This can be a tricky one. When we’ve been hurt by someone or a situation it is sometimes tempting and even comforting in some way to blame, or hold them responsible, holding onto that painful moment as a scar in our innermost being. It can feel somehow that the only way to administer justice is to hold back forgiveness, to make them pay for hurting us.
Unfortunately the main person who is disadvantaged in this circumstance is US… the pain and anger we are holding towards those who have wronged us gets inverted onto us, embodied by us, and can make us bitter and even unwell physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Having suffered many hurts in this lifetime, including sexual abuse, there have been ample opportunities for me to practice forgiveness (or not!).
What I have come to understand after much reading, reflecting and counselling, is that there is greater personal power in being willing to let go, to release the strings that bind us, the attachment to the perpetrators of hurt. I want to be clear here…this process of letting go does not make the actions of that person ok, it does liberate us from continued damage or trauma caused by hanging onto the event or loss.
As I have reflected on this word this week, I have had somewhat of a lightbulb moment! Perhaps the FORGIVENESS stage is a part of the Grief Cycle? Sitting somewhere between depression and resolution/understanding might lie forgiveness. Forgiveness of the one who hurt us, the system, even ourselves for the decisions we might have made. Grief occurs often in our lives, in many and varied ways – and is relative to the one experiencing it – the most obvious experience being the loss of a significant person – and also at times of change – either forced or planned, anytime when circumstances don’t work out as we expected them to. The journey to healing and wholeness will at some stage require of us an attitude of forgiveness if we are to truly move forward.
I really like Edith Stauffer’s (Unconditional Love and Forgiveness) description…
“Forgiveness is a willingness to hold a certain attitude. It is a willingness to move forward. It is a willingness to be more comfortable and suffer less. It is a willingness to take responsibility for oneself and to allow others to take responsibility for themselves. Forgiveness is a decision not to punish ourselves for the wrongs of others or other circumstances. It is a decision to re-enter the flow of love and life.”
We need to be first ‘willing’ to forgive – and this can only come when we are ready to untether ourselves from the origin of the pain/hurt, in order to re-enter the flow of love and life. We might begin… “I am willing to be willing to forgive…..” Finish with your own words.
The traditional concept of forgiveness as taught to me never quite rang true. It felt a bit high and mighty that I could ‘bestow’ forgiveness upon another – it felt somehow separate and judgemental, and my internal voices were saying ‘who am I to forgive you – I don’t even understand you!’
I really enjoy Colin Tipping’s (Radical Forgiveness) take on a more contemporary attitude towards Forgiveness – where there is no blame or judgment, there is instead an acceptance that human beings are imperfect, that we are all connected, and that we are responsible for what we create and we can make meaning out of our suffering and grow and learn from it. (This is an idea closely aligned with the Positive Psychology component of meaning making.). It has a certain Grace about it and has helped me greatly to continue to swim back into the flow of love and life regardless of the hurts experienced along my life journey.
I write this as we approach Australia Day. Perhaps we could reflect on the concept of Forgiveness, as we reconcile the events of the past which birthed our nation of Australia, and seek forgiveness for the injustices and suffering caused by our ancestors to our indigenous peoples – our brothers and sisters on this land? May we be mindful not to perpetuate the pain of the past by our actions and attitudes in the present, so that unconditional love and gratitude can flow once more for the greater good.
Infinite love and gratitude to you all, Gabrielle
Unconditional Love and Forgiveness ~ Edith Stauffer
Radical Forgiveness ~ Colin Tipping
The Wisdom of the Enneagram ~ Riso & Hudson
As a part of my own spiritual and personal practice, I chose 52 words to reflect on over the course of a year.