The Freedom of Forgiveness
Seems the perfect time to talk about forgiveness...right here at Easter.
My teacher Rolf Gates taught me that True freedom comes when we “forgive everyone for everything”. This was very hard for me to even consider. Did he not understand some of the things I have had to endure in this life? Surely not EVERYONE for EVERYTHING.Forgiveness means different things to different people...but no matter what it
means to you, I have come to believe that Rolf is right and that forgiveness is a
necessary human skill.
1. “As soon as you trust yourself...you will know how to live"-Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe. ...Who by the way coined the word “enlightenment”.
Some of the definitions I was taught growing up (even if these teachings were not
intentional) instilled in me a belief that I was not always capable of forgiving. One
of the most disheartening definitions I was taught was that forgiveness must be
accompanied by forgetting. The idea that I could “forgive and forget” became a
stumbling block for me because I could not always wipe my hard drive clean
of memories, even when I tried to. So was I really forgiving if I could not forget?
The other challenging definition I learned was that forgiveness followed
repentance. But there is not always repentance for acts of wrongdoing. So then
how I am to truly forgive if the person is either not repentant or if the person
doesn't even believe they have harmed me? So I’m sure you can see my
What I have had to do is let go of those sayings that did not work for me and
develop my own definition of forgiveness. In simple terms, I have decided that
forgiveness is a choice that I make to give up anger or resentment, even while
acknowledging that the wrongdoing happened. Now forgiveness is not so much
an action or a behavior, as it is an internal state of feeling and being. Forgiveness
is choosing a higher path and moving through a process of letting go that's not
so much about the other person, but my process. Now, forgiveness is not
pardoning, excusing, forgetting, condoning, or even accepting bad behavior. It's a
gift of freeing yourself from anger.
Theres a story about two monks walking down the road. They arrive at a
muddy stream crossing and a well-dressed woman declares without introduction,
“Don’t just stand there. Someone carry me across this mess." Without pause, the
older monk lifts her across. She says nothing, not even a thank you. The two
monks walk all day. The whole time, the younger one stews in his mind—How
could he pick her up? We’re not supposed to touch women, or even talk to them.
And she was so rude, someone should say something to her, she didn’t deserve
our help. Finally, arriving at the inn for dinner, he can’t hold himself back. “What
were you thinking?” he asks his friend. “She was nasty, and you broke the rules,
and she didn’t even say thank you.” The older monk smiles gently and replies=, "wow, I put that woman down hours ago, but you’ve been carrying her all this
That’s what forgiveness is...putting down the “thing”...the wrongdoing, the hurt,
not because IT deserves it, but because YOU do. You put it down because it’s
just too heavy to carry all that shit around. Rolf was right all along. True freedom
comes when we forgive everyone for everything.
2. So besides this promise of freedom or a lighter load, why do it? "There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed," says Karen Swartz, MD, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. And thats the burden of compromised health, both physical and mental.
"My teachers did not try to teach me to forgive others. They taught me to see that it made sense to forgive myself and to let go of the past. It has been a process, and I do not know how close I am to the finish line, but I have learned some skills in forgiving others as I have learned to forgive myself. I now see forgiveness as a primary skill.
Adults need the skill of forgiveness if we are to have sustainable relationships and
communities. And forgiveness is only the beginning; once we are learning to forgive ourselves for being human, we are able to accept the humanity of others. We will be less and less troubled by the inability of human beings to avoid mistakes and their penchant for acting imperfectly. We will be able to hold space for others as they go through the sacred learning process of a human lifetime. We will desire the calm abiding energy of compassion and see how offering it to others is a way of honoring ourselves." - Rolf Gates
So take a few minutes right now to practice a very simple forgiveness meditation:
Take a deep breath and repeat these 3 lines several times to yourself:
I forgive myself for being imperfect ...
I forgive myself for making mistakes ...
I forgive myself for being a learner in this lifetime ...
Notice the release in some of the tight places in your body. Maybe print this out and put it on your mirror and repeat if often. Then notice that it will become easier and easier to naturally find forgiveness for others.
May you experience the freedom of forgiveness,