Nothing frees our heart more than forgiveness. I have been learning a lot about forgiveness lately, and it has brought me to a whole new understanding and perspective. Many years ago, I used to think that there were some things that were just plain unforgivable. People can do some pretty awful things sometimes and in my mind, there were some things that just didn’t seem ‘worthy’ of forgiveness. But one of the important things I learned along the way is that, as long as there is someone ‘jailed’ their has to be a ‘jailer’. Forgiveness frees the one jailed, but most importantly, it frees the jailer to a life of greater freedom, fullness and joy.
Like most of the important things in life, learning the practice of forgiveness is a lifelong process. Here are some things I’ve been learning lately about forgiveness…
Every act is some aspect of love. A Course in Miracles says something very interesting. It says that every act is either an expression of love, or a call for love, regardless of how unskillful it may appear. Wow, that changes things. If I’m able to see every act, regardless of how unskillful it may appear, as some aspect of love… that makes compassion, and therefore forgiveness, a whole lot easier. That doesn’t mean that I hang out with people who are hurtful, or that I put myself in the path of a mac truck, but what it does mean is that I can better understand and have compassion toward someone else’s behavior. Compassion is the beginning of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a shift in perception. A Course in Miracles builds on this idea that every act is an expression of love or call for love, when it defines forgiveness. It says that forgiveness is a shift in perception that removes a block in me to my awareness of love’s presence. Wow… the block was in me all along. Forgiveness takes my blinders off. Forgiveness helps me see what I couldn’t see before. Forgiveness enables me to see the love that is always and everywhere present.
Forgiveness is a process. It’s helpful to remind myself that we learn to walk by falling down. Forgiveness is not a one-time event, it is a process. And just as a baby learns to walk by falling down… and continuing to get back up, so we learn to forgive by putting one foot in front of the other, continuing to do the work and remembering that, with each step we take, we get a little better at it.
There is a place where our souls are just fine. Sometimes I find myself with a list of “if onlys” – if only we could have a conversation, if only we could get to some sort of understanding, if only he could see my point of view, if only she would apologize, if only… if only… Liz Gilbert described this feeling in Eat, Pray, Love when she so desperately wanted to talk with her ex-husband so she could make herself understood and experience some sort of forgiveness. Instead, she had a dream where her soul met with his. She writes, “They were just two cool blue souls who already understood everything… They didn’t need to forgive each other; they were born forgiving each other.” Rumi described this same place of understanding and connection when he wrote, “Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I will meet you there.” Sometimes we will have done all the work of forgiveness and gotten to a place of understanding and compassion, and still, on a human level, the connection just seems impossible. That is when we can take solace in the fact that, on a spiritual plane, our souls are just fine; our souls completely understand each other; our souls are forever connected, happy and joyful.
Where is there an opportunity for you to forgive today? Where is there an opportunity to remove a block to the awareness of love’s presence? Where is there the opportunity to throw away the key and set the jailer free?