It’s been a while since I’ve written anything with depth to share with the World-at-Large. Hence, tender-underbellies and all of that remarkable-definitely-not-nonsense-stuff that goes along with delivering such. This piece is the beginning of a journey; one on which I hope you’ll join me by either commenting, shooting me an email, or – at the very least – pondering and reflecting upon what forgiveness means in your lives.
Thanks for being here.
(Your Friendly, Neighborhood Spark-tender)
In the thoughtful-randomness that I allow my ‘Life Learning’ to be, I’ve created a personal Forgiveness practice over the last year or so. It’s not been insignificant, even though I haven’t expressed to more than a couple of people that I was doing this. And even then, it was almost in passing rather than a declaration of something important.
I started the practice, not with any real goal, other than to experience forgiveness, fully. I wanted to engage forgiveness daily, from the small to the large. I wanted to understand – really understand – what forgiveness does.
I also believe that it was another layer of awareness that I wanted to develop and delve into. I am still not certain of all the ways this simple practice has changed me, but it definitely has. One of the surprising results is that I have (YAY!) increased my ability to access happiness.
Yeah, I’ll take that as a side-effect any day.
So, forgiveness as a practice, a brief overview of what it’s looked like for me:
- I chose not to read anyone else’s thoughts on forgiveness. It was a very deliberate decision.
I know there are many fabulous discourses out there, poetry, dissertations, articles, books, etc. but I really needed to not have any outside influences on this one. I needed to discover not only what forgiveness means to me, but also how it affects my Life, and the lives of those around me. How that feels, what it looks like, all of the experiences.
They needed to be mine, from a blank slate.
So, I did the hard work.
Sometimes forgiveness feels ugly. Brutal, even. I’ve got a notoriously soft underbelly and my ego’s sensitivity is off the charts, right? So, yeah – it can just be downright painful when I have to go out and *ask* for forgiveness, realizing that at every interaction, it can be denied me completely.
When that does happen, because it does, I have to forgive myself. Accept that I am human, with the knowledge that not only can I not fix everything, but that sometimes things will remain ‘unfixed’ and messy – maybe forever.
Sometimes I hurt people, and that hurt will just never go away for them. In these instances, I cannot change what I’ve already done. I can only learn from it, apologize, ask for – but not expect – forgiveness, and move on.
I am still unraveling exactly how this one feels – physically. I have some serious garbage around ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’ that like to hang out and muddy the emotional waters. All of which is to say, I really should re-read “Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly” (thank you Ms. Brown.)
- The other side of the ‘hard work’ was being able to give someone forgiveness, regardless of the transgression.
For me this part has been easier, but only because plenty of practices before this one set me up for success. If you’ve ever read “The Four Agreements” or done any study on that missive, you’ll know that agreement number 2 is, “Don’t take anything personally.”
After digesting the 2nd Agreement, it just becomes easier to work on forgiving others. Yes, even while driving in traffic. (Oh my goodness …even while driving in traffic. I am definitely still a work in progress in this case. Still lots of forgiveness to be given and received here. Traffic. My Nemesis.)
I’m also pretty sure there’s a big ol’ piece on Compassion rolling around in the overall forgiveness lesson – on both sides of the giving and receiving.
As it happened, without fail, the experience of giving someone forgiveness, whether they knew I was taking this action or not, was that I felt lighter. Yes. My physical body felt the release of whomever I was holding hostage.
Resentment is a heavy emotion to be dragging around.
That whole “It weighs on me” adage? Yeah, not just some words. Not by a long-shot. Emotions have weight. They take up space, and it is up to each of us to let that stuff go – or not, but we will be affected.
The choice is ours.
- As I began to feel the effects of the forgiveness exchange, I realized I was having pretty intense conversations with myself…
“Wow, did that person actually change when I forgave them? Or was it only my perception of them?”
“WOW, I think that person really did change when I forgave them …but I didn’t even tell them I had forgiven them, I just held that in my heart. Did how I see them change? Or did they actually change?”
“Dang …I am pretty sure that I changed when I accepted that forgiveness. Yup. I can feel …wait? What AM I feeling? Lightness of being? Unencumbered joy? An inexplicable sense of freedom? What is that???”
“WHOA …wait, What changes? WHO changes? Something changes -I can feel it. Is it me? Is it them? Is it ALL of us? Is there a holding-pool of “Unforgiven” that just wells up until we add forgiveness? Like Drano? This has Freaky-Big-Implications (FBI’s).”
I really was going out of my way to experience these up-and-down emotions. In some instances, I would just sit with resentment, HOLDING it, embracing it – simply to notice more acutely how that felt. Only then allowing the forgiveness piece – the releasing, the letting go.
I wanted to feel those differences within my body.
Because the physical changes, no matter how subtle, really do seem to be the key; to the awareness part at least.
My experiences started to bring up a whole new realm of questions.
Questions I’ll save for the next post, because …dude, radical questions.
In the interim, do you practice forgiveness?
Do you just ‘forgive and forget’?
What does forgiveness mean to you? If anything?
Inquiring Shamsis really would enjoy the knowing.