27 Jan Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourselves
Many of us know what it’s like when someone disagrees with us. It really feels like they could be our complete, major enemy. Disagreeing with our views; we really have our identification around our viewpoints. And when the wounding has been even more deep, when we have felt betrayed, when we feel pushed away, forgiveness or compassion towards another sometimes doesn’t even feel like a good idea. It doesn’t even seem healthy to us.
Let me invite you to reflect on something for a moment. You might close your eyes and just check in as you consider this. Bring to mind where you might be carrying resentment or blame toward someone, where you’ve noticed that it appears somewhat regularly, some feeling of resentment, or blame, or grievance.
And the question for you is this: what would you have to feel if you couldn’t stay in your anger? In other words, if you had to let go of the idea that the other person was wrong or bad, if you had to let go of that story, what is it that’s difficult that you might have to feel? And you can continue to consider that for yourself.
Some people might say, “Well, if I couldn’t believe the other person was wrong, I’d have to actually feel my own hurt.” And others might say, “I’d feel absolutely powerless.” And others might say, “Well, if I couldn’t keep on making the other person wrong, I’d actually feel at risk for being hurt again. I’d feel afraid. Something bad will happen.”
Others might say, “Well, if I couldn’t make that other person wrong, then I’d have to feel that I was wrong.” And yet others might say, “I’d have to feel grief. I’d have to start accepting how things are and feel grief about that. I might have to accept that I don’t feel loved by that person.”
What happens when we begin to loosen our hold on blame or resentment is we start having to touch the vulnerability that was, in a sense, protecting us against. That an unforgiving heart is a way of protecting ourselves.
It’s really important to understand, with forgiveness—when we start exploring forgiving others—that we’re in no way condoning what another person has done. We’re not justifying. We’re not saying you’re right and I’m wrong. And we’re certainly not becoming a doormat and saying, “Go ahead and violate me again.”
In fact, we can forgive. Our hearts can let go of its armoring and be open, and yet put up whatever boundaries we need to put up and actually commit ourselves to whatever it takes to prevent further harm. The point is to not move through life perpetually carrying an armoring of anger and hatred.
Forgiveness is hard because it requires a releasing of armoring and an opening to sometimes a lifelong wounding of the heart. And we can’t force it. In fact, premature forgiveness is really a form of denial or avoidance because the pathway to real forgiveness means touching into vulnerability.
And for many, it’s a life process—that we have to forgive over and over again because, of course, we get re-triggered over and over again, and it can take years. Often, it requires therapeutic support, many stages—sometimes grief, rage, sorrow, fear.
Yet the bottom line is: we can intend to forgive. And I’ve seen over and over again how the intention to forgive opens the door, begins softening the heart, just that we’ve intended. So what would motivate us? What really motivates us? There’s this deep intention to not push anyone out of our hearts, including ourselves. What motivates us?
When we forgive another person, there are ripples. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they come around and change and show their love. It doesn’t always have a storybook ending like that. But what it does mean is our heart’s more free and there’s something in the field, in this world, that has shifted. We offer a certain quality of blessing to our world. And in the most deepest way, a real inner quality of opening.
So the alchemy of forgiveness: contacting vulnerability and seeing it in another, and then relaxing open, our armoring begins to dissolve.
Whether it’s our blaming, whether it’s our acting out in anger, there’s something underneath that wants attention and healing. And as long as we’re acting out in anger and blame, we can’t heal the wound that asks for attention. Forgiveness can’t be willed. We can only be willing. But if our intention is to forgive, to not push others out of our heart, the door is open. And the armoring is already loosening.