It’s rather incredible how often the subject of forgiveness is written about. No matter whether you are reading about forgiveness through holy scripture, or a simple blog post, the message is always the same:
Forgive what ever it is that you are holding uneasy feelings towards immediately!
For those of you in the recovery community it probably feels like the topic has been beaten to death by now. “Resentment is the ‘number one’ offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else”(p.64). I never really understood the depth of anger and how it impacted my psyche until I had been fully removed from alcohol for several years, and had worked through several sets of steps. Sure, I knew what bothered me and I also understood my part, but why did these resentments keep on resurfacing regardless of how thorough I was? I mean, I was promised a new freedom and a new happiness and I damn well wanted that. To say I felt short-changed is an understatement.
I always wish I could quantify my emotions and thoughts; then, it would be far easier to track my progress as I continued to push forward into self-betterment. To me, all of these spiritual slogans were just too arbitrary. I operate best in life with cold hard facts, otherwise it is far to easy for me to live with blinders on, and there is nothing I hate more than operating from a place of ignorance.
Years have passed since the completion of my soul-shaking first set of steps. As I reflect back on that experience I sit and chuckle at myself. I whole-heartedly wanted freedom and a whole new perspective on life: and I got it. But then I laid it down on the wayside only a couple weeks later and picked up my inventory list again and used it as a constant reminder of all the people and things I needed to be vindicated from. Saint-hood seemed to just be out of reach for me during those first couple of years I guess, because those feelings I had hidden within, uncovered, cleaned, reviewed, made peace with, and placed back on the shelf, were then brought down for re-examination, over and over again. Instead of letting them go again as I previously had only a few short weeks prior, I somehow thought I would be armed with more protection by rehearsing the scenes from all those deeps wounds multiple times. I pinned out on my emotional life map these points of reference to serve as landmarks that I would need to avoid moving forward or experience that deep, jarring pain again. The only problem is that my regular review of this mental map only created rapid-fire shortcuts to pain for me. Sure my intentions were good through this emotional pain reduction strategy, but it missed the mark by along shot.
Jesus can be quoted from the New King James Version of the New Testament with some incredible insight into the human condition and it’s consuming snare of anger. “Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, forgive up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven…” (Mathew 18:22“). Times have changed so drastically since His time on earth, but people have changed but little, if anything at all. He knew just how much life we would waste away being caught up in resentment and wanted to offer the quick, and truly working solution that would be applicable to any conflict that would arise in our lives. The solution sounds almost too easy for our complex minds, or so we think to ourselves. The justification for holding the resentment kicks in with the ‘yeah, buts’. If we actually did offer love and peace to those pieces of crap who disrespected us back in high school, how would there ever be justice, right? And this is the part where we get hung up with the forgive them time and time again suggestion by basically every single spiritual teacher we come across. We think to ourselves the wrong can only be laid to rest if only our vindictive side is satiated first. We could let it go and trust that God will sort it our for us, but unfortunately we don’t want to leave that punishing hand up to anyone else but ourselves. So, the internal plot for justice will sadly live to see another day.
The question you really need to ask yourself is whether you really want freedom and happiness, or if you secretly still want to hold on to anger because of its associated intoxicating power that it elicits inside of you? If you do chose peace then you need to get started on grounding yourself to the present, or else more times than not the subtle hostile of anger will root itself back in the driver’s seat of your thoughts and emotions.
Where to start? Why not start your days with a forgiveness meditation in the morning? Trace your footsteps back to your earliest memories of resentment and offer that person or thing forgiveness and love, and then make your way back to today. You will be amazed at how many people and situations you will be able to offer forgiveness and love to in five or ten minutes. Then, just sit back and watch how your day flows from there. You might be surprised just how deeply a simple practice like that kind can alter you day, and more importantly the rest of your days to come.
Through several years of study on the topic of Letting Go, I have failed many times at just that – letting go. Some relationships, especially the ones very close to your heart, take a lot of discipline to finally overcome. For years I had fantasized choking the living breath out of an individual that had sexually assaulted someone I loved. In my eyes, they had basically gotten away with murder. I made it known that I carried massive disdain for this person, who constantly denied the event from happening whenever it was brought to his attention over the years. In the rare occasion we crossed paths, my mind seemed to scan the room for objects I could possibly bludgeon the man to death with. As I sit and express this experience to you, I think of all the hours of my life I wasted away holding on to a resentment that would never even come close to changing what took place. Because I cared so dearly for this person at the time, and even though the event took place prior to me even meeting this girl, I took it as a personal attack. In my self-centredness the battle became all about Kael and what Kael wasn’t getting, instead of about bringing healing to my girlfriend. I truly believe that it affected me more frequently than it did her.
If you are thinking to yourself of how sick I must have been back then, you would be entirely correct. I had literally no coping skills. My solution-based thinking always brought me back to the one and only resolve: aggressive retribution. Today, I’m living proof that this spiritual shit works. I look at this man from such a different vantage point now. I sit on the other side of the proverbial fence, a place of freedom that allows me to even pray for this man’s health and happiness. Can you imagine? I now offer compassion and kindness to someone who took innocence away from someone that I was to always protect?
The short and long of it all always comes down to the spiritual axiom of I Can’t, He Can, and for goodness sakes just let Him. The fruits of the spirit come as a result of me acting out in Love, and not blinded by self-will. The guiding principles of forgiveness were stored in my mind only as wise talking points I could use to impress and direct others, rather than core beliefs I now experience on a very real and visceral level.