The Magic of Forgiveness

I have a new cup of coffee in hand and new contemplation bubbling to the surface, the sun is shining on a beautiful spring morning; nothing could feel more perfect!  The caffeine has me ruminating on forgiveness, one of my favorite subjects.

Let’s talk about it...the selfish act of forgiving. 

Forgiveness is one of the most empowering characteristics we can embrace. The more we forgive, the more power we have to let go.  Forgiving the really awful stuff from occurring in our lives allows us the power to transform the experience into something useful and enlightening, rather than increasing the level of bitterness in our souls. 

Forgiveness does not mean accepting the unacceptable or allowing the unallowable to continue; it does mean getting over the things that can be gotten over, and allowing light into where there was once darkness. Forgiveness does not mean allowing someone to continue to mistreat you, it is getting over the mistreatment so that the experience doesn’t own you, define you, or continue. 

Because that is what eventually happens if you don’t forgive the really big stuff, you become bitter and owned by the thing you can’t get over; or you allow it to re-manifest into bigger and uglier instances. An inability to forgive eventually defines all aspects of one’s life and eventually, I believe, one’s health.

So how does one forgive?

This is often an exercise in futility; some empty gesture to show we forgive rather than being an authentic moment of genuine forgiveness. Who amongst us has written a grievance on a piece of paper, burnt it to a distant ash, just to continue feeling as badly as before about the situation? Does that mean we didn’t believe in the exercise enough? Like clapping for Tinker Bell is supposed to bring her back to life based on how much the clapper believes, so too the getting over of a grievance by shear whim and fancy (or is it magic?) is based on belief in the process? 

Then, if this doesn’t succeed the burner of paper is simply not trying hard enough to forgive. Is that the case?

But what has actually been done to forgive? There must be steps that one can take, actual steps to forgiveness that can be followed and applied to one’s scars?  Like a salve of soothing relief, something that we can benefit from healing us inside and out, decreasing our scars? 

Because we really must admit to ourselves, the absence of forgiveness hurts us much more than the ones we resent. Very often the ones we resent, no matter how justifiably, aren’t even aware we have an issue with them. Or, if they are aware they don’t care; perhaps they even blame us for the event. Whatever they feel or don’t feel, it has no comparison to the turmoil that resentment has on our own hearts and souls. That is why everyone touts the importance of forgiveness; without it our hearts cannot fly freely and we cannot soar above our sores.

The first step is conquering compassion. Compassion for our self is paramount and needs to be mastered for so many reasons, especially this one.  Compassion is the missing component to so many people’s balance and wellbeing. In this instance it has nothing to do with the person who hurt you though, and is 100% for you alone! 

Once you can compassionately embrace your own mistakes and missteps, you might find it easier to see how the errs in someone else’s judgment or action is based on anything other than malice. Removing malice of intent and looking at actions as mistakes in judgment or misunderstandings in perspective makes them more tangible in the letting go, allowing them to truly be burnt away. 

This is where the hardest step comes in; dropping the protective barrier we have around an offense magnifying it to the level of needing forgiveness. We all have our own boundary of where and how an action or statement warrants our feelings hurt, when resentment builds to a point that forgiveness is needed.  Some find offenses everywhere, in an aggressive driver being less than super on the roadway, to the person who cuts us in a line. While others hold out for the really big abuses, abandonments, and abasements…wherever there is a scar though, there is an excuse to forgive someone. Start small and work up to the really big ones when you are ready.

People have a habit, possibly a need, to magnify their own scars above those of other’s. The reason we can defend holding on too tightly to an offense is because we have justified that no one else could even understand, let alone recover from the same. In fact I can hear the argument against taking my advice being first and foremost, ‘but if she had lived through what I have, she wouldn’t be so quick to forgive.’

My resume of scars is plentiful, but essentially unimportant. The things I have forgiven ample, yet inconsequential. The more we compare and isolate our grievances, the more healing we will eventually need. 

What I know is that I resented a lot for a long time. Enough that it ruled my entire existence; the fabric of who I was became ‘victim of’ rather than ‘survivor of.’ Being a survivor is what makes you stronger than before and eventually grateful, on some level, for the lessons learned. 

I can’t come this far and not make sure you understand forgiveness is not about letting the offender off the hook; it is about letting yourself off the hook. It isn’t about being weak and walked on, it’s about having the strength to be bigger than the event, stronger than what makes us most bitter. Forgiveness is a choice, not magic!

Why did I call forgiveness selfish in the beginning? Because forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person (or people) involved. You forgive an event 100% for the benefit of your own psychological, spiritual, and eventual physical wellbeing. Forgive because it releases your soul from a grievance that can slowly erode you to your core, not because it releases any burden from the one you resent. Because as we already determined, they may not even be aware, let alone care, about why your soul is clouded in darkness and disharmony. 

You can forgive without even letting the other know, because as I just said, it is for you, not them that it matters. That is where people become the most confused about forgiveness, don’t let yourself become confused.

You do all the work, you should get all the benefit; right? Right! 

The process of forgiving may take quite some time, in the beginning. Keep practicing each step and you’ll get better and better and the process will become smoother and faster, eventually becoming second nature. 

Without the burden of resentments your newfound strength will forever feel super!