Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult emotions for us to process and is one of the most impactful for our emotional health. Hostility has been long recognized as having a strong association with heart disease. Forgiveness is an act of courage! “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope is a perspective that can mislead us to believe forgiveness is out of our hands or that we need to become saintly to offer forgiveness. The act of forgiveness is actually one of self-compassion as it unburdens the heart of the forgiver. Forgiveness may first need to be extended to ourselves as a step in being able to extend it to others.
As the quote suggests, we may need to invoke whatever we hold as the divine when it feels like our human heart is not up for the task. If we find we cannot under any circumstances make our way to the table to start the process of forgiveness, we may need professional help to get there.
A simple gesture for supporting ourselves to feel the heaviness of what is unforgiven, is the placing of our hands over our heart, a gesture invoking self -compassion for the suffering of living with this burden. In the Yoga tradition, hand gestures known as mudras that are heart centered can also be helpful. Crossing the forearms in front of the chest, with the right forearm closest to the heart and the hands unfisted may engender a feeling of protection that can give us the courage to start the process. The root of courage is cour, the seat of feelings and cor in Latin refers to the heart.