There is a great need to explore healing in relation to our adoption experiences. The healing process I use regularly involves three essential steps:
Step # 1: Acknowledge what has happened and how it affected you.
Step #2: Forgive everyone for everything. (This includes forgiving oneself and others for your/their feelings and actions.)
Step #3: Express gratitude for the lessons learned and the good in your life.
“If we really want to love, we must to learn how to forgive.” – Mother Teresa.
How do we do this?
We first have to acknowledge what happened and how it made us feel. Then we have an opportunity to look at our role or part in the situation. How did we contribute to this situation? What are we responsible for? At the very least, we are responsible for our own choices and the associated consequences. Luke 6:37 teaches us, “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” Haven’t we all said something we wish we hadn’t, done something that hurt someone else’s feelings, or simply made a bad decision? Of course we have! And we will again in the future! Don’t you want to be forgiven? I do!
We are also responsible for those things we hold on to. We all can think of someone (caseworkers, nurses, friends, family members, adoptive parents, birth parents, ourselves, or God) who we have unkind feelings towards. Forgiveness sets us free. “Only forgiveness can liberate minds and hearts once held captive by anger, bitterness, resentment, and fear.” -Iyanla Vanzzant, “Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything.”
In our modern day, forgiveness is recognized as an essential part of health and wellness. There are volumes of books, songs, healing modalities, and therapies all based on forgiveness. And they widely taught that forgiveness is more about us than anyone else. “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis
One of the common reasons we have a hard time letting go is because we feel the need to hold those who wronged us accountable. We believe if we forgive, we are condoning their behavior. And we believe if we forget, they will do it again to us or someone else, requiring us to hold on to the negative energy and emotions around what has occurred. We need to reframe our understanding of forgiveness. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean agreeing with, condoning, or even liking what has happened. Forgiveness means letting go and knowing that—regardless of how challenging, frightening, or difficult an experience may seem—everything is just as it needs to be in order for you to grow and learn. When you focus on how things ‘should’ be, you deny the presence and power of love.” – Iyanla Vanzzant
Another reason we don’t easily and quickly forgive is the trauma we experience. Our human tendency is to protect and fortify our wounded hearts. Building walls around our hearts creates a structure in which we are imprisoned. “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.” – Suzanne Simon, “Forgiveness: How to Make Peace with Your Past and Get On with Your Life.”
It is our responsibility to heal our hearts and build bridges instead of walls. Oftentimes, we have a desire to heal, forgive, and move forward, but we don’t know how. I encourage you to try a few things that have work for me.
- Pray for a forgiving, open heart.
- Forgive yourself for any role you played or holding on to any negative emotions you experienced.
- Give your negative experiences an opportunity to be heard and validated. Let go of the negative images in your mind about this person or experience by journaling, writing a letter, or record your rant on your cell phone.
- Imagine seeing those you need to forgive as children with wounded hearts, and image them sincerely asking for forgiveness and love.
- Practice forgiveness meditations in which you release the contention between you and those you need to forgive and create new healthy, supportive, accepting, forgiving, and loving connections in your mind instead.
- Remove your walls around your heart and practice trusting and opening your heart to yourself and others. Reach out in gestures of love.
- See those you need to forgive through the eyes of gratitude, acceptance and love.
Forgiveness is something we practice, like patience. It doesn’t happen overnight. With practice and intention forgiveness can become an immediate and natural response for us. Then, we will LOVE more freely and easily.