Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Forgiveness & Letting Go

It appears that no matter what happens on the journey, life always presents another new stellar opportunity (read: sarcastic tone) to understand forgiveness and its role in our lives.  It has long been said that forgiveness is not about saying what happened is okay, do it again, I’m a doormat, have at it.  It’s not even about allowing that which hurt you the opportunity to hurt you again.  We’re taught that forgiveness is about us and our ability to transgress that which wronged us (yup, even when we're wronging ourselves).  Even one of the world’s most popular religions centers itself on the ability of one to seek forgiveness for transgressions in order to be considered evolved enough in spirit to be worthy of an afterlife.  So, if it makes you feel any better, this forgiveness thing is not a new kid on the block.  It appears that human kind has been dealing with it for thousands of years and for just as long we’ve been trying to understand it.  I don’t know about you, but just that thought alone gives me a little peace in my own struggle with it.

I came across a wonderful summary of words regarding forgiveness from a rather unlikely source this past week.  Reinhold Neibuhr said that, “Forgiveness is the final form of love.”  Neibuhr didn’t exactly grow up in a country full of love or forgiveness.  He played a heavy role in shaping American politics during some very hateful and unforgiving times of the United States.  Despite this, somewhere on the journey he realized the link between forgiveness and love, a link that many of us are still struggling to find, especially when it comes to our ability to forgive ourselves for our own mistakes and wrong doings.  I get the context of his words.  You see, love is blameless.  What have I learned about blame?  I think Dr. Wayne Dyer summed it up perfectly stating that, "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you when you are looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustration. You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by blaming him, but you won't succeed in changing whatever it is about you that is making you unhappy."  It’s pretty much impossible to feel love at the same time as hate or hurt.  Seeing forgiveness as the final form of love makes sense to me.  You have to love yourself first in order to be able to see that you are separate from the wrong and that the wrong does not define you.

Being able to forgive yourself for your own mistakes and transgressions is typically the hardest hurdle to jump.  Sometimes the things we do or haven’t done and/or the words we’ve spoken or haven’t uttered can appear to haunt us forever.  It can sometimes be very difficult to remember that we are worth the effort.  I too am still learning to master this so it’s not as if I have all the answers here on this subject.  What I have learned though is that it seems to me that the root of forgiveness is letting go and finding peace within yourself to move on pass the transgression.  Does that mean that one can forgive someone who’s murdered and tortured someone you loved?  Well, of course not.  Unfortunately, there are some events and wrongs in the world that are incomprehensible to any level of forgiveness.  What it does mean however is that in order to forgive we have to let go of the identity of the wrong and its role in our lives.  For so long as we hold onto that wrong, it has a little bit of our power that could be used elsewhere.   Again, letting go doesn’t mean we make a wrong a right, it just means we’re making a conscious choice to not allow the wrong any more of our energy.  For me at least, that's the essence of forgiveness.

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