Lately I have been obsessing about forgiveness. What exactly does it mean? What exactly does it entail? If I forgive someone, am I expected to pretend as though I was never hurt? If I forgive someone, does that mean I will no longer feel that pain? If I forgive someone, doesn't it just open me up to be hurt all over again?
I googled forgiveness and read the Wikipedia entry:
"In Judaism, if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness."
"In Judaism, one must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. [One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness. (Shulchan Aruch) OC 606:1] This means that in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people."
Being Jewish, these were most interesting to me (though didn't particularly resonate, more like they were interesting as idea artifacts from an ancient world). I read through the passages on forgiveness from the other listed religions and theories too. Nothing really made me go, "Ah ha!"
I do however, like this little bit...
"Yoga teachers Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad analyse the use of unconditional love and the associated concept of forgiveness as a foundation for authoritarian control. They survey a number of religions worldwide and conclude that the imperative of forgiveness is often used by leaders to perpetrate cycles of ongoing abuse. They state that "to forgive without requiring the other to change is not only self-destructive, but ensures a dysfunctional relationship will remain so by continually rewarding mistreatment."
Feeling unfilled by my Google search, I looked for books. I am anxious to read more about it.
But on the walk to work this morning, I did have something of an "ah ha" moment. I was thinking about how much I love the spiritual teachings of Aikido. And how difficult it is, by comparison, in this beginning stage, for me to put everything together in practice. I know why, because it's new, and I have to think about everything I do, every stance, every ukemi, I have to think about proper form and where all my body parts are supposed to be. But with practice, I know I won't have to think about it anymore. It will be second nature to me. It will just flow.
And then I thought, well isn't that just what forgiveness should be? I love the idea of forgiveness, the concept. I want to live my life saying, it's okay that you made a mistake, it's okay that you hurt me this way, everything will be okay. But the fact of the matter is, it's new to me. All this pain I feel, it is so bad because the foundation is so huge. It is a lifetime of me never forgiving myself for the mistakes I have made, and allowing that pain and resentment and hurt to guide me through fear and avoidance and all those other character defects which have left me off at this place in my life. It is a lifetime of me never forgiving others for hurting me.
I am a beginner with this forgiveness thing. I started by forgiving myself for mistakes I have made. Allowing room for me to be imperfect and human and not judge myself so harshly and deem myself unworthy of happiness for the duration of my life for the sins of my past. I would never in a million years sentence another human to the punishments with which I sentence myself. I have to remember to forgive myself constantly. I need a lot of practice. But I am working very hard at this new concept.
Next, I need to begin to forgive others. And although I have not read any of my forgiveness books yet, I have an idea of how to start. I start inside. Every time the pain comes up, I will very carefully, very consciously, say to myself, I forgive him, and then I will work to release the pain. And when it comes again (because I know it will, for a long time to come), I will do it again. I will practice this again and again until it is second nature. Until forgiveness flows through my mind and my heart and my soul.
And then, then I will be ready to face him. I will be ready to look at him and say, I forgive you.
But for now, it takes everything I have just to practice. And I just hope he will find it in himself to start being respectful, and leave me alone so that I may practice. It would be a shame to turn from this beautiful path out of anger and frustration and hopelessness, which is how I feel each time he contacts me even though I ask and have asked him again and again for only one thing, to leave me alone to heal. Each time he reaches out I feel angry, all over again. And frustrated, all over again. And hopeless, like this pain will never end, like it will never find its way out of my mind and body and soul. Every moment he is out of my life I feel closer to freedom, every time he reaches out to me I feel as if I'm being slammed back into a cage and I have to start all over again on my passage to freedom.
In reality, I have been asking since June for him to let me go, to set me free. But he swore to me I'd be happy in my cage. He promised me we'd fly together someday, I just had to wait patiently, in my cage. Then he covered my cage with a blanket of lies, so that I would feel warm and safe. But I am not so simple that I will see the darkness and just assume it's night and sleep soundly. I was, however, so trusting that I waited patiently for a lot longer than I should have, never realizing it was all a charade.
Um, good morning tangent. Sorry, I was talking about forgiveness. Maybe that was me trying to release a little of the pain. Maybe that was a step on my path to forgiveness. I will be optimistic and say that's exactly what it was. I forgive you for not letting me go in time. I forgive myself for not just flying away. I forgive you. I forgive me. I forgive you. I forgive Mee.
It still hurts, but perhaps a little less. I will keep practicing. You, you just stay away.