One of the issues that many of my clients seem to be unable to deal with, hast to do with forgiveness. For many, is a tug-of-war: they won't forgive until the other party shows some repentance and say they are sorry. For others it's a question of justice, as they feel that by forgiving, they are somehow giving up their claim. So let me start with the latter. I don't think that forgiveness means to waive your right to human justice. It means to seek that justice without the hatred that turns it into vengeance.
The real problem with forgiveness -or to more explicit, the refusal to forgive, is that you bind yourself to that which you feel resentment to, and build yourself a cave from there is no moving forwards possible. So in a way, you have more to lose than the offender. Thus, waiting for the famous "I'm sorry" is, in practice, a waste of time -time that could be best used co-creating the life you want to live.
Forgiveness works in different levels, all necessary to clean the slate and start anew. Forgiveness starts with deep humbleness, with the realization that perhaps, given the right (or wrong) circumstances, we would have acted just as our aggressors did. There is light and shadows in all of us. We may like to think that we would never act like those who hurt us did, but until we are up in that horse, we don't know for real if this belief is true.
Forgiveness also holds a mirror to our faces and remind us that, to some, we are already the bad guys. Intentionally or not, the truth is that most of us have caused a scar, an anger, a distress. How can we say that we are sorry, that we didn't really mean to cause pain, that we would like to be forgiven for our very human mistakes, when we are not willing to return the favour? We may think that what we did does not compare, at all, with what was done to us. But a tear is a tear.
Forgiveness is also the key to liberate us from the narrow, dark dungeon of hatred. Until we forgive, e
ach time we learn that something good has happened to our aggressor, we fill ourselves with spite and anger. No matter how beautiful the day was, how good a time we were having, our joy is sucked out, our head swells with clouds and storms. Most of us stay in this stage -which is bad enough on its own. But some go beyond, actively seeking to return the "eye for an eye."
In extreme cases we extend our resentment to our aggressor's affections, be them relatives, projects, country. So we hate a whole ethnic group for what one of them did to us. We pre-judge an idea as bad because its somehow connected to that person. We inject hatred into our children and let our dark feelings fester and corrupt a whole generation. Some of us have hurt those we love, to get back at the one who hurt us.
Real life is full of painful examples of this, from the divorced mother who speaks ill of the estranged father in front of her children, to the man who kills a whole family to repay a perceived offense. Yet, even if most of us don't go down this route, the holding of resentment can become a crippling obsession. It keeps us in a negative state of mind, one that rejoices at someone's suffering. It can turn us into pompous, proud, righteous people, unable of feeling compassion for others that not measure to our high standards; or the ever crying victim who brings the rain to all parades, and like the Dementors in Harry Potter, goes around withering the happiness and beauty of the world. How, then, can we expect to craft a better, more fulfilling life for ourselves, carrying all that baggage around?
So forgiveness is one of the greatest liberating tools a person can have in her life journey. It reconnect us to our humanity and it free us from that power that we have granted others over us. Hence, any new stage, project, change, has to include the forgiveness of everyone and everything that is still tying us to what it was and not allowing us to fully be.
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