Although the word forgiveness may sound familiar; and there have been so many other discourses on the matter, consider that the true nature of forgiveness has eluded humanity, Oftentimes forgiveness is thought of as an action; ‘if I forgive, then that will happen’. The person who forgives ends up accepting or condoning that someone/something has done/gone horribly wrong. A popular adage is this regard is ‘to not forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. In a way, this is true and it is not the Truth about forgiveness.
We are going to expand our relationship to forgiveness beyond action such that we become aware of the power of forgiveness that is Truth. Let’s start with what forgiveness in not. Forgiveness is not accepting or condoning unacceptable or intolerable behavior. It is not to ‘forgive and forget’ trespasses and crimes against us. Forgiveness is not ‘letting go of the past so that you can move forward’. Don’t get me wrong, those are all nice sentiments, however that not what forgiveness really is, not really.
Personal experience in this area has shown that even though forgiveness may be declared, and attempts to move on/move forward are made; the emotions attached to the original offense linger and even persist. Whenever the left over emotions are triggered, it’s like the entire event is replayed in the mind and presence in the body. Not to mention that although the word forgiveness may be spoken aloud, internally there is a vehement desire to NEVER interact with that someone/something again. EVER! The visceral experience that can be triggered (often many years later) is the key to understanding the true nature of forgiveness.
A deeper look shows that whenever we experience an event that appears to negatively impact us in a personal way, a matching emotion arises in our field of being that is subsequently felt in our bodies and so automatically connected to the event (this is how our brains are hard-wired for survival). For example, about a decade ago, I worked for a certain employer and enjoyed my work well enough. My spouse got a job in another city, and after much discussion, we agreed that I would resign my position and move to the new city as well. About 4 months after my resignation, I discovered that I had been accused of stealing during my tenure at the company. I was shocked, I was outraged, and I was pissed! I knew that I had not stolen anything and as time progressed my shock and outrage gave way to fear; what if people believed that I was a thief? I’d never get hired anywhere else again! Two years after I resigned from the company, someone mentioned my former employer in passing conversation and the feelings of outrage and fear overwhelmed my body- as if no time had passed at all. After three years I ‘forgave’ my former employer, still very much afraid that the accusation of theft would follow me to my next position. Consequently I began to organize my life such that I would not have to list that particular employer on job applications or in interviews. Sounds smart? Normal? Well in my quest to avoid explaining the matter and relive the outrage and anger of being falsely accused, I was expending my creative energy on finding ways to hide. I started to live what I call a ‘shadow’ life where I stopped connecting with others, I stopped sharing myself personally and I stopped looking for opportunities that were a match for what I really wanted. I limited myself and what I was capable of accomplishing. My insistence on NEVER experiencing the event or the emotions attached to the event had created a sort of box in which I began to live my shadow life, governed by the very same emotions I was desperately trying to escape.
What to do when that which you least desire becomes all that you possess? Five years after resigning, I discovered the truth about forgiveness. That I had merely said the words “I forgive you” yet who I was being as I said the words was angry and afraid. No wonder that my daily life was riddled with fear and upset.
I saw that forgiveness is not an action or even a declaration (as powerful as action and declarations are).
Forgiveness is a state of being that allows actions and declarations congruent with your desires to emerge.
Forgiveness is childproof! Even a child can choose a way of being that allows for the fulfillment of desire. In my case, I chose to be vulnerable and trusting. Let’s be clear; the first five years of this situation saw me being hurt, scared and angry, declaring forgiveness and then hiding so that no one would get to know me and just how scared I really was. When I chose to be vulnerable and trusting, the internal drama and emotions associated with the event disappeared! Really. Ten years ago, I never imagined that I would share with someone what I though was the most embarrassing thing I had ever experienced, let alone write about it in a book that millions of someone’s would read.
This is the true nature of forgiveness; to be and to live free regardless of events and circumstances that surround you.
To forgive is to forgo the right to judge yourself; and others. It is to come to the place of being wherein you discover that no wrong could ever be done to you by another person. It is to realize that the only wrong that has ever or will ever be done to you is also done by you as you judge yourself and project, reflect and inflict that judgment upon another.
A wise person once told me that I had the power to forgive others for not being who I thought they should be. After I finished chuckling, I got the implication of that statement and the difference between the concept of forgiveness and the reality of forgiveness.
I recognized that as long as I judged myself, I would also compare myself to others. In comparing myself to others, I naturally sought to find their weaknesses and shortcomings, and to judge what I found. In judging what I perceived as negative and undesirable in others, I created the space for them to do the same to me. This vicious cycle of judgment breeds and harbors un-forgiveness and keeps me and the other person separate from each other and our natural state of being. No amount of declaring and ‘trying hard to forgive’ will ever stop this cycle! Just like a Chinese finger trap; the only way out- is in.
So how can YOU practice Forgiveness as a reality rather than a concept? Recognize all the areas in which you are judging yourself, comparing yourself to another only to begin to look for where the fall short in their life. Notice the tension and detachment in your relationship to this person. Know that they are reflecting your judgment, comparison and resentment right back to you. Now see that to return to your natural state of being, to your path of power; is for you to STOP JUDGING YOURSELF. Forgive yourself for judging you. Forgive the other person for not being who you think they should be, creating the space for them to do the same for you. Accept that you both are who you choose to be. Don’t deny anyone, especially yourself, the choice to be.
Forgiveness is the ultimate in paying it forward. Are you ready to pass it on?