When I look back on my life, I realize how much time I’ve wasted, how many beautiful moments lost and forgotten. Nothing really touched, no one really seen – not even me.
I’ve come to realize that so much of my life was spent holding onto the past – to resentments, blame, guilt and anger. And it was this resentful past that I was holding onto – keeping it alive – that I was projecting onto others and creating a predictable future of more resentments, more anger, more suffering.
My awakening came from a deep loss that caused me to stop, and I was given the gift of seeing myself clearly – my past, my present, my future and the interconnection of it all. I stopped running, and finally saw how angry I was at the people of my past, for the perceived wrongs, the slings and arrows thrown deep within my heart – and more importantly, the anger, the blame, the soul-numbing guilt and unforgiveness I’ve held myself hostage with.
I soon discovered that true forgiveness is letting go of the past and begins with truly forgiving myself for the situations, the pain and suffering I caused for others, realizing that I was doing the best I could at the time, regardless of how unconscious I was. I am not the same person I was a year ago, let alone ten minutes ago – I, we – are all evolutions in the moment of making.
True forgiveness is about forgetting. I grew up hearing, “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.” This, to me, is not truly forgiving. By not forgetting, the past is still kept alive in the present and its accompanied resentment. It’s not really forgiven from the depths of my life, honestly looking at myself and seeing that at some point in my life, I have done or made the same choices that have hurt another.
This isn’t to say that I’ve become a doormat for people to hurt me again, treat me badly, or dump their laundry off at my doorstep. It’s a paradox but, as I learn to forgive and forget, I’m now taking better care of myself – setting healthy boundaries, speaking up for myself and finally embracing my own power – at home within.
I’ve asked myself, as I ask you, what exactly I’m getting out of not forgiving another? I discovered that it was a way to protect myself from feeling the fullness and richness of the hurt, the pain, and its subsequent growth.
But more importantly, it was a method of punishment, by withholding my love and casting them out of my life. But in the end, I realized that it was me I was withholding love from, and without love for myself, without forgiveness for myself and others, how could I expect to ever truly love another?
By not forgiving myself, my past and the people of it, I was miserable, becoming hardened, more angry and living in my head rather than my heart. I was slowly killing my spirit, depriving it of the love it needed to ensure its survival. I again had to ask myself, as I ask you, is this worth it? Is my happiness and peace worth the anger and blame and suffering? I said “No.” Maybe you will, too. It was my first step in healing my heart. Perhaps it will be yours as well.
Practicing forgiveness is a life-long process that never ends, but leads to the mastery of life and love. That’s not to say that we’re not human – I still struggle and have difficulties forgiving at times, but as I practice, my time in peace increases. I’m realizing that forgiving truly is an art, for when I truly forgive, my heart warmly opens, overflows with love, and as each one of us practices this gentle art, our love for ourselves grows, extends to all people, and paints the rich tapestries of each holy moment that we call our lives.