Unlocking the Door to Forgiveness
I was having a conversation with a family friend recently and the topic shifted to the importance of forgiveness
. My conversation partner mentioned that she felt like she was pretty good at forgiving people and I responded by telling her that I forgive, but that first I need a resolution. She very quickly pointed out that that was not, in fact, forgiveness because forgiveness is not conditional. When she said this, I had an immediate physical reaction.
I wanted to argue with her, to defend myself, and to tell her that you can’t just decide
to forgive someone. I wanted to say that you have to truly feel forgiveness before you can bestow it upon someone else, and as much sometimes I wish I could, I can’t choose what to feel. Clearly, her comment had struck a nerve, and in my experience, that typically means that someone has shone a light on a truth
that is difficult to face.
Since our conversation, I noticed that messages about forgiveness were popping up all around me, and once again, I knew that the universe was trying to show me the places inside of myself where I still had room to grow. If I am going to be really honest, I have not been very good at forgiving people. I have struggled with holding on to hurt and anger, and at points, have held grudges for very long periods of time.
I used to think of forgiveness as something that we do for someone else, to release another person from their guilt, but in recent years, I have had a new experience of forgiveness. I have had moments in which, quite spontaneously, I could feel myself releasing the hurt and anger that I had held onto from old, broken relationships. These moments left me humbled as I felt the heavy burden of carrying all of that negative energy lift, and this new sense of lightness led me to the realization that forgiveness is much more about the individual who is giving forgiveness than the one who is receiving it.
The actions of others that tend to hurt and anger us the most are usually the ones that reflect the parts of ourselves with which we struggle most intensely. The things that are the hardest to forgive are often the things that hit closest to home, the things that we too feel guilt around. Just like you have to truly love y
ourself before you can love another, you must also forgive yourself before you can forgive others, and the key that unlocks the door to forgiveness is compassion.
Jack Kornfield says that, “forgiveness simply means never putting another person out of your heart.” As we develop a deep sense of compassion for ourselves, we can extend that love and understanding to include those around us. While it may not be possible to simply choose to feel forgiveness toward someone, we can start with trying to understand that person. Even the tiniest spark of empathy can be fed and tended to until it builds into the full flame of compassion that allows us to release hurt and pain and to let go
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