“When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid.
You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open.
And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression.
You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die.
And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.” ~Pema Chodron
Forgiveness has been a formidable challenge along my personal path toward inner peace and well-being. I think about forgiveness a lot. I search for forgiving feelings almost daily. I’m drawn to pay attention to challenges needing forgiveness looking for acts of compassion, mercy and pardon that may soften the trauma of injury and the scars of guilt.
Forgiveness is on my mind when I pray in search of ways to resolve, fix or release. Forgiveness is also in my soul when I feel afraid. Almost always, I am in need of forgiving myself. That seems the hardest part.
I read many books about forgiveness and sometimes wonder aloud about these fancy words: reconciliation, clemency, absolution, amnesty and exoneration.
I wrote papers in seminary about the necessity of forgiveness for spiritual healing; the Christian notion of redemption as forgiveness and the concept of amnesty as a “family value.” (Think: New Testament story of the Prodigal Son).
Forgiveness is fundamental to my ministry. Indeed, forgiveness is a pillar of belief and action within my ministry. My personal need to forgive was one of my primal reasons to change careers and become an interfaith minister. My ministry is as much about my own personal path to forgiveness as it is helping others find their own paths to personal and interpersonal forgiveness. Frankly, I’ve discovered that each one’s road to forgiveness is as unique and varied as that individual’s personal context and history. While I’m often called to forgive and to empower others to forgive themselves or another, forgiveness is on my agenda daily…and seemingly on the agenda of many people I encounter.
I am sure of two things regarding forgiveness: Forgiveness must include me…and…Forgiveness that does not include me is incomplete and will need to be revisited. I’ve not always been a very good forgiver and still sometimes argue with myself about letting go. I have know hatred, revenge, animosity, spite, bitterness, malice and retaliation.
I have learned that some forgiving is huge and requires attention over and over again. That’s when forgiveness teaches me patience. I have also learned that not forgiving takes valuable time, mental and emotional energy and very literally can make us physically and spiritually ill.
Other kinds of forgiving seem to be relatively easy as the issue needing pardon just seems to age out, gets old or simply just runs out of steam (read: I don’t care about it anymore). Still other kinds of forgiving need reminding, motivation and reinforcement (not always the positive kind).
I continue to learn how to practice both the attitude and behavior of forgiveness.
Although, I’ve not yet mastered it, I have learned that forgiveness is essential for peace: Peace inside me… and peace outside of me.
I have found its pretty easy to hold the opinion that Israel should just forgive Palestinians… and the Palestinians should just forgive the Israelis… and all will be well… now on to the religious extremists! What I have had to learn and what I need to continue to master is that forgiveness begins at home.
The forgiveness requirement inherent in 12 Step recovery programs seems to work for many people enabling them to forgive and make amends.
Forgiveness cleans. Forgiveness transforms. Forgiveness changes lives.
Forgiveness requires honesty. In fact, sometimes we have to stop lying to ourselves to get at the truth of what needs forgiving.
So I leave you with some thoughts about forgiveness: bury the hatchet… make peace…let by gone’s be by gone’s… forgive and forget…wipe the slate clean… turn the other check… make up. Whatever path you choose, practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness has and will be a common blog theme for this Compassionate Gardener. 2014 was my Year of Forgiveness. 2015 is my year of mastering forgiveness even further – a year to meditate about forgiveness; read some more about forgiving; listen more carefully for forgiving words; look more closely for forgiving gestures.
I can tell you that with patience and with practice forgiveness does become easier and the period of time affected by the interference of the what needs to be forgiven does get shorter and shorter. In fact, forgiving is liberating and, I dare say, changes everything. Forgiveness changes perspective of me and what needs forgiving.
Today I pray: We are all wounded yet we are all wounders too. Forgive yourself…then forgive others.
Please consider this post as your personal invitation to forgive. As always, I welcome your feedback and comments.
Some resources you might find helpful along your forgiveness path:
Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All by Jerald Jampolsky
The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen
The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace by Jack Kornfield
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
Forgiveness is a Choice by Robert Enright
Until next time, please consider: