What if forgiveness isn’t about forgiving? Thoughts on consciously relating to people who have hurt you.
I’m not that into forgiveness. (Stay with me, this all gets back to love and liberation.) These days, I’m more into acceptance and conscious relating. Forgiveness is very tricky stuff. And I try to avoid the concept of it altogether. (Stay with me, I’m actually a very forgiving person.)
What I’ve come to know for myself is this: When I approach forgiveness as a goal, it actually blocks me from my truth and love. In the past, when I’ve set out to forgive someone I just get all twisted up with who did what and why, and I start looking to validate my rightness. I distort memories of what happened, sometimes I judge myself even more severely than I do the other person, and the drama loops on.
When, underneath it all, I’m simply just hurting or disappointed.
Firstly: Recognize the truth of your inner experience. “When you did X, I felt Y.” This recognition can be very difficult for many of us because we are habitualized to not genuinely feel our feelings, or to make ourselves wrong for feeling what we feel.
Secondly: Make a choice about how you’re going to relate moving forward. The choice is this simple: Are you going to open up more or close down some? Sometimes, staying open is the most divine act of courage. You keep loving. He bruised your heart? Open up anyway, tender and trembling. She slayed your ego? Show up and ask for more. Dare to open after the contraction of pain so you can move to the bounty of light on the other side. That kind of daring mindfulness has no need for “forgiveness”, it only longs for full integration and immersive relationship.
Sometimes, staying vulnerable to what has wounded you is insanity and you need to erect boundaries, pronto. Those boundaries could be full on barricades, or you cut, cut, cut ties. Or, less extreme, those boundaries could be a new set of lite rules for engaging, as simple as saying, “It would be really awesome if you could meet me on time from now on.”
Again, this consciousness isn’t about who’s right or wrong and who needs to be forgiven. It’s about designing a healthy way of relating — all things considered.
“All things considered”, includes how much you love someone; how many old wounds you brought into a relationship; your degree of self-respect; your commitment to awakening.
If you want the freedom that forgiveness promises, if you want to be liberated, then acknowledge the divine in the other person — it’s in there somewhere, even in cases of extreme darkness, it’s in there somewhere. Acknowledging the divine in someone who has hurt you, no matter how severely, doesn’t mean that you condone bad behaviour. You are not making a wrong a right, and you’re not engaging under false spiritual pretence to “play nice”. You’re seeing a spark of truth, and you’re making intelligent choices about how to proceed — all things considered.
Feel your experience — fully, deeply.
Decide whether you will create openness or boundaries.
Acknowledge the divine.
Choose where to go.
There is healing in the choosing.
Holding no prisoner to guilt, we become free.
- A Course In Miracles