You’ve Got This
This title is for me. It’s supposed to help me scrounge around my life and my mind to try and talk about forgiveness. I haven’t quite got it yet. And I may not even get it by the end, but I will have inspected and scrutinized it and aren’t we all just exploring anyway? I know I am. We can’t really know anything for sure ( except maybe our limited time here on earth).
If I so choose, I don’t have to forgive anyone. I am free to walk around in resentment and anger if I want to. I can dive right into it, ignoring anything good and getting right down with the darkness of the unforgiving and the unforgiven. I will likely be very unhappy and depressed, anxious and fearful, self-critical and self-centred, BUT I can do it! I can ruin relationships and wander around second-guessing everyone and everything. I have that freedom! I can even explore forgiveness and still choose not to forgive. Or, I can decide to burrow in, getting my heart, soul and mind so dirty that I have to sift my way through to the other side of forgiveness and come out grittier than when I went in, but also more compassionate and accountable towards the truth.
I don’t think forgiveness is the easy way to recovery; it is actually a below the belt attempt to come out with my hands sweaty from the gloves and my mind hot with relief. The kind of comfort one gets when sitting on a firm, forgiving couch with a pint of beer and a smoke after a long, messy, but satisfying, argument with oneself. I DO believe you know what I mean. Forgiveness can only be easy if the person seeks our exoneration and actually means they are sorry and will try hard not to slight us again. Unfortunately, it is not always that clean and tidy and it can be really difficult, especially if the person we are trying to forgive is no longer in our life or if it is ourselves.
Let’s take a closer peek at forgiving ourselves because as with love and compassion, we can only do unto others as we do unto ourselves. It will be a wearisome battle if I try to forgive others without having forgiven myself. I’m going to use bullying as an example in my life. It is something that was done to me and also that I did to others, especially in middle school (aged 12-13). This happened to be a very tumultuous time in my life. In fact, it was the cornerstone of my rebellion. Believe me, I have more than bullying to forgive myself for but let’s begin there. I wanted to hang with the cool kids so I needed to prove my worthiness. I distinctly remember being on a hill near my school with a bunch of very cool and worthy members of a group I wished to be accepted into. There was an extremely uncool girl near us and my group didn’t want her on the hill so I took it upon myself to get rid of her. I called her names–she was rather heavy–and shamed her with my words and my fists until she likely felt very small and undeserving. I received slaps on the back and high fives from the members of my group and felt about as small and undeserving as the girl I had picked on. They were feelings that would stick with me throughout my teens and young adult life and not just because of this relentless attack on another person, but because I already felt them before I acted them out. Bullying didn’t take my feelings away, it made them worse. I have needed to forgive myself for my part in all the bullying that went on during my young life, for all the bad decisions I made so I could soar with the best of them. First of all, I needed to show compassion for the child I was, for the needs and cravings I had to belong somewhere, for the unworthiness I felt both before and after my altercations. Then I needed to accept responsibility for my part in all my wrongdoings and it seems like there were a lot of them. I don’t blame anyone else. Sure, there was peer pressure, but not everyone succumbs to that, I did that on my own. Finally, I can begin to forgive myself. And it is a process not an overnight sensation. Compassion, accountability and forgiveness are three important concepts that I want to bring with me into the authentic life I now strive to live.
When forgiving others, we need to incorporate all these concepts accordingly if we are going to be able to move on with our lives. When that person is no longer in our lives, for whatever reason, it will be more difficult but still needs to be done. For example, during the same time that I was bullying others, I was being bullied myself. Because I have shown compassion for myself, I can now show compassion for my bully. The person I am thinking of, and there were a few, but this one person is stuck in my mind. He would spit big gobs of slime into my hair–usually when I was on the school bus–and although some of his friends would tell him off, they also smiled and laughed. He’d steal parts of my lunch and gob in them. He was just plain nasty. I can still forgive him. I have compassion for him and what he was going through in his life that allowed him to be so mean and destructive. I hold him accountable for the distress it caused me but I can see the whole truth of the story and that’s what’s important. Besides, if I don’t forgive him, I hold on to the idea that I wasn’t worth caring about, that I somehow deserved the poor treatment and that just isn’t good for my mental stability and my desire to live authentically.
Some of us went through much more traumatic incidents than that of the bullying I speak of here. If we were abused in any form as innocent children or as adults, the will to forgive takes much more compassion on our part and sometimes is just too much to ask. It has been for me, anyway. I’m working on it because I don’t want to give those people any more power over my life than I’ve already given them. Forgiving myself has come first. Holding everyone involved accountable is second. And having the compassion to forgive them is the final step that sets us free; it enables us to sit comfortably on the couch of life and feel the lightness overcome us.
You’ve got this!
peace balance empathy