Monday, August 24, 2015

Forgiveness and Understanding

Sometimes it's not so easy to forgive.  We find that we are stuck and can't move ahead in our lives.  When this happens, it is most likely because somewhere in our psyche we are holding onto emotional injury.  But the best way to free ourselves, when we are stuck like that, is through forgiveness.  So, this presents a challenge, because forgiveness is the key that opens the pathway to love in our lives.  

It is important to remember that forgiveness is not condoning the wrong doing of another person.  Forgiveness is simply letting it go.   Our emotions can be like broken records sometimes, playing an event over and over again.  And this takes our energy.  The negative emotions or feelings that we may have toward another person have little to no impact on the wrong doer, but they have a big impact on ourselves.  So it is a good idea for us to figure out how to clear those angry or resentful thoughts and let them go. 

Given our own situations, our past difficulties, challenging upbringings and what have you, sometimes it can seem impossible to forgive.  But a very wise friend of mine once shared with me that in those tougher times, she could become "willing to forgive" or "willing to let go."  This is a good step in the right direction.  Another strategy is to, "Fake it until you make it "    

Years ago, I came across this forgiveness affirmation that Louise Hay teaches.  It goes like this:
 "I forgive you for not being the way that I wanted you to be.  I forgive you and I set you free and thereby free myself."  I love this one because it includes some self-responsibility for our own assumptions and expectations that we so often hold about other people.

I also like to use this set of three forgiveness affirmations.  I don't remember where I got them.  But they have certainly served me well.  These let us see forgiveness from three unique perspectives.  And again, they remind us of our own self-responsibility.  They also help us to remember that pain is most often a two way street.  Here they are:
I forgive you for any pain that you may have caused me.
I ask that you forgive me for any pain that I may have caused you.
I forgive myself for allowing you to cause me any pain.

A practice of forgiveness helps us to move beyond our holding patterns.  As Gabriel Roth, the modern dancer said, "If we are not holding on, we don't have to let go."  But, if we are holding on, spirit is not free to move…and our healing becomes stuck.   My spiritual mentor, Jana Massey used to refer to forgiveness as "The Law of Erasure."  She would say that it erases the hurt so the truth can be made known.

Another mentor of mine is Peace Pilgrim.  Her book is titled: Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words.  Peace Pilgrim would often say that our problems in life are here to help us grow spiritually and that a life without problems would be a barren life.  I've come to see the truth of this  because our problems are our teachers.  They help us to learn and grow.  

When speaking about forgiveness, Peace Pilgrim once said, “One thing that helped me a great deal was the realization that no outward thing, nothing, nobody from without, can hurt me inside.  I realized that I could only be harmed spiritually by my own wrong actions, which I have control over, or my own wrong reactions.  They are very tricky things, but I have control over them also.  When I realized this, I just felt so free.  And I stopped hurting myself.  Now, someone could do the meanest thing to me and I would recognize that person as a sick person, as an out-of-harmony person.  I would put him in the same category as a mentally sick person.  I would feel great compassion for this sick person who is capable of doing mean things.  I would pray for that person.  I would certainly not hurt myself with a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger.  You have complete control over whether you will be hurt inside spiritually or not.  And anytime, you can stop hurting yourself.”    

I find the insight in this statement to be so very profound.  Here, Peace Pilgrim is teaching us that with deeper introspection we can reach for understanding.  This can help us to move, even beyond the need for forgiveness, because we come to see that those who have done us wrong are coming from their own set of circumstances, which might even be deep psychological imbalance.   If we look at a situation like that, from Peace Pilgrim's perspective we can see that someone who is that unsettled, actually needs our compassion.   Sometimes this can be very hard to swallow but, digging deeper for understanding is the key that helps us to keep our own souls from becoming entangled. 

Our job when we feel that we have been wronged is to rise up out of the mire and not stay there, or to not even fall into it in the first place if we can.  We can take a different street and avoid the whole mess.   We can realize that no matter what someone else may have done, they can not harm us inside.

© Josephine Laing, 2015

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