Forgiveness is a healing of the past, of moving from self-hate to self-love so that we, in turn, may give love to others.
It is a release of judgments that we have made to avoid taking responsibility for our own behaviour, and looking inside to see how we have judged ourselves.
Shakespeare wrote that nothing is good or bad, but “thinking makes it so.” Forgiveness requires that we change the way we think. If we blame others for each upsetting drama we find ourselves in, we need to look to see what part in it we played.
The unforgiving heart squashes out feelings of joy. By holding onto grievances and judgments we create pain for ourselves. By refusing to learn from each painful experience, bitterness will erode our happiness.
Bitterness is like a cancerous growth that slowly eats away at us from within. Every day we make choices which show whether we have extended ourselves in love, or fear.
Extending ourselves in love, we grow. Extending ourselves in fear, something dies within us, and our relationships with others. We are the only ones who decide what to extend. The consequences are our responsibility. But we are always free to choose again.
If we live in fear, then we can only extend that fear in its many guises: anger, jealousy, blame, harassment, worry, etc. When we learn to make choices for love, then we can fill ourselves with love and extend this to others through our caring.
A few years ago I learned a very important lesson regarding letting go of judgments. I worked for a man who had unrealistic expectations of his staff and I felt driven. After an angry outburst I sat down quietly and looked within myself. Then I came to see that I drove myself with unrealistic expectations and didn’t allow enough time to complete projects I’d set out to do.
Seeing this, I was genuinely able to thank my boss – in my mind – for showing me what I was doing to myself. When I stopped driving myself and allowed more time to get things done, I no longer felt driven.
If we feel that another oppresses us, it may be that we are oppressing ourselves, or that we are hiding in timidity and need to be challenged to develop inner strength, or that we may be allowing ourselves to be used as a doormat in order to be accepted.
If another shouts at us angrily, this may be a mirror reflection of denied feelings of anger that are harboured deep within ourselves. There may exist within us a frightened child who was never allowed to express anger.
A common occurrence is for this anger to come out after we get married or enter a relationship. Then we wonder what has gone wrong. The cause is always a fear that is locked away or hidden within. Our interactions with others give us clues about what this fear is so that it can be released.
We all play important roles in each other’s lives, and ultimately it is for our growth, to expose our fears and negative thinking so that we may walk through life with greater freedom and joy.
An experience which may appear negative on the surface always has a gift of learning – if only we could open our eyes to see it. I believe that it is the accumulation of these gifts that measure our true wealth.
Mark Twain wrote: “Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
First published in the Ballarat News, June 15, 1994