Long ago and in a forum far away a friend and I used to go ’round and ’round about the nature of forgiveness and its uses. She was all, “Forgive all the peoples!” I was all, “RAWR! Bullshit!” That is of course an oversimplification of our stances. While I gave her the points that carrying the type of energy necessary to remain angry and resentful against someone harms yourself and not them since they are often oblivious to it I wouldn’t budge on the who in the scenario warranted the forgiveness and how to parse it out.
I felt it was important to forgive myself for whatever piece I was responsible for. Sometimes that piece was was merely not acting differently and that forgiveness of self was needed in those situations, too, to move forward without the heavy stone labeled “I behaved badly”.
I explained that I could forgive myself, let go of the other emotions, and move forward without forgiving the other person. I still believe this to be true with a caveat. I have found that in most circumstances passing a parcel of forgiveness to the other person indeeds frees up another part of me. Not a part that is holding me back from moving forward, but a part that is holding me back from being who I wish to be – my best self. I found that the face of forgiveness had a different look than I had previously envisioned.
This realization coincided with work I began doing about 4 years ago to love people as they are in any given moment. Loving people where they are right here, right now was a hard thing for me to make a habit. Diligence, lots of backsliding when temporarily forgetting to do this, forgiving myself for forgetting, then righting it took more than a year to make it habit enough to stick.
Sometimes I still forget, still fail at it. In the heat of some moments it is so much easier to find reasons not to love someone since doing so requires carrying that love through their worst behaviour. That is the point for me, though. Loving people through their worst behaviour rather than in spite of their worst behaviour leaves me at the other side with who I wish to be. It has greatly reduced angst, anger, and resentments surrounding spousal behaviour that used to hurt deeply. It has done the same for the kids’ behaviours when I think they are harming themselves. It has helped smooth friendship bumps and co-worker difficulties. It hasn’t just helped me be my best self. It has allowed other people to be that, too, because me pouring love out on the ground instead of trying to change them or coerce them out of their bad behaviour frees them to self-correct on their terms and in their own time.
It ends up for me that the act of forgiveness is not so much an act of letting go and moving forward, but a conscious act of pouring love out and over a person, letting it puddle at their feet, and giving them the space they need. Space without my interference in how I want them to be and space without deserting them in their worst moments. It frees them and it frees me.
When I work to be the person I wish to be instead of who I think others want me to be and I extend that courtesy out to those I love forgiveness as I had defined it becomes moot since I am loving them (and myself) exactly as I am in that moment. Gratefully and blissfully we are not stuck in single moments. Remembering that – remembering that worst behaviours are temporary and if I can love others through theirs then I can be loved through mine has opened me in ways I hadn’t imagined. I am grateful for that opening of Self.
(Caveat here – I acknowledge that some relationships are forever toxic and need to be walked away from to save yourself. I am not speaking of those and which those are I leave for each individual’s determination.)
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