Forgiveness is a Funny Thing…
I have heard forgiveness called the big karma eraser, as demonstrated when Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” If you want to get off the samsara merry-go-round, forgive–and not just others, but yourself as well. Forgiveness is the conjoined twin of unconditional love, connected at the heart. One cannot live without the other. Try to separate them, and both will cease to beat in your own heart.
I once watched a video of victim statements being read by family members of women murdered by serial killer, Gary Ridgway. As each speaker rose to express their hatred and contempt for him, he sat stone-faced and unmoved, seemingly inhuman. Then one man, Robert Rule, the father of one of the murder victims stood and said he knew a lot of people in the room hated Mr. Ridgway, but he was not one of them. He said he himself was choosing not to hate but to forgive. He explained that although Mr. Ridgway had made this act very difficult for him–he still needed to do what he believed was right. This father’s choice of love over hate, his stunning act of grace was the only time Gary Ridgeway showed any flicker of human emotion. His bottom lip quivered before he broke down and cried. While Mr. Ridgway was the only person in the packed courtroom going to prison for the rest of his life that day, Robert Rule was quite possibly the only one truly free when he walked out the door.
There is wisdom here. Wisdom very difficult to embrace. It is not likely, thank goodness, that we will ever be faced with the Herculean act of forgiveness demonstrated by Mr. Rule. Our own experiences to choose forgiveness are hopefully never going to be as extreme, yet many acts of forgiveness can be very challenging, large or small.
Only we know in our heart of hearts when the telling of our story of wrongdoing, hurt or offense moves from a catalyst for healing to a crutch for our continued suffering. But, many times we guard the drama of our victimhood jealously. Often we tell our story of offense over and over again in order convince others, but more likely ourselves, of our justification for holding on to our suffering, for withholding forgiveness. We defend our anger and sadness–our feelings of hurt and betrayal, and even of hate. Feelings that are very often justified. It is a natural response to being injured by another. But holding on to our pain keeps us locked up in a prison of our own making. One of bitterness and helplessness.
Sometimes the best we can manage is to withdraw our shadow from the other person or situation, and that must be enough for where we are in the process. But in the end, when we habitually defend the darkness we carry inside ourselves, when we dwell in that darkness in defiance of letting any light in, we only diminish the quality of our own lives. That is the astonishing revelation of forgiveness once it is freely given; it doesn’t excuse the offender or the offense, it sets the one who forgives, free.
Forgiveness. Freely granted towards ourselves or others.
May this be the year you walk away free.
Mammaste~There is so much divinity in the everyday.
“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”
—Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner