He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass. ~Lord Herbert
One of my favorite speakers is Caroline Myss, particularly her lecture, Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can. In that lecture Caroline raises an interesting and yet challenging prospect of one of the fastest ways to heal – she states it is through an act of forgiveness. Of course, she humorously states that it is one of the most revolting thoughts many people have when they feel they have been wronged by others and now they have to offer up something to someone who does not deserve it. So let me start with a disclaimer by stating that before you decide to stop reading, please give a look as to what I discovered through my research.
Before we can begin to examine the necessity for an act of forgiveness, it is important to understand the condition that makes its’ need necessary. In other words, what must happen to us that would require the need for forgiveness? One way to think of this is that if we were to assume that forgiveness is a healing agent then we must assume that an emotional injury is present. It is possible that at times these injuries or wounds are self- inflicted and at other times that others are responsible for what has taken place.
Examples of self-inflicted wounds would be those where we have brought pain and suffering to ourselves such as those associated with various types of addictions. The wound is opened when we makes choices to hurt ourselves. However, it must be highlighted that it is always relational (i.e. relation to ourselves, to the world or to others) and never in complete isolation that choices are made. While seemingly selfish choices are meant to hurt no one other than ourselves, it is in the ripple effect that we affect others. Our own choices or the results of other people’s choices that bring about emotional tears in our life demand the necessity for forgiveness as a way to facilitate healing and growth.
Forgiveness is not usually a part of our daily lives that we typically experience. In fact, it would appear that we have lost our way to the path of forgiveness in life, if indeed we ever knew where it was to begin with. Rather than living our lives with an attitude toward compassion and forgiveness; we have instead replaced this fundamental healthy way of being with Hammurabi’s code of an eye for eye, also known as the law of retribution, maybe a better name for the law would be that of resentment.
We must exact vengeance upon those who have done us wrong - thus, part of what cloud’s our ability to forgive is a belief in the entitlement of judgment, that is judgment toward others and worst of all towards ourselves. It could be argued that forgiveness was never available to the ordinary person and that it must be sought out in the land of the holy, the place of the sacred. However, from a spiritual perspective, forgiveness was never meant to be that way, i.e. completely unavailable to the individual.
If we are able to assume that the path to forgiveness is attainable then it is probably in our best interest to understand what blocks the path. If we harbor resentments for every wrong that happened in our life, then we must ask, just how big is our harbor? How many floating crafts can we secure? Apparently, it would seem that we are able to accommodate many types of differing shapes and sizes, from passing indiscretions provided by those insensitive others who may have been oblivious to the nature of the trespass, to the malicious, first-degree intended wrongdoer.
The path is also blocked by our attitude toward ourselves and to others. By experiencing the world in a narrow out to get me attitude we are left adrift and unable to navigate our way in any other direction. It would be the equivalent of having one’s rudder locked in the extreme right or left position allowing travel in only one direction. This is what keeps us stuck and unable to move forward.
Another roadblock on our path is the perception that forgiveness equates to condoning the actions of the other person in ways that said, “It was okay what you did to me.” This loosely translates into comprehending forgiveness as a sign of weakness. In other words, it sets us up to be the proverbial doormat, where anyone at anytime can walk all over us without the slightest regards for our feelings. Part and parcel to this perception is the belief that forgiveness is for the other person. On the contrary, forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of self-love that you can administer to yourself.
When we choose not to forgive, we really hurt ourselves. We allow the transgression and transgressor to maintain their grip on us, affecting every aspect of our being including our health and interpersonal relationships. The effects of not forgiving can spread through our lives like an unstoppable cancer, devouring the life’s blood necessary for our existence. It colors the lens from which we view the world and our experiences within by dimming the bright and hopeful to the drab and lifeless. We become bitter and angry, fostering a poison that careens through our veins. In the end, however, the choice is ours, do not forgive and suffer the consequences or forgive and recover your spirit from all those places where we left it behind, gaining strength, health and confidence.
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