Wednesday, 15 September 2010

...Shares Her Musings On Forgiveness.

This is a very personal piece which I wrote for my own benefit to clear some of the clutter in my head, and I’d like to share this because it may help you if you’re experiencing something similar.

I recently spent some time (a very brief period truth be told, spanning all of 45 minutes) in the company of a small group of people who I thought I had long ago forgiven for a hurt that I felt had been perpetrated upon me. The details don’t matter (they rarely do after any given period of time do they?) but the emotional attachment to the event remained. My reaction upon seeing them again after many years proved that. Also, the forgiveness I thought I had exercised had not worked.

I got to wondering, how useful is the process of forgiveness and why is it so important? And when do we know we’ve truly forgiven someone?

Forgive and forget goes the saying...well I had forgotten nothing. I wouldn’t show it on the outside - well, we don’t do we because we don’t want the other person to know they’ve hurt us. (Hang on a minute...are they really bothered? Ouch...that hurts even more). I’m still harbouring pain and they act as if they don’t even remember much less care. How could I feel so upset after so long? I spent just 45 minutes with them and was angry about something that happened years ago.

I did all the “right things” at the time it happened - I rationalised the disagreement in my head, applied intellect and logic to the ugly scenes that had unfolded and, duly satisfied with my version of events, I moved forward with my life. Or so I thought.

But in that moment years later when unexpectedly confronted by this group of people all the old feelings of anger and hurt rose to the surface instantaneously.

I’ve been involved on a journey of personal growth and development long enough to know that I had to get some perspective on the situation otherwise the negative emotions I was swimming in threatened to swamp me. So I took a step back and considered the facts, with no emotional attachment. The relief was immediate. This was just a group of people meeting up. Simple. No drama required. Maybe the relief I felt did not deal with the bubbling anger and pain, but it worked, and I enjoyed the rest of the evening. I then decided to take it one step further, and I decided I had to let it go permanently.

To do that I felt it was necessary (somewhat reluctantly I must admit) to consider it from their point of view. After all, feelings had been hurt on both sides and harsh words had been exchanged. We can never truly know what another person is thinking, but I believe there are many common threads that connect us all. One of those is the human desire for happiness. By happiness I mean the certainty we feel at the core of our being that we were put on this beautiful planet to appreciate the bounty that surrounds us and in doing so strengthen our connection to the Creator of all this splendour. That is one of the key sources of all happiness.

Surely they too wanted to let the dispute go and embrace the happiness that is our collective birthright?

Why was I getting so involved in the emotional attachment to a set of circumstances that took place so many years ago when there is so much beauty in the world and so much happiness and fulfilment at our fingertips in the here and now? It seemed a tremendous waste of energy. The burden of carrying old, worn out grievances can become so great that we lose sight of the big picture. We can fall into a pattern of forcing ourselves to remember each and every grievance that we perceive has been meted out upon us, so we can plan our vitriolic response meticulously should that person ever cross our path again. Or we go to great lengths to avoid them in the misguided belief that avoidance will solve the problem.

How exhausting! It really is far easier to just let it go and trust that whatever happened was a useful lesson to carry forward in our lives. That’s not to say that I’m suggesting we should condone a bad act, but simply to accept that it happened, acknowledge that it’s over now, and feel glad you’re forearmed in case it happens again. In doing so, you let yourself off the hook of perpetual misery. Imagine how light you’ll feel if you go about your day looking for opportunities to enhance your life and the lives of those around you, rather than spending vast amounts of energy recounting the details of past betrayals, whether the retelling occurs verbally or mentally.

The relief I felt from just one episode of letting go of the hurt as well as releasing the sense of indignation I’ve carried around in the equivalent of what can only be described as an emotional trunk (luggage not elephant) was phenomenal! I had made a healthy positive decision that didn’t compromise my principles and didn’t compound the situation further. I did it with grace and dignity, I was polite and respectful of their rights as fellow humans.They had nothing to do with my choice to let it go for good, and I did not feel the need to discuss it with them or have a post mortem of the argument (even though I’ve had it prepared in my head for years!) My demeanour said it all. I was back in control of my emotions, and I felt relieved, relaxed and happy.

That was when I knew forgiveness had taken place in my heart and at my core.

So perhaps that’s the essence of forgiveness. Letting ourselves off the hook lovingly and giving ourselves permission, with kindness and grace, to move forward and enjoy our lives freely.  It’s not about “them” or what they did, it’s about us and how we choose to respond. Essentially we start by forgiving ourselves for holding on to the hurt, and what follows from that is an easy and very natural progression to forgiving the people who in our perception have hurt us.

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