom you are seeking forgiveness.

  2. Avoid making excuses. Own the facts of your behaviour, and that you understand their capacity to cause hurt in another.

  3. Don’t be defensive. Do remember whose, business is whose, but own and confess what was in the situation for which your were responsible.

  4. Develop the art of reflective listening. This demonstrates to another that you have really heard them and their grievances.

  5. Reflect on how your behaviour in this instance was your call for help, since your behaviour, very obviously, wasn’t an act of love.

  6. Consider any help you might need to seek, given that this is ultimately more about you than it is about the other person.

  7. Make sure that there is relevancy in how you ask for forgiveness. It would be inappropriate to say, “Oops, my bad.” if you have been caught having an affair.

  8. What can you do to remedy the situation. Are there things that you need to do to help recompense the person/s that were impacted by your non-loving behaviours.

It’s important to remember that there is nothing that you can do to transform someone else’s hurt. All you can do is ask for forgiveness and make compensation for any injustice, but there is only one person who has the power to change how they experience the experience, and that is the person themselves. This is why it’s important to be clear about whose business belongs to whom. As A Course in Miracles teaches, if peace is your priority, then forgiveness becomes your only function. So, no matter what event takes place, if you have devoted your life to peace being the thing that you seek most, as much as you might experience a moment of suffering when presented with a less than aware encounter, your suffering will only last a moment, because you will immediately see the others behaviour as a call for help, and will instantly extend love, the ultimate form of forgiveness.

This is the sort of consciousness that will make forgiving another, forgiving ones-self, and asking for forgiveness a part of your day-to-day life experience…

“When you meet anyone, remember it is a Holy encounter. As you see him/her you will see yourself. As you treat him/her you will treat yourself. As you think of him/her you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him/her you will find yourself or lose yourself.”

A Course in Miracles

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