Periodically, I come back to forgiveness. And each time I do, and prod it a little, gingerly, just at the edges at first, to see if it’s still tender, the quality is subtly different.
With time, growth, life, love, trust, things change…
We all have a story.
We all have someone to forgive.
But why do we find it so damned *hard*?
I have a suspicion that it all comes down to victim consciousness again. Whilst, I think we can all agree that we want to forgive and move on with our lives, that harbouring resentment is at best unhelpful, something keeps us there, locked into the battle, holding onto that resentment which stops us really forgiving…
We don’t want to let them off the hook
It becomes easy to say “I’m over it. I’ve moved on.” But have we really moved on if it still resurfaces when we think or talk about the object of our potential forgiveness? If thinking about them brings difficult feelings surging to the surface, there is still work to do.
Allow me to share a little of my own experience. After all, I feel I’ve rather run the gauntlet of the victim consciousness – anger and resentment – impotence – acceptance – compassion – forgiveness spectrum over the last half decade (almost)… Well, actually, if I am to be brutally honest, I think I’ve probably been a victim my entire life, until quite recently. I very clearly remember telling ‘my story’ to an older ‘mature’ student friend at university. A lot. And feeling very sorry for myself. And that was half my lifetime ago… She was a kind listener, sympathetic, and I was grateful, but looking back now I cringe rather. I wonder, a little, if it might not have been better for me to tell me to start looking forward, to stop dwelling on the past, to focus on what I do have in my life and release the fantasy experience I felt I should have had… But maybe that, too, is ungenerous. If everything happens when it is supposed to…
As I said, we all have a story. And those stories evolve and transmute over time. Mine involves pretty much every member of my immediate family, and I think that forgiveness is especially difficult if you feel ‘wronged’ by people you feel ‘are supposed’ to love you. (It is perhaps the subject for another day, the belief in the story… Why are they supposed to love you? Why was it wrong? And with deep examination of even these questions, presumptions about our entire lives, our whole worldview, it all begins to unravel). Over the last years I have really struggled with the concept of forgiveness. I had always understood (without giving it much examination) that if you follow a spiritual path, then surely forgiveness shouldn’t be difficult? Well… that was what I thought. But I don’t any more. I don’t think it is something you can just do. I don’t think it comes until you are ready. Until you have processed your life experience, until you have raged, grieved and let it go. In other words, I think that forgiveness is a kind of organic by-product of working through victim consciousness. When you stop blaming everyone else for the way you feel…
…Hang on. Let me stop there and examine that. What I didn‘t say was
“When you stop blaming everyone else for what they have done“, but
“When you stop blaming everyone else for the way you feel“…
Because these two things, I suspect, tend to meld in our minds into one. But they are so distinct. You cannot control what other people do. They may set out to hurt you on purpose, or simply hurt you incidentally. How it is done is secondary. What is important is your hurt. Because only you can control that part. You can choose to let it hurt you, or you can choose not to. It is fine to be flummoxed by someone else’s behaviour, words or actions. Every day, in this world, I witness things, the motivation for which I simply cannot fathom. Being confused or baffled by other people is almost an inevitable part of life. Taking their actions personally is the part that we can control.
The simple truth is that deliberately setting out to hurt someone else can only really hurt you. The buck stops with you. Your behaviour is under your control and no one else’s. So blaming your actions on extraneous circumstances simply doesn’t wash, does it? And if you hurt someone else because you acted without thinking, or insensitively, the buck still stops with you.
But we are talking about both sides of the coin here, aren’t we? Hurting and being hurt. If you act out of genuine compassion and love, without judgment, with integrity, mindfully, it would be enormously difficult to hurt someone (I’d like to say impossible…) And if you believe that everyone is following their own path, that everyone has their own lessons to learn, and that those lessons necessarily take them on routes that give them choices; that you might not like those choices (which are choices that they make for their own lessons, after all), but you don’t take their choices personally, then you can’t be hurt either… Does that make sense?
I tested my theory today, during my meditation. I prodded that hurt part of me very gently to see if it still hurt. I summoned into my mind the person with whom I have the longest history of hurt, whose victim I have allowed myself to be for the greatest time, and I found love. Not affection or fondness, I should add. I think that may be a bridge too far. Too personal. More a universal love for a fellow flawed human being. But more pertinently to this point today, not hurt or anger. Nothing difficult or edgy.
I have let it go.
And if I, a victim for almost four decades, a mummy, a daughter, a partner, an ex-wife, a sister, a friend, can do it…
What are you waiting for?
It’s time to live. 🙂