One of the thornier issues of life is forgiveness.
We associate forgiveness with giving in, relinquishing a hurt or source of anger for the sake of peacemaking. In doing so, it may feel like—in the forgiving—we are giving up a part of ourselves to rectify the situation. In this case, forgiveness may look quite prickly. What if we could shift our perception of forgiveness, revealing the beauteous gift within, a rose of our own making? Can we look at the act of forgiveness in a new light?
Often in my life, I've found myself stubbornly holding to my point of view when a point of conflict would arise. It was so important to be right! I'd dig in my heels. Not surprisingly arguments would ensue, for if one or both partners passionately holds to what they believe is "right," there is little room for forgiveness to find its way in. Grudges and resentment build, and, over time, a great sludgy mess is created.
Another pattern I often found myself in was to tire of the ensuing conflict and just plain give in to get it over with. To self-sacrifice what I knew to be true for me for the sake of peace did not result in peace either, but more resentment. Over time, either of these patterns could be quite destructive to any relationship.
Today I view the act of forgiveness much differently. It is no longer, "giving in" or "giving up." It is "letting go." Letting go of my need to be right. Letting go of my need to have the last word. Letting go of my need to convince someone of my point of view. And most importantly, it is not letting someone else off the hook.
This seems to me to be the primary roadblock to a new understanding of forgiveness. We believe, on some level, that by forgiving someone we are letting them off easy. They have hurt us or committed what we perceive to be a wrongful act. So if we forgive them, it somehow condones what they did or diminishes the power of the act in some way.
A friend of mine, Eldonna Edwards Bouton, authored a book about forgiveness:
Loose Ends: A Journaling Tool for Tying Up the Incomplete Details of Your Life and Heart. She describes the act of forgiving in this way:
In this way, forgiveness is not letting someone else off the hook, it is letting yourself off the hook. Isn't that a wonderful way to look at forgiveness? Knowing this, couldn't it be much easier to forgive someone? If the situation in question is not about being right, or about retribution, but about personal freedom, wouldn't that make all the difference in the world? For me, it has.
Today, when I find myself experiencing a difference of opinion with someone (especially about a perceived hurt), I have a choice how to look at it. I can expend emotional energy trying to prove myself right or make someone else see the "wrongness" of what they did. Or I can let the situation go, release myself from its emotional intensity, and move on.
This is not to say that in many situations it is not right to stand up for what we know to be right and true. Or that justice should be served; wrongdoing brought to light. That goes without saying. But in many other situations, we waste precious time and energy attempting to make someone see the error of their ways, because after all, can we ever really change anybody?
The only person we can change or have control over is us, and when we engage in forgiveness we
are gifting ourselves with personal freedom. By forgiving, I am free to let go and move on to the next enlightening experience. Seen in an even broader light, an act of forgiveness is an act of self-healing.
Granting forgiveness to another may be the greatest act of self-love and self-healing we can perform.
Forgiveness is not an easy thing by any means. But by not forgiving, we continue to add to our own sack of pain. Why not lighten the load and lay down those grudges and resentments of great weight, and walk more lightly through life? One of my goals in 2010 is to forgive any and all who need forgiving in my life. In doing so, I will dance through this new year, a much lighter, brighter woman.
How about you?
As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts ...
(Image courtesy of www.chrishallsculptures.co.uk)
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