Musings on Forgiveness

“Sincere Forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change.  Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you.  Love them and release them.  Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.”   ~Sara Paddison

I have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. I have a client who has been struggling with a very challenging situation in her personal life, one in which she wishes she could be forgiven, but her friend is still too angry to even talk to her.It is my belief that as human beings we have many opportunities to forgive people or situations as well as ourselves.   And forgiving oneself is a simple act or attitude that can restore a sense of peace and balance in our lives even if we do not receive acknowledgement from an outside source that we have been forgiven.

Let me explain. If we can manage to come from a perspective that everyone is doing the best they can in every given moment it is much easier to offer up that same kindness and compassion to ourselves. If that is hard for you to believe, sit with it and open simply to the possibility that it is true.  We all make bad, even awful choices sometimes but in those very moments I would like to suggest that you did what you thought was the right thing for you or another in that moment.

As a society that has a strong religious undercurrent, forgiveness is often considered an action.  And, in that action there is an inherent sense of a power dynamic. As in: you do something to me and I offer you my forgiveness so that you may let go of any guilt you are carrying.  For example in the Catholic church you would go to a priest and confess your sins at which point you would be forgiven and could get on with your life. In the Jewish religion you would fast on Yom Kippur and wipe your slate clean. A friend accepts our apology and we are forgiven.

But what if that person decides that they will not forgive? What if they are so hurt and angry that they can’t and won’t forgive?

I am suggesting that forgiving ourselves is a more authentic and deep way to move on. If you can come from a place of compassion, from your own realization that you are human and sorry to say it but prone to fallibility, then you can forgive yourself and let go. If the person you’ve hurt isn’t ready to forgive you don’t suffer in the interim. You own your mistakes, you apologize, you do your best to rectify the situation but if the other person is holding on to her anger and pain that is not something you also need to bear.

In a recent article written by Rabbi Rami Shapiro in Spirituality and Health magazine the author suggest that if we focus on forgiveness as an attitude then something totally different happens inside of us.  He suggests that we can’t escape suffering, nor should we want to.  Life is what it is: a blend of joy and sorrow, happiness and horror.  Having the ability to offer forgiveness to yourself as well as others won’t change life from happening but it can free you from dragging down your moments of joy.

Is there anything in your life that needs forgiving?

In your journal write about a time when you were left unforgiven.  Write your own forgiveness letter starting out something like this….

Dear (your name goes here)

I want you to know that I forgive you.  I realize that we are all humans, doing human things making mistakes, and learning and growing from them.  I would like you to know that I love you and forgive you…

And continue the letter however you feel inspired.  In the end see how you feel and then check it out, can you offer that same forgiveness for another?  Often the compassion we can give to ourselves matches the amount of compassion we can give to another.

Peace ~ M