Forgiveness is a tricky subject -- one that digs up a lot of different opinions, a lot of strong emotions, and oftentimes a lot of bruised hearts. Most of us have been on both ends of forgiveness. We have likely been in several situations where we offered our apologies to someone we caused pain to, all of these times looking a little different from the rest. We extend our sorry’s in small bursts, laughing at our embarrassment. Or maybe through long conversations, punctuated by tears and hard embraces. We may have had to swallow our pride in order to get our relationships with people we love back on track, or write long, heartfelt letters when our words wouldn’t come out or weren’t enough. Some may argue that the act of asking for forgiveness may be one of the toughest tasks a person may have to do. But what about the one who is being asked for forgiveness? The act of forgiveness itself, of truly letting go of anger, revenge seeking, and harboring ill-will may be one thousand times harder.
For some people, forgiving might be a sign of weakness – a way of saying that what the person who hurt you did was okay. And so people hold on to their anger, harboring this resentment and feeding it every time they think of their offender and what he or she did. This sounds unhealthy of course, but what about actions that are, in many people’s eyes, unforgivable? I don’t want to write them out because they are different and unique for every human, but almost all of us can think of something, that if done to us or someone we loved, would be impossible to pardon. What then? Does that condemn us to a life of housing a poison in our bodies that is impossible to eradicate?
I don’t think so.
I think that forgiveness can manifest itself in different ways. The most obvious way is to communicate it – to verbally say to someone that you are willing to move forward, and thus not seek revenge or continue to dwell on his or her wrongdoing. And you can tell them that you will begin to take steps away from having this eat away at your insides, that you will not feed the anger monster. That you will at the very least try.
But I don’t think words need to be spoken or written directly to experience the cleansing effects of forgiveness for the one extending it. After all, forgiveness is much more personal and individual than we make it out to be. It really is a one-person show. Maybe you can never physically confront someone who wounded you deeply because simply seeing that face would tear the cut open again. The healing effects of the scab that time constructed would be painfully ripped away. Pain like this feels raw after years and years of space and distance. Yet, I still believe that healing can happen in these instances.
Question what it does to you when you let the anger, the resentment suck you down. When you sit with these thoughts, what happens? Your mood likely sinks, maybe you have fifty different imagined conversations with the person, going back again and again to recreate what you would say if you saw them. Each time you think about them, something gnaws at your stomach. Something grips at your throat. And you end up feeling worse.
Next time thoughts arise about this person, or the situation they were involved in, I challenge you to ask yourself what it does when you buy into these negative thoughts? What does the anger turn you into? And most importantly, is this who you want to be, once you’ve let it completely consume you? I hope the answer is no.
Now, ask yourself this: “if I wasn’t scared or paralyzed or ready to rip their throats out, what would I do or say? If I had the patience of Buddha, the compassion of Jesus Christ, the non-jaded heart of a child, what would I tell this person?”
Then write it down. Every word. Coming from this place of compassion, of love, of ultimate forgiveness. And once you’ve exhausted your hand and likely covered your piece of paper in tears, burn it. Tear it into tiny pieces and light it on fire. And as you watch those embers burn out, know that the part of you who is capable of ultimate forgiveness exists. Even if that part is never manifested in the real world, those words that you wrote from that incredibly compassionate place came from somewhere. From some part of you, no matter how deeply hidden. It is my hope that knowing this will help you let go of some of this pain, and will allow this wound to be metaphorically bandaged, and in turn allowed to heal.
As humans, we are all capable of forgiving immensely painful actions. This is true because, as much as we may think we have our shit together, we are all fallible and imperfect. Every single one of us, one day, will be on the receiving end of forgiveness. Be a perpetuator of compassion and understanding. Forgiveness can be a wonderful thing for the receiver. But for those who give it, a transformation can happen: cleansing, releasing, letting go. It is a purging of poison in order to move forward in a more peaceful and sane way.
As a final thought, ask how forgiving you are of yourself. How often are you self-critical, chastising your actions, calling yourself dumb or incompetent, or self-deprecating due to a mistake? We are all so very guilty of this. Try to see if you can come from a place of compassion when dealing with your own mistakes.
Again, we are all human. Tell this to yourself often. Tell yourself that you will grow from any misstep. You will try harder and do better if confronted with the same situation. But refuse to be your own biggest bully. It is a commendable thing to forgive others, but forgiving yourself is an action that takes much more patience and strength. But really, if there is anyone in this whole world worth forgiving because you love them so much, shouldn’t it be your own Self?
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”