My guess is when you hear somebody mention the F word; you assume they are using a word, which rhymes with duck, tuck, truck, and a whole other list of words, which end with _uck. So if you think this is going to be about that F word, I hate to disappoint you. It isn’t. Well, not directly. Although there have been moments in my life when I have experienced something which has made me want to use that particular F word. What helped me move away from that F word was another F word – forgiveness.
Some recent conversations with friends, clients, acquaintances, and even strangers at the grocery store have brought me to a place where I realize many of us choose not to forgive, have different motives for forgiving, or have not thought about how we benefit when we forgive. For me one of the benefits of forgiving was not using, or even thinking, the F word when discussions of certain topics got raised or triggered.
Whether it is about how deeply we were wounded by betrayed love, lies, daggers of intolerance, wounds of abuse, abandonment, neglect, memories of how we used to be, things we have done to others or others have done to us, the cost is still the same. When we keep past experiences in the emotional present, we keep ourselves in a state of emotional suffering, rather then learning from it, evolving and freeing ourselves in the process.
Like so many, I used to have a problem with forgiveness. I thought if I gave somebody an apology for something I had done then I would be ok. Or if somebody would apologize to me, then I would be at peace and no longer want to use the other F word when talking or thinking about them.
Part of what changed my thinking about forgiveness was my studying of Toltec wisdom. As I have written about in previous posts, the teachings about forgiveness made me realize my traditional thinking on forgiveness kept me punishing myself, rather then allowing me to heal. What I learned was that the original meaning of the word forgiveness means to reject the giving. Giving something to the one we think we have wronged does not move us forward in our evolution. Nor does someone giving us something if we think they have wronged us move us forward.
Giving out of guilt does not lead to forgiveness; it keeps us carrying the weight in our lives. True forgiveness is an inside job. It means we have to learn from the situation, grow because of it, and resolve any feelings we might have about it, so that we might move forward. Life is all about the journey and learning all that we can from every experience.
Meg Christian, a feminist singer from the 70’s, once sang, “Great wisdom through painful experience is an inside job.” It is through the inner process of forgiving which we gain great wisdom about ourselves and relieve our own suffering. It liberates us from the negative feelings, which can hold us prisoner. Forgiveness does not mean you do not stand up for yourself or your rights. It just means you do it from a place of peace and balance, not hatred and resentment. Nothing that anyone can do is going to give you that peace. Forgiveness is about us as individuals and is not the same as seeking justice when we have been legally wronged or need to take some other action.
Another teaching, which shaped my understanding of forgiveness, came from Sister Helen Prejean while watching the movie Dead Man Walking. She asked why it is we remember someone for the single worst thing they have ever done. It made me think about my own life and the single worst thing I have ever done. I would truly hate to be remembered for that single action and judged by that one moment in time. I am far more then just that moment, just that action, just that behavior. Now, when I experience the behavior of others, which does not appear to come from a place of love, I allow myself the time to process what I am feeling and learn from that. In the process, I remember that the individual(s) is not just that moment.
It does not mean I like them or trust them or even forget what happened. There are people I have forgiven in my life, but I never need to see them again. It does not mean I wish them any ill will or that I would not take legal action if it was required. It just means I free myself from emotional suffering and give myself the gift of peace and light in my life.
Oliver Cleric tells a joke in his book, The Gift of Forgiveness, which illustrates this relationship between loving and forgiving.
“Husband to Wife: “Darling, if we didn’t have our 24 room castle, our house on the West coast, our ranch in Colorado, the two jets, the Rolls Royce, the chauffeur, the cook, and maid, and our fantastic yacht on the Côte de Azur, would you still love me?”
Wife: “Why, darling, of course I’d still love you. But I’d miss you so much!”
See? Our inner sense of being doesn’t have to express itself only through outer agreed and conventional behavior patterns.”
What experience(s) are you allowing to still hold you hostage emotionally? Is it time to gain that greater wisdom that can come through painful experiences and give yourself the gift of forgiveness? Is it time for you to give yourself one F word so you can stop using the other F word?