Forgiveness is not popular these days – we see so little of forgiveness in our world and we delegate “forgiveness” to the religious among us – it seems to me that forgiveness may be one of the most potent forces in the world, in the universe, and certainly, in our own lives.
Forgiveness cannot be commanded. In other words, we cannot be expected to forgive simply because we have heard we are “supposed” to forgive. Maybe we don’t want to forgive. Maybe we can’t forgive. Maybe we are uncertain about who or what we are to forgive. We are not perfect creatures, nor are we perfect in our desire to forgive, as often as we may command ourselves – or others – to forgive.
Forgiveness is not a matter of the mind. We can’t “think” our way into forgiveness. We can think about forgiveness, certainly, and we can demand of ourselves that we forgive. But our minds will not change until we face what it is we need to forgive, and forgive from some other place in ourselves than our mind. When we forgive, what we think may change, but we cannot demand of our thinking mind that it forgive.
Forgiveness is a process. Forgiveness may take a life time. Maybe there are things that cannot ever be forgiven, you think. Maybe someone has committed the inconceivable offense, you think. Maybe what I have done cannot be forgiven – by me – you think. These things are what we say to ourselves, often deeply, beneath the conscious thoughts of our minds. We may not be aware of these thoughts at all, but they are our guiding principles, unless we choose to forgive.
Forgiveness is a choice. We choose to forgive. We decide to forgive. We do the work that forgiveness requires of us, and that is difficult work, a challenge not often taken. We decide that we do not want to be burdened any more by the roiling thoughts that will not go away. We choose to be free. Forgiveness is a choice, a choice not made by many.
Forgiveness is the willingness to let go of what we have held on to – often, dearly, and with our lives and identities – in order to be free. Freedom is the gift we receive when we forgive. Freedom is what is blocked by the cloud of what is unforgiven, by the story we tell ourselves, again and again. Freedom is the background, the sky, the clear place that does not have a story to tell. If we have many stories in ourselves, stories of those who have hurt us, and stories of what we have done that cannot be forgiven, by us, then the sky, the clear place, the breath and body at ease are blocked by the frantic memory of how we have been wronged, or how we have wronged ourselves.
Forgiveness does not mean that someone has not done something hurtful. Maybe someone has hurt you, harmed you in some way. That is true. Your freedom lies in your forgiveness. The freedom of “the other” does not lie in forgiveness. That is work “the other” must do, for themselves. You cannot do the work of forgiveness for someone else. That’s up to them. And truly, we each have enough work of our own to do. Forgiveness is work.
Forgiveness is the work of letting go. Forgiveness is the letting go of the story that has stifled our breath, clouded our places of light, and kept us in our places. When we forgive, we become bigger, we take up the space we are meant to take up in the world. Forgiveness is the letting go of the anger, the letting go of the sad, sad story we have told ourselves, again and again. Unless we are ready, we don’t want to let go of that sad, sad story. After all, our anger, our story of how we have been wronged may we what holds us together. We can’t forgive before it is time, our time, and we choose the time.
Forgiveness is the letting go into simply being ourselves, as we are, here, now. Forgiveness is the letting go into the reality that we have only been ourselves, and that we are flawed and humbled – and magnificent – creatures who have not been perfect, and will not be perfect. We have simply and wonderfully been, simply ourselves. We have tried and we have failed. Or maybe we have tried and we have succeeded. Either way, we have been ourselves, and we let go into that truth, that reality.
Forgiveness is the letting go into this moment, this solid, passing, complete moment. Forgiveness is the complete acceptance of ourselves, and of the other. Ahh, we say, here I am, who I have been all along, and free! Maybe, until I have forgiven, I do not think I deserve this freedom, this fullness, this wonder, this acceptance. Maybe that is exactly why we do not choose to forgive.
“And now, here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the mind.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery,
The Little Prince.