Forgiveness. Ah, forgiveness, such a slippery slope (or so it seems). Forgiveness; it is one of the universe’s most healing energies, and yet one of the absolute hardest to harness.
How do we forgive those who’ve hurt or wronged us? How do we forgive those who’ve rejected or betrayed us? Those who’ve walked away from us, turned their backs on us, lashed out and scarred our delicate emotional complexion? How do we forgive the batshit crazies who judge us, but then slip into the darkness to study and imitate us? How do we forgive those whom we admire, find to be articulate and interesting, but who don’t reciprocate our attention? How do we forgive those who mercilessly critique us? How do we forgive those who – infuriatingly - just don’t care that we feel the way we feel?
More importantly…how do we get to a space of wanting to forgive all of these people???
Sadly, this piece isn’t a user’s manual to forgiveness (though I would be the first in line to read it, if it were, let me tell you!). This is more a manifesto on why we ought to forgive. The how is up to us, individually, to dirty our hands with and break beneath our grip and then rebuild again. It is ours, respectively, to taste, swish around our mouths, feel with our tongues, spit out and sip again. No one can tell us how to do it, but we can help one another understand why it must be done.
The truth of the matter is forgiveness is a selfish act. While it truly benefits everyone involved, at its core, forgiveness is an act of self-preservation. It is a surrender and release that involves the self and the self alone.
Sometimes forgiveness involves physical reconciliation. We sit down with a person and have a conversation; sometimes our willingness to offer forgiveness is a bridge, a rebuilding of a broken relationship. Sometimes it offers the other human being(s) solace, as well as lifts a weight from our own back.
Other times there is no conversation, no confrontation. Other times the forgiveness is exclusively spiritual reconciliation, one-sided at that. There is no broken relationship to mend, just a footbridge split in two; nothing left to our side but splintered wood, drenched to our knees, no way to cross.
The root of the act, in either circumstance, is really the same. There is no separation. Choosing to look a person in the eyes and forgive them, and choosing to close our eyes and forgive a person, experience, or force of energy that we can’t see or touch is the same. We do this from wherever we sit upon the planet, suspended in the uniquely erected reality of our own lives, and they are the same beast.
But, again, this doesn’t address how we move into a space of release, surrender and of desire to forgive. Sometimes these spaces, illuminated by soft, warm hues, seem beyond our reach. They are often surrounded by mucky moats (the kind with alligators and fairytale monsters), steep ravines, chasms in the earth that threaten to swallow us up if we even allude to a crossing attempt.
Sometimes the situations we seek to forgive utterly shred us at the mere thought. We are human beings, not pillars of stone. We carry with us the scars and battle marks of a life thoroughly lived. Gaping holes of angst and hurt, festering wounds of having loved and lost, the lacerations left by trust betrayed, trauma from the whiplash of whirlwind emotional connection, falling as quickly as it rose.
We are living, our, lives. We are meant to have these hurts, to experience these agonies, to suffer these grievances. We are also, however, meant to learn and heal from them. And no one (I mean no one) can mend these wounds but us.
Step one is almost always forgiveness. There’s often a whole other mountain still to climb, but forgiveness is the steadiness our shaky foot needs. Forgiveness is the balm for our burning lesions. Forgiveness is the cloak that will shield us from the night.
I believe we must always, without fail, forgive ourselves before we can truly forgive another. Just like we must know true self-love before we can offer all of ourselves outwardly in love, we must know the depths of forgiveness on a singular level to truly extend it without attachment. What I mean is, we are going to need to forgive those whom we no longer have in our lives. Or whom we no longer choose to have in our lives. We need to cultivate a space from which we can forgive without needing our container to be filled by the gratitude or mutual forgiveness of the other person, experience or force of energy.
The act of forgiveness must be enough, in and of itself, to offer us the release we seek.
So there is our answer, for this moment, this fragment of time inside which we are vibrating together. To move into a space of release, surrender and desire to forgive, we must choose love. Love over pain. Love over fear. Love over rage. We must put on our big girl panties and decide, for our own wellbeing, that we want to do this. Like taking our vitamins, getting our exercise, loading our plate with green vegetables. This is an act of self-care, self-preservation and, ultimately, self-love.
We are the only ones who can purge our own sacred fibers of the toxic energies we have let in. We are the only ones who can liberate ourselves from the suffering that harbored animosity creates. Only we can remove a tumor of hostility.
A most beloved quote of the Buddha comes to mind, here. “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Linguistic alchemy. Utter truth. May we hear it. May we feel it. May we digest and assimilate it.
May we release. Forgive. Ourselves, others. May we fix ourselves a tonic of peace, and pass on the poison. May we create for ourselves a life that is rooted in love, in truth. Because no one else can do that for us.