True forgiveness is an active process, practice, journey.
I can still remember the exact instant when I realized true forgiveness was a choice, and furthermore, an active process. Please return with me to this moment of time…
BE RIGHT? or LIVE.
I stood staring numbly at the ocean, feeling and seeing the complete devastation of my life, after the truths and lies were revealed concerning a very destructive relationship.
A stranger walked by, another ocean-lover, and casually stopped to mention how soothing the ocean is for them, I responded with my own affirmative words and soon we were deep in conversation about how the ocean was a healing balm to painful wounds.
Our conversation led us to share stories and we discovered that we shared similar relationships which were devastating to our lives. As we spoke, I discovered a respite from my inner pain by sharing my devastation with someone who understood, and they were so supportive of my pain, my anger, my insatiable hunger for Justice!
I noticed that we could both barely wait for the other to finish speaking so we could take our turn regurgitating our painful story, “I know exactly what you are talking about and…” As our conversation became more feverish, I began to feel as thought we were having a jousting match with ‘those people’ and our lances were our pain, anger and hateful-justice.
In the midst of this jousting-at-invisible-perpetrators, I suddenly asked how long it had been since this happened to them, they sighed, pausing for a few moments while staring out at the ocean waves which continuously sent a soft spray onto our faces, then slowly turned to me and said quite forcefully, “twenty-two years!”
My jaw dropped to the bottom of the ocean floor and I fervently whispered inside my head, please, please, PLEASE do not let this be me in twenty-two years; it had only been a few days for me but I could see so clearly how easily I could get caught in the victim-mentality of “I am right”, for the rest of my life. I stared numbly out at the immense power of the ocean and silently asked myself, “would I rather be right? Or would I rather live?”
It was that exact instant in which I committed every atom of my being to study true forgiveness and do whatever it took to discover joy again. I promised myself that I would not wait for the pain to go away, wait for the anger to subside, wait for justice to serve my edict…I wanted my life back, my innocent wonder and mostly, my open-hearted laughter.
Quick Look Back…
Last week I wrote about what true forgiveness is, and what it is NOT. I also offered three concepts to be thoughtful about:
- Fully accept IT happened.
- Dissolve the need for justice.
- Consider how it would feel to release the anger, hate, pain & loss.
Now that we are thoughtfully and actively engaged in the process of true forgiveness, we can move on to the unavoidable.
There comes a time when the unavoidable can no longer be avoided: the hurt, the pain, the grief. I know this is the one part you absolutely DO NOT want to remember, or feel, but how can you let go of your past if you do not untie the knots that bind you and learn how to let go?
When we have been deeply hurt, we often build towering castles guarded by fierce dragons so that no one can ever touch that painful place…in so doing, we inadvertently shut ourselves out of that place as well, and then nothing inside that castle-of-pain changes; we remain pain-filled.
Although many believe this is the worst part of true forgiveness, I found that this was not nearly as difficult as I imagined in my head. Afterwards, I wondered why I took soooo long to re-visit that painful place and learn the art of letting go.
Wish, Ask, Pardon
There are no right answers on this journey but I knew my heart was free from the past when it offered this blessing to ‘that person’:
In the spirit of honesty, I did not speak these words directly to ‘that person’ for that would be unwise, given my circumstances. Instead, I offered these words unto the universal Divinity that weaves this mysterious life and asked for both our hearts to rest peacefully in true forgiveness.
For those of you who do not know much about black walnuts, I will share three unusual characteristics. Black walnuts grow for ten years before they offer a single nut; the initial green-balls that grow in the tenth year reveal nothing about what is truly inside; and the mature husks are great for dye-ing, so great in fact that when you break them open, they stain everything they touch.
True forgiveness is a bit like a black walnut. You must spend time nurturing true forgiveness in order for it to offer you healing: water, prune, feed, etc.; and when true forgiveness begins to take form, you must not be hasty in judging what is inside; lastly, once you reveal the precious nutmeat <<once you truly forgive ‘that person’>> the “stain of forgiveness” will spread to everyone and everything in your life. You will discover that you are more readily able to seek peace and forgive harm from the many people and situations in your life that ask you to do so.
I was only able to study and practice the art of true forgiveness by engaging daily with thoughtfulness and meditation. As I learned to calm my mind and gently touch the painful places within my castle walls of steel and stone, I became aware of a growing strength in me, a strong and sturdy tree which offered nuts of true forgiveness.
This journey required lots and lots of practice & tons of patience. It was most definitely a journey. And a choice.
True Forgiveness is a choice. And you get to choose. Wait? Or Forgive.
Your most important tool
Why is true forgiveness the most important tool you will ever learn to use…ever!? Because humans are messy! Really, really messy! And they hurt each other all the time! So, the real question is not IF you will have <<some>> painful experiences in your life, but HOW you will deal with painful experiences in your life.
True forgiveness has many, many layers so don’t be surprised if you find deeper and deeper lessons as life goes on…after all, life is made of layers upon layers of more layers.
And remember, true forgiveness is an all-or-none deal, you either give up the pain, or you don’t. Sure, it hurt like hell to re-visit the feelings surrounding ‘that person/incident’, but those moments passed. And I am not only stronger after this journey, I now carry a new tool, one that comes in handy, quite often! 🙂
Reverse! I say, REVERSE!
Now it is time to reverse everything because we have all had our turn as ‘that person’ and harmed someone. But before we do, please spend this week being thoughtful <<and curious!>> about what it may feel like for you to actively participate in a process that unknots the parts of you that are currently bound by false forgiveness or denial.
Begin to consider gently touching those parts of yourself that are so pain-filled that you have not dared to touch them for weeks, months, years…decades? Dare to feel your entire being again, and remember that it is never as painful as the initial incident…the only thing between you and your joy is fear.
I promise that fear is not as scary as you imagine, I promise…pinky promise.