Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Notion of Forgiveness

There is something in the air right now. Ghosts are rising within me, and together we are revisiting old wounds. Many around me are experiencing a similar space for themselves. Old unresolved hurts may rise from the ether, but it’s never too late to heal them. Yet how do we heal when the one who hurt us, or the one we hurt, is no longer living?
If there’s anything my work with the spirit world has taught me, it’s that we put too much weight on the need for a physical body in cases where our journey concerns the emotional one. If what you want is for the other person to physically apologize to you or accept your apology and that is the only thing that will give you closure, you may be sitting in that pain for a very long time. Especially if they have passed. That is not healthy.
Whether or not you sit there is your choice. There are always choices in difficult situations. Choices to stay or go, to forgive or forget. Choices to accept or deny. To hold onto or let go.
The notion of forgiveness no longer has the shape that my early religious beliefs taught me. I took a four-day class in the Buddhist philosophy of LovingKindness as a means of healing my inner anger ball. I almost skipped the day on Forgiveness because my resentment towards it was so strong. When I told Whispering Deer that I thought it was foolish to forgive someone, as if you are supposed to forget what they did to you, she looked shocked that I would even consider it.
“Why would you forget what they did to hurt you?” she asked, and then she explained that you don’t forget. It happened. Forgetting what they did as if it didn’t happen is rewriting history, changing your experiences, and ignoring a painful lesson you learned.
We forgive others when we need to forgive them because the weight and anger of what we are holding onto is still harming us. Us. We do not forgive someone because they need it. It is not our duty to forgive those who have hurt us, for they can seek forgiveness without the weight of their actions evoking any true change in them. When it’s needed, we find a way to forgiveness so that we might rise ourselves out of the hurt that was done to us. We forgive, but we do not forget. And we forgive with the understanding that the other party must hold our relationship to a higher standard. By forgiving them we are telling them we believe in them. It is not an excuse to allow them to repeat the hurtful pattern.
Sometimes we can’t gift forgiveness because we are still trying to work past the event. Any forgiveness given before we’re ready would be false and the hurt would lay quiet, festering within. This is when we unleash the event like a weapon over and over again. Sometimes the path to forgiveness means removing ourselves from the situation, disconnecting from the hurtful party when that person shows no change. Staying to be hurt again would be the more foolish option. It’s important to always be honest about where you are in your process.
Reversely, when we seek forgiveness, we do it with the understanding that we wronged someone. Whether we believe we were wrong or not, we accept and feel regret for the hurt we caused. By seeking forgiveness we recognize a need for change in ourselves, perhaps within that specific relationship, and we are promising that other person that we will rise to meet that need. If we do not take responsibility for what we did, and change the behavior, our words are empty.
If we ask someone for forgiveness, we cannot be mad at the injured party for remembering what occurred. Forgiveness is not an eraser. It is not a clean slate. We have to earn it by not repeating that pattern.
If we seek forgiveness and it is not given, even if we have truly seen a change in ourselves, we have done all we can do. That has to be enough for our own healing. If we were honest in its seeking, we are at a place to accept that we may simply have to continue to show that we have changed and be patient while the one we hurt heals.
What if the person we injured is the one who has passed on? In some ways it may sound easier to forgive one who has died than to seek forgiveness from them. But they are two sides of the same coin. If one can be done, so can the other.
The answers lie within you and healing can be found. Ritualizing the action of it can be the structure we need to feel the shape of the magic of release. Making Amends with the Dead, coming next week, will speak more to manifesting forgiveness through personal ritual.

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