Forgiveness

A brand new year has begun. Sometimes it is really hard to begin something truly new without releasing the past. That often requires forgiveness, a well-worn topic for all of us and one I want to mull again.

Phrases Posted on Facebook, January 2022

Here is a beautiful quote from Desmond Tutu: Without forgiveness there is no future. To forgive is the only way to permanently change the world. For me this is big inducement and encouragement to forgive what I can in both myself and others. If, and when we are able to truly forgive we change the world a little bit. It makes a difference beyond our small personal stories.
We all know that to forgive frees us as well as the persons who hurt us. Not easy! Letting go of the need to retaliate or to be right or to set things right, we are freed from our inner prison. This is well described by the famous quote from Nelson Mandela: As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.
Self-deprecation is like a loop that goes on silently and unconsciously in many of us. Like a pre-emptive strike, if we judge ourselves first, then when others do it, we feel it more like a glancing blow rather than a hurtful bull’s eye. What wants to be forgiven is the need to be in control. To love our fear-filled (usually young) selves to the moon and back is what will help us to let go of having to be in charge. Then it is much more possible to forgive, or maybe it is the other way around as well.
For some people being forgiven makes them feel very vulnerable. Their self-sense loses its edges, and they feel what it is like to be without the old familiar armor. This is a gift, of course, but it is only a gift if it is received which often means untying knots and stripping the wrappers.
Quite a few people limit themselves to fit into situations they want to be a part of. It can also be that some others will extend themselves painfully and unnaturally for the same reason. Haven’t you heard, I didn’t think there was a choice? What’s to be forgiven here? Perhaps the better question is: What’s to be embraced enough for fear to be faced? That’s probably the questions at the bottom of anything that needs forgiveness.
I am often inspired and comforted by the writing of others on a subject I care about. I want to share some quotes I especially have liked about forgiveness.  This one is by Robin Casarjian. To live without forgiveness is to live separated from the sacred and from the most basic instincts of our heart. To live with forgiveness is to reveal in each moment the beauty and value of life. To live with forgiveness is to choose in each moment an active role in creating relationships, organizations, communities, and a world that works for everyone.
It’s hard to forgive completely, still, when we set our course to let go of hurts it’s a good to know that for every, even small, thing we release, Spirit will quietly release the equivalent or more in our unconscious. We will be helped every step of the way.
Here’s a quote from Helen Prejean: In our society forgiveness is often seen as weakness. People who forgive those who have hurt them or their family are made to look as if hey really don’t care about their loved ones. But forgiveness is tremendous strength. It is the action of someone who refuses to be consumed by hatred and revenge.
Have you ever held the handle of a heavy suitcase so long it seemed your fingers would never open again? But, when they did your hand hurt a lot for a while. For me that is a good description of what forgiveness can feel like. Marianne Williamson wrote about forgiveness saying that at times it feel more painful than the wound we suffered” … and “there is no peace without forgiveness.
Here’s another suitcase image by Gary Lukav. Authentically empowered people forgive naturally. They forgive because they do not want to carry the burden of not forgiving like heavy suitcases through a crowded airport  . . . Forgiveness and harmony goes together. When you forgive someone, nothing stands between you and that person. Even if the person you forgive does not like you, you have laid your suitcase down. You travel light.
Here is one from the poet, David Whyte. All intimate relationships–close friendships and good marriages–are based on continued and mutual forgiveness. You will always trespass on your friend’s sensibilities at one time or another, or your spouse’s. The only question is, Will you forgive the other person?  And more importantly, Will you forgive yourself? We have to deepen our understanding, make ourselves more equal to circumstances, and go easy with what we have been given or not given. We must drink from the deep well of things as they are. 
Here’s another by Clarissa Pinkola Estes who wrote Women Who Run With the Wolves. Many people have trouble with forgiveness because they have been taught that it is a singular act to be completed in one sitting. That is not so. Forgiveness has many layers and many seasons.
Rachel Naomi Remen tells it truthfully and sweetly: The healing of our present woundedness may lie in recognizing and reclaiming the capacity we all have to heal each other, the enormous power in the simplest human relationships: the strength of touch, the blessing of forgiveness, the grace of someone else taking you as you are and finding in you an unexpected goodness.
It is a deep spiritual truth that it is when we can truly forgive ourselves that our capacity to forgive others emerges. May compassion lead the way.
Forgiveness is a bit like a tree in the fall. We shed what was hurtful a leaf at a time. We enter the silence of another season and old incriminations are slowly left behind. Another growth ring happens so quietly we are scarcely aware of it. But we feel somehow sturdier than we were before. In time new leaves emerge. They do in a brilliance of green.