Mary Hayes Grieco and Erin Warhol host the podcast “Life Gets Better Now” — conversations all about navigating life’s ups and downs with more joy and less pain. Erin and Mary share tools and best practices that they’ve discovered to heal our lives, renew hope and energy, and to become our best selves.

Mary Hayes Grieco is the author of Unconditional Forgiveness: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything, and The New Kitchen Mystic: A Companion for Spiritual Explorers.

Here, Erin asks Mary about why she believes forgiveness is the key in making our lives better.

Erin Warhol: Mary, if forgiveness is the cure, what is the disease?

Mary Hayes Grieco: The disease is the heaviness and fatigue of toxic resentment inside us, and the experience of feeling very stuck and unable to move forward in our lives. It’s the emotional pain leftover from old stories of hurt, anger, and disappointment. When we forgive, we heal those old stories — we finish them up — once and for all! Then we feel refreshed and lighter, and we have energy to create a better life for ourselves today.

Erin Warhol: What does forgiveness have to do with emotional pain?

Mary Hayes Grieco: Forgiveness is the truest way to process and move through our emotional pain, which is caused by our residual hurt from a disappointed expectation in life. I define forgiveness as “the refreshing experience of releasing an expectation that’s causing us to suffer.” When we truly forgive, we free ourselves from the pain and we feel physically and emotionally relieved. We turn our wound into our wisdom.

Erin Warhol: What happens when people forgive something that has been troubling them?

Mary Hayes Grieco: A little miracle! The experience of forgiveness is profound and refreshing. It feels so wonderful to have this heaviness melt out of you, and to have this sense of light from your own soul, slide into you. And to feel new space, new space for something else, besides these old stories that you’re tired of carrying.

In my office and workshops, I see lovely, great, wonderful people come in through my door, obviously carrying a terrible burden in the heart … and they leave with a skip in their step. Their shoulders have relaxed, and their eyes are brighter and their faces are glowing and their whole attitude — their whole energy — is opening up to whole new possibilities. It is beautiful. It’s like watching fast-photography of a rose blooming. It is really a very evident healing that is happening in a gentle amazing way, right before your eyes. I wish everyone knew about this.

Erin Warhol: Are you saying that you think everyone should learn how to forgive, and do it whenever we are troubled with a person or a situation?

Mary Hayes Grieco: Yes, because it’s a life skill and a good health habit, that reduces stress, improves relationships, and turns our bad stories into something good inside us. It’s a private experience that you do for yourself to dissolve the lingering weight of old emotional pain, and move forward into a new chapter with light step and a clear mind. It’s just as important as drinking a lot of water, getting regular exercise, eating fresh foods, and having good communication with your spouse. It’s right in there as a life skill that is so valuable, like learning how to prevent cavities in your teeth, or driving a car. One thing we know about life, is that it is going to disappoint us, and we’re going to need to know how to deal with the pain of that in a healthy way. Forgiveness is a necessary attitude and a tool for being at ease and in flow with life, and self, and others.

Erin Warhol: It seems like a lot of people have resistance to forgiveness. Why is that?

Mary Hayes Grieco: Forgiveness has been around a long time, and nobody wants to do it, because there are some unfortunate myths about what forgiveness is. There is the well-intended but false understanding that we should “forgive and forget.” Well, that is just wrong, it is just off. Nobody can do that. We are always going to remember what people did to us that was terrible, but we need to remember it in a different way. We need to forgive for our own health’s sake, to heal the pain inside our bad stories, and remember what we have learned. The other misunderstanding is that people think forgiveness means making up with the person.

EW: It’s not about going to another person and asking them to grant you forgiveness?

MHG: No, that is reconciliation. That is something different. Actually, you don’t ever have to talk to them again, if you don’t want to, and yet you can still get the relief of forgiveness because it is a private, refreshing experience, you can always have by going through the steps of forgiving another and forgiving yourself. You always have the power to create the experience of forgiveness for yourself. That is the great thing about it.

EW: A lot of times, emotional pain and the need for forgiveness, is because something bad has happened, and revisiting it just seems like you are asking to be in pain again, right?

MHG: It is easier than that. This is kind of like modern dentistry. In my work, we have learned how to enter our pain and work through it more swiftly and more powerfully.

Because you see, the pain is already in there: it is in your body, and it’s doing you no good. Forgiveness is the way that we process it out of there, so that we are at peace with what has happened. But people are afraid to feel their pain. They are afraid they won’t move through it. They are afraid that once they go there… they will be depressed for three weeks… and that will be terrible. But in fact, it usually only takes about 20 minutes to do Step 2, where you feel the pain and let it go.

EW: You make a good point; it is not like the pain is not there. We all have emotional baggage, and some people are able to deal with it better than others. Are you are saying that is because they are forgiving?

MHG: If you really care about your life being the best life it can be, then you really have to care about forgiveness, because we are carrying unnecessary burdens, unnecessary limitations, unnecessary sadness around the edges. All of us could have more bounce in our step, if we shed some of the bad stories that are dragging along behind us, like bricks and burdens tied to our ankles.

If you have a feeling that you would like to dance lighter than this, if you are tired of going bump and clunk… then it is time to make a study of forgiveness and unconditional love. I have been doing this for more than 25 years.

EW: So that all sounds really, really, good… and so… What’s the trick here?

MHG: I cannot wait to tell every one of you “the trick.” Because I know the trick! I have the trick figured out. There’s a method. There’s a step by step method…. (Actually there’s 26 methods out there, and some have four steps and some have 20 steps.) Mine has eight steps. It’s perfect. It has everything you need, and not one thing more. It works through the issue you are carrying through the wholeness of who you are. It works through your personality, your soul, and your relationship with life.

And it is a universal, spiritual model. It works with any religion or non-religion. It works with people who have just a dim sense of a higher something. And it works every time. So that is what is great about it.

And I cannot take full credit for it, because I inherited it this wonderful method, I have refined it, but I have inherited someone else, a brilliant psychologist, mentor, who worked with this method for 25 years, around the world. So this has been time tested. Field tested. Thousands and thousands of people have shed something, before my eyes, and before my teacher’s eyes, successfully. So I know, that forgiveness is not hard. And I know that you can do it, if you know how to do it. And I am very eager for people to find out about that.

EW: Mary, is there a catch?

MHG: If you’ve been carrying a painful wound along inside you, you can’t will it out of you. You can’t cry it out. You can’t think it out. You can’t pray it out. You have to do a little bit of all of it, in this holistic way. The essence of what we are doing here, is we are releasing an expectation that is causing us to suffer, by letting go of it in all the parts of our being.

EW: Does it come back?

MHG: No, it does not come back, because this is transformation. And nature gives us many examples of transformation. If you take a piece of wood and burn it up in the transformation of fire, the solid wood becomes ashes. And it remains ashes the next day, and the next. It was changed.

In the human world, forgiveness is one of our transformations. When we take an emotional issue that is stuck in our psyche, and we run it through the transformational process of forgiveness, and it dissolves — it’s not going to be there in the morning.

EW: That’s amazing. What I am hearing, is that the main thing that it takes is a willingness to do it.

MHG: Let’s say willingness is key, and it is the first step. And education is the next step. You need to learn how it is done. You didn’t know how to drive a car, until you took classes. So you are willing to learn about forgiveness and how to do it, and you go to those learning resources, and you practice. You read the book, you see a video, you go to a workshop and practice it, and you see how it works. Like driving a car, anyone can learn this life skill, and with this method, it always works. And the next step is courage — taking the leap to really do it.

EW: In our next conversation, we will go through your eight steps. But in the meantime, if people want to learn about them and try it out, they can go to your website where you have lots of information free and available.

MHG: Yes, everything you need is on my website or in my book Unconditional Forgiveness, or you can sign up for a workshop or private session with me.

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