Perspectives: Forgiveness
The "F" Word... & my use of it

August 9, 2009 Print version       Other articles by this author

When was the last time you thought about it? When was the last time you did it? If you did do it, how did it make you feel? I think about it all the time, and I know I probably need to do it more often, not only to & for my self, but to others. I know it'll make me feel a lot better most of the time, yet I resist it. I know that it will enable me to experience more happiness and joy in my life. Knowing all of this doesn't make it any easier to do however. I admit, when it comes to this particular thing, most of the time I'm not only hesitant, but in downright denial. In that respect, I don't imagine I'm much different from a lot of other people. It's just like eating right or exercising--it's beneficial and good for us but still, it's not the easiest thing in the world to do. The word & thing of which I speak is FORGIVENESS.

The old adage... "forgive and forget" has always puzzled me because the two words seem like the strangest bedfellows that have ever existed. While one seems attainable, possible and completely logical, the other seems outright, damn near impossible (respectively). What I've adopted over the years is an abbreviated version of this concept. I can forgive, but rarely if ever am I able to forget. Still, I acknowledge there is always room for more growth, and improvement. I know this because saying that I forgive someone but not truly doing ALL of the work within my mind, heart, and spirit to heal and let go just keeps me from moving forward in one way or another.

One thing I came to understand a long time ago is that there really is nothing new under the sun. I'm a person who chooses to believe that we come into life knowing everything we need to know. Living life and having experiences is what affords us the opportunity to remember (re-learn) what we already know, but may have forgotten along the way or just may not be completely conscious of most of the time.

The longer I live, the more I remember. The more I remember, the more I sometimes fall back into guilt, shame, regret, and fear. This is an honest account of what happens inside my head surrounding things which have happened that have been painful, confusing, & challenging. I can look at a picture of someone and immediately be taken back to the exact moment in time that something transpired. I know what kinds of feelings automatically come up inside me when I think about people who I feel have wronged, hurt, or lied to me. None of these feelings feel good. They all cause me to feel tight, and in some cases angry. Without fail, the amount of angst I feel immediately lets me know whether or not I've really TRULY moved on, let go, or healed. This is one place where I am openly acknowledging that I still have A LOT of work to do. What I have to remember as I delve into this topic is the fact that I'm even addressing it is at the very least, a starting point. I give myself credit for that much.

Lately, life has given me a swift kick in the ass (cleverly disguised as a reminder) about this topic. When the whole thing came to me nearly four months ago, I have to admit I was far more detached from it than I am now. Initially, my thinking centered around the ways in which we as people oftentimes hold ourselves back from our own growth, development and happiness because of hanging on to things that have long since passed and are out of our control. There isn't a person in this world who hasn't been hurt, disappointed, abandoned, or lied to before. I'm also sure everybody has done something at one point or another (whether intentionally or unintentionally) to someone else that would fall into the category of being 'unforgivable'. This was why I wanted to talk about forgiveness in the first place because I felt it was one of those universal topics that everybody could relate to in one way or another. What I didn't know when the 'idea' came to me was that I would have to really get hit where it hurts so to speak in order to truthfully be able to address this whole thing. But I now understand far more than I ever thought that I would or ever could for that matter.

As mentioned earlier, I have PLENTY of past experiences that I'm still holding on to, many of which are unearthed whenever something remotely similar happens. I call these "triggers" mainly because of how they tend to affect me in the present. When this happens, I try not to let past unresolved feelings inform what might be happening in the present. That doesn't mean that I'm always successful. In a nutshell, digging deep into this whole thing is like peeling an onion an discovering just how many layers are really truly there, all the while crying because of the way it makes you feel. As I'm continuously being reminded, forgiveness is anything but easy because of all the other stuff that is attached to the issue.

Life would be so much easier if we only had to deal with "one thing at a time" as the saying goes. However, that's rarely the case. Most of the time, challenges and hardships occur simultaneously, when we feel we're least capable of handling everything all at once. I'm no different from anyone else in terms of having been betrayed, hurt, abandoned, or lied to before. I'm also extremely hard on myself and have a difficult time cutting myself some slack about mistakes I've made and letting go of the past. What I also do is hold myself up as an example and commit myself to understanding what causes me to make some of the decisions I do. Negativity is an emotion that always accompanies any kind of reluctance to forgive myself for something I did or didn't do, and especially to forgive someone else for something I felt they did to me. Forgiving someone can be tough because it may feel as if we're letting someone "off the hook" for whatever the perceived hurt or wrongdoing is or was. Nothing could be further from the truth however.

As evidenced by my refusal to forgive in past instances, the only person that was held captive by anything was me. The time and energy I spent being angry, (and failing to express exactly how I felt to the "guilty" party) could have well been used in a far more useful way. Specifically, I understand now that I always have a choice. I can be hurt and stay there, or choose to heal. Forgiveness is a 20/20 hindsight kinda thing sometimes. It's a bit easier (for me at least) to think wisely and objectively after the fact. When emotions and feelings are elevated my judgment and ability to use logic, wisdom, and good ol' fashioned common sense are diminished. What I also realize is that whatever I focus on will grow.

With that in mind, I think about several situations and opportunities that life has given me to not only practice forgiveness but to grow and experience more happiness and freedom in my life. Does this mean that I'm some highly evolved spiritual being completely detached from all human emotion with the ability to immediately let everything go and forgive everyone (my self included) everything? NO. It just means that as I said earlier, and have to keep reminding myself, I have a choice. I have to be willing to let go and properly move through the process of forgiving and healing. What happens next time, and/or how quickly I bounce back and incorporate all of these principles remains to be seen...