I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness. What is that quality that forgiving someone brings to our lives? It feels to me like putting down a burden, like when you have just done your shopping and bought what you needed and then some, without realizing that you now have to drag all that stuff home and it is a three-block walk and up three flights of stairs. The bags start to cut into your hands, your shoulders start to shriek and about half-way you wonder if you’ll make it at all and start thinking about calling a cab for the last block! But when you finally arrive, climb those stairs and let those bags settle gently on the floor in the kitchen, oh my! what a relief.
Forgiveness is that feeling of letting those cutting, shrieking, weighty feelings down gently and releasing yourself from their hold. Why is it sometimes so hard to do? Because on top of all the resentment built up about whatever it was, there are a few pounds of pride weighing the whole lot down. Questions like, “How can I let this happen without fighting back?” “How could that person think/do/say such a thing?” “Why me???!!” arise like smoke and prevent us from seeing clearly that just accepting that such a thing did happen can allow us to forgive the person doing whatever it was and drop that baggage. And that is only concerning forgiving others!
What about forgiving ourselves? Forgiving ourselves for not having been able to help someone (in our practice or in our personal life), for not being there for someone who was in need, for not giving to everyone less fortunate than ourselves, for hurting someone inadvertently through inattention or insensitivity. It seems that that process is even harder than forgiving others. There seems to be some concern that forgiving oneself is excusing the behaviour, a sense of “oh, that’s ok to hurt someone.” That is not what I mean by forgiving oneself. To forgive oneself for a wrong is to accept that, despite doing the best you can, you are human, you will fail to be perfectly accepting and kind and, in my case at least, the acknowledgement of that failure comes with a renewed sense to do better.
Once we have freed ourselves from that burden of holding hurt, against ourselves or others, how much more energy might we have to enjoy our lives and find the satisfaction that living fully and without rancor can bring?
What are the burdens that you could put down in your life? Who would you disappoint if you let go of your hurt and anger? What would you gain, what would you lose? What would encourage you to try forgiveness instead of resentment?