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Light a Candle for Forgiveness

Article by Karen Davis

There is much healing in forgiveness. That much I can say from personal experience. However, to know this firsthand is something that you will need to go through on your own.

You see, psychologists and spiritual people (even medical researchers) have often proclaimed how forgiving can be a powerful step in finding happiness, wholeness and personal equilibrium. But, the saying “To err is human; to forgive, divine” reveals a not-so-hidden-insight about forgiveness – it CAN be tough, and it CAN require almost deity-like fortitude to accomplish. And, just like many mysteries that dwell in the realm of the divine, there is much we really don’t know and understand about forgiveness, even if we think we do. Which is probably why we think forgiveness is one thing when it’s another; why we fear it because we think it means giving up our pride; why we think forgiveness means giving another person power over us.

The key is to attempt to understand a little about what forgiveness entails, and once understanding is gained, you may be surprised at just how possible forgiveness is.

More often, when we think of forgiveness, we think of “letting go,” of “forgive and forget.” While forgiveness can include those things, these are not all there is to it.

CareNotes author Carol Luebering penned a piece of wisdom that profoundly encapsulates something little-realized about forgiving. She says in “Finding a Way to Forgive”: “Let’s get one thing straight: Forgiving is not something you do for someone else. It is not even something you do because you SHOULD, according to the standards of religious belief or human decency. Forgiving is something that you do for yourself. It is one way of becoming the person you were created to be–and fulfilling God’s dream of you is the only way to true wholeness and happiness. You NEED to forgive so that you can move forward with life.”

While 12-step programs do encourage making amends with those you have hurt (and forgiving those who have hurt you), forgiveness is in fact, primarily, about YOU. Forgiveness is an act of your own free will. It is not a grudging acceptance that you need to pardon someone just because of your religious beliefs, although your beliefs can be the impetus for forgiving. Forgiveness is primarily for your peace of mind, heart and body because it taps into the authentic side of you that wishes the best for yourself as well as for others.

Moreover, if there’s anything I’ve learned about forgiveness, is that it’s a process. Forgiveness does not and should not happen overnight. It is the product of deep reflection, of a growing into the kind of person who is willing to forgive, it happens after a series of decisions to take it one step at a time: allowing yourself to forgive — yourself or someone else — means allowing yourself to go through the feelings you need to feel – anger, denial, bargaining and eventually, acceptance.

In addition, forgiveness also means allowing yourself the speed or slowness you need to forgive because, after all, there may be hurts that have gone too deep or were borne of some huge offense. There are also hurts that are so intrinsically tied with how one’s personality and beliefs have developed that, more than the need to forgive, the priority is to first examine how you and your beliefs have been formed and what of these may need transformation.

Finally, but by no means the last word on forgiveness, there are certain instances where forgiveness may not be appropriate. In situations of abuse, oppression, and severe distress, a person needs healing, first and foremost, to gain self-respect, self-love and healthy self-esteem. In situations like these, the abused may feel even more victimized if he or she labors under the burden of having to forgive the abuser. Then again, if a person indeed decides to forgive, it usually helps if there is a tangible expression of that forgiveness. Often, it is the word spoken to one’s self or the person who has hurt us. But, often too, when dialogue is not possible, there are numerous personal rituals that can help demonstrate your forgiveness.

Candles have been used for millennia to commemorate, celebrate, symbolize and raise prayers to heaven. For a person who wants to forgive, lighting a candle as an invocation to a Higher Power or to signal the start of the process can provide that settling, that inner “click” that says all will be okay.

Lighting a candle for the person one wants to forgive invokes all of your regard and best wishes for that person, even without meeting them face to face. I also believe that lighting a candle, whether in your church, temple or mosque, or in the privacy of your home, symbolizes that you are receiving forgiveness as a gift and giving it in return.

Forgiveness must be something good; after all it has merited exposition in the world’s greatest spiritual books. Poets and lyricists extol it; psychologists and physicians recommend it. It is so good as to earn two holidays in its honor: on August 27, the Christian Embassy of Christ’s Ambassadors based in Vancouver, Canada is encouraging all of us to celebrate Global Forgiveness Day while, on August 1, the World Forgiveness Alliance is spreading the word about International Forgiveness Day. On any of those days, take the opportunity to make a decision, start the process, reflect deeply, even, light a candle, for forgiveness.



2.) Brenda Goodman “Forgiveness is Good, up to a Point,” January 1, 2004, Psychology Today. Article online at accessed June 14, 2010.

Karen Davis runs Brownstoneshopper, an online gallery of uniquely sourced, hand crafted gifts from the world over, blends distinction with social awareness. If you enjoyed this article on lighting a candle for forgiveness, see other articles on artisans, home decor, design and our unique product line. Sign-up at for coupons, news and specials.

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