Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)
In the last post, my guest blogger, Margaret Norton, began a dialogue on the Gift of Forgiveness. Since that post, several people have emailed me to say, "How can I forgive?" "Why forgive? They only keep hurting me." "If someone hurts someone else that I love, they hurt me, too. But, it's not my job to forgive them."
To these readers and others of like mind, allow me to repeat a truth that I can testify to wholeheartedly - Forgiveness is the greatest gift you give yourself!
What does this mean? The gift you give yourself when you forgive someone, is the ability to go through life without carrying around a bundle of hate, despair, fear, outrage, anger, disappointment and so on.
An old wise man once asked me if I would carry around a bag of excrement. I, not surprisingly, was appalled! "Of course not!" I stated most vehemently. "That is totally disgusting!"
"Well," he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "why are you toting around that bag of pain from all the hurt in your life? Don't you know it stinks? Don't you see how foul it is? You have a bag of shit weighing you down! Get rid of it!"
His direct approach floored me; however, after thinking about what he had just said, I realized the truth. The anger, pain, hurt, fear, etc. that I felt towards those in my life that had wronged me was keeping me from living a full and happy life. This bag of emotional excrement was actually causing me to be ill. The stress of maintaining my pain and anger was lowering my immune system, causing me to be victim to every virus and bacteria within close range.
How did I release all this and forgive?
For me, what worked was to go to the beach. I sat quietly, picturing each person in my life that had hurt me. I consciously made an effort to see them as children. This allowed me to see their divine nature, thereby, allowing me to forgive.
Others, I have known, have used journaling or letter writing to release their anger and pain. While others, found it helpful to speak directly to the person that caused them pain. Honestly, the way we come to forgiving is as diverse as we are. The point is, by forgiving, we release ourselves from the bondage of pain, anger, fear, etc.
Here is a beautiful song that illustrates this concept.
Before I end, let me say that forgiveness does not mean that we allow people to use us as doormats. His Holiness, the Dali Lama has said that we can show others loving-kindness, forgive them, but set boundaries so that they do not continue to hurt us. Remember, a snake is a snake. Keep one as a pet and you could get bit. Forgiving others does not mean we must be their best friends or even casual friends. What is does mean is that we attempt to see the Divine within the other person. However, we can do this at a distance, which allows us not to put ourselves in continued peril.
May we all learn to see the Sacred, even when it lies in the souls of our enemies.