I want to talk about one of the most difficult and challenging soul tasks most of us at some time will face. The act of forgiveness. Understand I’m not going to enter into a moral/philosophical/spiritual debate about whether or not some acts perpetrated by human beings are in fact ‘unforgivable’. I like to leave those up to the more advanced souls such as the Dalai Lama for example. I am going to discuss the process itself and what we need to do if we arrive at a place where we feel we are unable to forgive the other party and also that we may never arrive at that place.
Many of us have experienced terrible acts committed against us. From childhood trauma and abuse, to being victims of domestic violence, crime, war, torture – the list is sadly endless. Perhaps it is not that dramatic but it is nonetheless traumatic. Perhaps we have encountered a persistent bully either at school or in the workplace who for no apparent reason, went out of their way to make our lives a misery for an extended period of time? Or perhaps someone close to us has been a victim of a crime and we not only feel their pain but also anger against the perpetrator?
Whatever the cause, any of these situations can leave us angry, traumatised, enraged, powerless and often mentally or even physically scarred. However, we are taught that forgiveness is a necessary stage for moving on. But what happens if we are unable to do this? Does this mean we are ‘stuck’ or that we are somehow just not spiritually ‘evolved’ enough to do this?
If you are in this situation let me put your mind at rest. Just because you are unable to forgive someone who has done you harm or wronged you, does not mean you are any less spiritually evolved than anyone else out there! So often people slap on smile of forgiveness saying they have ‘forgiven’ their abusive ex or toxic parent except deep down inside they are still seething with anger, pain or vulnerability and the hope that the person will suffer terrible karma. This is what Buddhists call the ‘false face’. In other words, the person is saying they forgive but does not feel any forgiveness.
It is better to be honest in this case and admit you don’t than continue to deny the feelings of anger that are still raging inside. Remember, there is nothing wrong with feeling anger. It is not a ‘higher’ or ‘lower’ emotion than any other. Feeling it does not mean you don’t ‘get’ a key spiritual lesson. Anger tells us our boundaries have been breached. It is only an emotion and it needs you to acknowledge it – not suppress it. By that I mean talk about your anger or act it out safely with a qualified therapist otherwise it will burst out in other areas that are completely unrelated! Anger can also be a dangerous cover for vulnerability and inadvertently harm those we love and be a toxic after effect of being hurt in the past that can wreak havoc in the present. Revenge, nomatter how tempting is also not a solution. There is a saying: If embarking on revenge first dig two graves. Your enemy’s – and yours.
Of course we do not need to forgive the person – ever, if we cannot do this. If we find ourself constantly reliving a trauma or past events, as well as talking to a therapist, one way to start to ‘move’ past it is to start focussing on YOU. Yes, that’s the big secret to moving towards if not exactly forgiveness, then living a life free of the prison of past events. Owning our feelings ‘I am angry and I cannot forgive you’ is a first step. Now, move forward by making your life as good as you possibly can in as many ways as you can think of. These can be small things – such as taking the time in the morning to make yourself one special cup of coffee or tea you love and relishing every sip, to investing in yourself in some way – taking a step towards that fabulous career, living the life you dreamed, taking that course, getting involved in that sport or pastime, finding an outlet for your creativity and finding people who love and support us. This stops the past robbing us of our present and future.
Now free of the pressure of the need to forgive and are living your life to the full, over time we may just find we can at least let go of the past and if we cannot forgive, at least wish the person who has done us harm, a life free of the trauma they put us through. This too is forgiveness.
Very often when we are traumatised, abused or taken advantage of in some way, we blame ourselves for this. If we cannot forgive the other party – forgive yourself. There is no ‘bad karma’ that brought this on you. You did not ‘ask for it’ or do something ‘wrong’ to attract the person or experience. Once we understand that and let go of any self-blame, we are on our way.
When and if you are ready to perhaps entertain the concept of forgiveness, why not try watching the film The Railway Man with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman? This wonderful true story tells how someone can survive the most horrific abuse and torture imaginable – and then find it in their heart to forgive their abuser.
Know you are a brave soul who is entitled to their feelings and that the past is behind you and the future holds so much joy and happiness for you to live and discover.
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