I have been thinking a LOT about forgiveness lately. I realized I have always thought of forgiving someone as kind of doing them a favor. In a sense I felt if I forgave someone for what they had done, I was implying that what they did to me was okay. Crossing out the karmic debt so to speak. As I followed this trail of logic, forgiving someone meant I would never receive the atonement that felt so justly deserved. That is where I believe I got stuck (for a like my whole life)!
Slowly, I have realized that my investment in the belief that somehow I have been damaged by another person’s actions had to go in order for me to forgive. I needed to make my way to a place where I could see these beliefs of past injustice as stories I was telling to myself and the people around me. How?
Well, it is a process that probably looks different for everybody. One of the ways I have been practicing this is to tell my stories from a different perspective. I imagine myself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their motivation for the actions they chose. I even imagine myself as a stranger watching and guess how it would appear to them. This has helped a lot, but often I was still very attached emotionally to these stories. I tried writing a forgiveness letter, spilling all of the hurtful things this person had done to me. I called them all kinds of names and went into immense detail about how my life was negatively affected by all they had done and neglected to do. Once the letter was written a switch was somehow flipped inside of me. I saw all of it as literally words on a page. This whole tragic story that I have been telling and retelling is one that I can walk away from. I can find a new story to tell of love, joy, hope, perseverance, or whatever I choose. I also get to take back the power and energy I have been giving to that story for years. Let me tell you, that feels great!
I just need to let go of my need to be right.
Imagine all of the times you have walked away from an interaction with some one at work, another driver on the road, or a close family member knowing deep down the other person was dead wrong! That guy on the highway who flipped you the bird, obviously an aggressive loser. The quiet girl at work who is always screwing up and then denying it? It’s no secret that she is trying to set you up for her mistakes. The passing comment from your Mother about how nice the meal was last Thanksgiving at your Brother’s house (cooked by her daughter-in-law). Clearly a passive aggressive shot at you and your cooking skills. What if you could stop caring that you were right and the other person is out to get you, lying, hurtful, etc.? What if it was just stuff that happened and didn’t mean anything about who you are as a person? What if you could stop burning the midnight oil trying to find a way to spin these events into stories about how right you are and how wrong the other person is?
Well then, you could probably turn to your mother and say, “You know what, you’re right. Thanksgiving was extra fabulous last year. Pass the gravy.” You might even be able to mean it!