Updated: May 31, 2022
Judgment and Forgiveness
Judgment (judgment) and forgiveness are topics that provide us with the opportunity for deep healing, personal growth and self-discovery—Are you ready for it?
Dictionary.com defines judgment as, “the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion: a man of sound judgment;” and judgmental is defined as, “tending to make quick and excessively critical judgments, especially moral ones.”
One side of judgment is positive and uses informed decision making, however, being judgmental is the more critical side. When one acts judgmentally, he/she is forming opinions that may not be based on truth.
We view the world through our own unique lens, which includes our personal experiences and beliefs. When we judge others, we are applying our experiences and beliefs to another person’s unique circumstances.
We all make judgments each and every day. Some of these align with the positive and help us make good decisions. For example, who to choose as a friend or a partner. However, when we judge other people, we are forming an opinion without knowing the other person’s story. Even when we think we know someone, we have no way of fully understanding that individual’s experiences and motivations because we haven’t walked in their shoes.
Judging others is a product of a number of things including our ego, which tends to divide and label, and has a desire to feel superior. Our minds can be quick to judge, however, we can train ourselves to practice non-judgment.
When we remember that we don’t know another person’s story (their experiences, beliefs and feelings,) we can create a space of neutrality. Practicing non-judgment is observing a situation from a neutral perspective instead of labelling someone as good or bad. When we practice non-judgment and observe everything with neutrality, there is no perceived wrongdoing, and therefore, no need to forgive.
When two people disagree, it’s because both think they are right based on their own perspectives. When one is attached to their “rightness,” they justify their own behavior and emotions, including resentments, grudges, the desire for retaliation, etc. Here, we are not looking at whether one individual was actually right and the other actually wrong, we are looking from a personal perspective.
When you hold a grievance, resentment or anger against another, it creates a heaviness inside you. Over time, this negativity grows, intensifies and lowers your energy vibration. Holding onto this sense of wrong-doing harms you more than the other person. As Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
The Bible says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”–Luke 6:37
Forgiveness is not saying that you agree with the other person’s words or behaviors. However, it is a practice that enables us to remove attention from the other person and what they did or what we believe they should have done, and focus on ourselves instead. With forgiveness we focus on our response to a particular comment, event or situation. While we cannot control others, we are in complete control of our responses to their actions. Where possible, especially when a situation is ongoing, we need to be able to feel we can express ourselves, explaining that we do forgive, but we would like the behavior to change.
When we recognize that we are all different, each with our own unique ideas, beliefs, and life experiences, it is easier to understand—and maybe even appreciate—our differences. It’s also good to remember that none of us are perfect and throughout our lives, we’ve all done something we later wished we hadn’t at one time or another. As the old saying goes, “Every saint has a past. And every sinner has a future.” This quote has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, St. Augustine and Oscar Wilde. Regardless of who said it or who said it first, it’s wisdom worth keeping in mind.
Forgiveness is more about you than the other person. While the process benefits both, it allows the forgiver to move forward by moving out of the past and into the present moment. Forgiveness is a spiritual process that allows you to let go of inner negativity which enables you to grow in a positive direction.
Forgiveness is about letting go of something you have energetically taken on, often unconsciously. If someone directs negative energy toward you, such as you are ahead in the queue, and you have just taken the last loaf of bread, you can choose to not take it on. If you don’t feel hurt, offended or wounded by this energy, you are protecting your own energy field (aura/light body.) However, if you unconsciously take on this energy, once you recognize it, you can use forgiveness to let it go. Forgiveness can help us break negative energetic patterns. We will further develop this concept in a future topic related to accountability and self-protection against negative energy.
You can also consider if there’s another solution, for example, cutting the loaf in half. You can use this as an example of anticipating a situation before it happens and looking for creative solutions to avoid ill will, negativity, or anger directed toward you. Keep in mind this would be a situation that is not just service-to-self, this could be something you need for your family, friends, baby, etc.
Forgiveness can take many forms, and only you can determine which way is best for you. You can meet face-to-face and offer your forgiveness, write a letter or email (a good choice for a toxic friend or family member,) or you can visualize forgiving another. In the instance where there is no possibility of meeting the person again, visualize in your mind what occurred, but change the ending to one of forgiveness. Several forgiveness practices are provided in the Quick Reference Guide, including the ancient practice of Ho’oponopono.
A relevant and timely question is how one can forgive the ‘unforgivable,’ such as heinous acts and crimes against children? While this is a challenging topic, it is worth contemplating, especially as more and more truths come to light.
In a lifetime, it is very difficult to forgive a person for an evil act...however there are many people who have reincarnated and seek to learn the lessons and change for the good. We cannot hold against a person / human being who in previous lifetimes committed evil acts.
How can one grow and evolve if one never experiences darkness and negative energy? The dark energy helps us grow and make decisions. When we see something, we think is negative, we make a judgment that we do not want that particular thing or we do not want to engage in that particular activity, or an evil person will choose to join in.
Darkness is needed as a part of the broader plan as a catalyst for the light. Feeling love and forgiveness for the dark side and for those beings who have chosen to be a part of the dark side can be challenging. However, it’s the dark side that allows us to feel a deep-seated need to reject what we don’t like and don’t want in order to move forward. It helps us more clearly define a pathway of light.
We can forgive, thank and send genuine love to those who chose the dark side, however where an evil act has been perpetrated, such forgiveness is extremely difficult. On the physical level, we must address the dark actions to stop them from continuing. We do this by saying no to anything that negatively impacts humanity, for example, no to fear and no to service-to-self. We claim our sovereignty, act from a heart-centred place of love and operate in service-to-all. We walk the walk awakened by consciously choosing our actions. By continually checking in with our Higher Self and ensuring our intentions are positive / good, we stand the best chance of living a life free of evil.
This overview is focused on forgiving someone else for their misdemeanour toward you or humanity. However, it is equally as important (if not more important) to forgive yourself for the things that held you back, made you feel shame, guilt or any other undesired feeling. Please see the Deep Dive for more information on self-forgiveness.
Forgiveness brings us inner peace; it sets us free. It allows us to drop the narrative of perceived wrongdoing and victim-hood along with the negative emotions associated with what occurred. Nelson Mandela said, “When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”
Forgiveness allows us to release our burdens, move forward with a light heart and open space for that which is new and nurturing.
It is human nature to be hard on ourselves, and we tend to be our own worst critics. As we learn that we are creators of our life experience and accountable for that which we attract in our lives, the tendency to be hard on ourselves can intensify. That is, unless one spends time on inner work, including forgiveness practices.
Being hard on ourselves can include holding oneself to a higher standard. We may easily forgive others for their haste and carelessness; however, find it more difficult to forgive ourselves. Self-forgiveness requires self-compassion and self-love. As Buddha wisely stated, “Our sorrows and wounds are only healed when we touch them with compassion.”
Not everyone goes through life taking responsibility for their actions, and most people go through phases in their lives where they feel more or less accountable.
Even so, most of us have at one time or another hurt someone’s feelings, behaved in a way we are not proud of, or took action that impacted others in a negative way. When this happens, we may feel shame or guilt and berate ourselves for our actions, thoughts or feelings. Over time, if we don’t forgive ourselves and release any stored negativity, we may feel unworthy of respect, trust and love.
Self-forgiveness is about being kind to yourself; it’s a part of self-care and self-love. Forgiving yourself also benefits others. If we aren’t kind, forgiving and loving toward ourselves, how can we give this to others?
Although self-forgiveness can be challenging, according to psychological research studies, it is learnable. Not only is self-forgiveness an important part of one’s spiritual journey, it has many health benefits as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing forgiveness (of one’s self and others) can result in the following benefits:
Improved mental health
Less anxiety, stress and hostility
Lower blood pressure
Fewer symptoms of depression
A stronger immune system
Improved heart health
To forgive oneself, one must first face their actions. This entails taking a deep look at past actions as well as the consequences these actions may have had on others. It entails considering times when one may have acted in haste without due consideration of the impact on others.
Identifying these situations, taking responsibility for your actions that may have hurt others and acknowledging your feelings (guilt, shame, sorrow, worthlessness, self-anger, etc.) is the first step. Once this acknowledgment takes place, you can shift your focus toward forgiveness.
Acceptance is another important part of self-forgiveness. If you resist what is or what was, and get caught in a web of berating yourself with what you should have done, it is difficult, if not impossible, to forgive yourself.
Patricia, a CC Netherlands Regional Coordinator, said this about acceptance as a part of her journey to self-forgiveness, “Acceptance brings you to the status quo from where you can take a step in the direction that is best for you. In the process of acceptance, I was able to forgive myself for getting into certain situations. That I had not been and am not able to change this and the current situation. The realization that I cannot change the other person. Change will have to be created from within me.”
How can we forgive ourselves for our mistakes, for doing things we aren’t proud of, for the big ‘unforgivable?’ Self-forgiveness begins by moving into a heart-centred space. It is also helpful to remember:
All of our so-called mistakes have brought us to where we are now.
We are doing the best we can at any given moment in time.
You can turn regret over a past situation into compassion by understanding that you didn’t have the knowledge (strength, courage, etc.) that you have now.
Everything happens for a reason.
“Let Go/Let God” – Surrender to God/Source for help.
We may think we’ve forgiven ourselves and let go of a particular issues, exchange or dispute, only to find a similar situation comes into our experience. Why does this happen? It’s usually because one hasn’t truly forgiven him/herself; thus, the opportunity arises again to be forgiven, cleared and released. Anything you are not forgiving will continue to show up.
Self-forgiveness allows us to transform our sense of self from negative to positive. Instead of viewing ourselves in a negative light and holding onto feelings of guilt, shame, frustration and anger, we give ourselves empathy. We accept and understand we did the best we could in that moment, we celebrate any lessons learned, and we shower ourselves with compassion, forgiveness and love.
From a Shamanic point of view, inner work, including self-forgiveness, is not just about specific acts. It’s also about addressing our shadow self, the darkness that resides within each of us. Everyone puts on a mask when they meet others, at least to a certain degree, to conceal that which we don’t wish to share. We project what we like about ourselves and hide aspects like guilt, shame, jealousy, greed, feelings of worthlessness, etc.
Shadow work entails taking a look at your light side and appraising what you like, as well as having the courage to honestly look at traits you may not feel proud of. This is not a judgmental or critical appraisal, and needs to be done from a loving and non-judgmental space. Note that this is about traits and not individual acts.
With shadow work, we look deeply into the negative sides of ourselves (which we all have) and find ways to allow the light side to absorb or integrate the dark. This involves self-love and forgiveness. Not having hidden aspects of oneself enables wholeness.
This work can be a quick process when you have strong intentions and commitment. At times it can be a very deep and long process, which can take many lifetimes to complete. It’s about being consciously aware not to slip into old patterns, habits or feelings that do not serve you. In order to change a pattern, you need to look at it square on and appreciate the negative impact it had on you. If you look at this as an opportunity for growth and change, you can do inner work to forgive, move on and change the pattern.
Self-forgiveness isn’t easy; however, it brings about great inner peace, love and wholeness. We invite you to read our Netherlands Regional Coordinator, Patricia’s, moving personal journey to self-forgiveness which is provided as a separate document.
“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”—Louise L. Hay
Quick Reference Guide
Small Acts of Forgiveness
Every small act of forgiveness makes a positive impact…so start small!
Dr. Tyler VanderWeele, co-director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, suggests one way to become more comfortable with practicing forgiveness is to perform small acts whenever the opportunity arises. A couple of examples are someone cutting you off in traffic or stepping in front of you in line.
When these opportunities arise, recognize that the perceived wrong wasn’t directed at you as an individual, and make a conscious choice to forgive him or her in that moment. This act of in the moment forgiveness allows you to stop your negative reaction real time and it allows you to redirect any negative feelings into something more positive.
7 Steps to Forgiving Another Person
Recognize a situation that requires forgiveness. (Think of a person who may have hurt, embarrassed, angered or upset you.)
Make a genuine commitment to forgive. (It’s ideal to sincerely wish to forgive the other person; however, many believe going through the forgiveness process is beneficial even if you don’t fully mean it.)
Attempt to walk in the other person’s shoes. (How would you have felt if you were the other person?)
Remember that both you and the other person are spiritual beings having a human experience and both of you are doing the best that you can. (This garners compassion.)
Forgive, bless and release the other person from any negativity.
Learn from the experience. (What will you do differently next time?)
Consciously choose next steps. (Forgiving doesn’t mean that you agree with or want to have a relationship with the other person, nor does it mean that you will take the action the other person requested.)
This practice is based on the principle that we are creators of our own life experience. As such, we are responsible for everything that we attract within our respective realities. As Dr. Hew Len, a well-known Ho’oponopono teacher, points out—“Haven’t you noticed that whenever you experience a problem you are there?”
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Ho’oponopono Prayer Meaning:
I love you: Asking God/Source to bring unconditional acceptance and love to this situation and to you.
I’m sorry: This can mean different things, depending on your focus. It could mean, “I’m sorry I forgot my connection to God/Source.” Or, it could mean, “I’m sorry for whatever I did (thought, felt) or whatever my ancestors did to bring about this situation.”
Please forgive me: Asking God/Source for forgiveness for whatever role you or your ancestors had in creating this situation.
Thank you: Thanking God/Source for removing any conditioned programs and negativity, for taking care of the situation for the highest good for all and for bringing unconditional love to the situation.
How to use Ho’oponopono:
To use this practice, repeat the mantra as you think about a particular person, situation or event that has come to your attention. You can also repeat the mantra anytime and anyplace without focusing on a specific event.
“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.”—Gautama Buddha