Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to understand why so many people recommend forgiveness as a way to move forward.
It seems incredulous but for a long, long time, I could not understand the need for forgiveness. It isn’t that I live alone in a cave and have no friends or that I hold grudges forever more!
For some reason, I never found the need to actually forgive anyone of anything.
Perhaps this stemmed for the realisation that in accepting everyone and everything as they are – I simply found that everyone played a role in their own story depending on what they saw that story to be. And in doing so, everyone also equally acted and reacted under circumstances, the very best way that they knew how.
In learning to accept and embrace that, I found that I never needed to forgive anyone of their actions. Of course I still got angry and I did still rant but once that was done, I could somehow always see that everyone really only does the best that they know how.
So for a long time now, I’ve been trying to understand the value of forgiveness. Working on the premise that if everyone was simply doing the best that they can, then there would be nothing to forgive – at least that was the conclusion I came to.
And then I read Jo River’s beautiful Facebook Post (Like her Life is Beautiful page) on how as part of her gratitude practice, she tried to write a letter to her father. A father who in her words, was ‘the person who hurt me the most’ .
I read Jo’s beautiful, honest description of how she came to realise, and then apologise for never having thanked her father for the good times, and for not having told him how much she loved him. (The original post appeared on her website here. )
As the story touched my heart and percolated in my mind, I realised, that both in asking for and in giving forgiveness, what we really are doing, is forgiving ourselves in our judgement of another.
It may seem like forgiveness is an external act (to ask for and then to receive; or to accept and provide), defined by our interaction with another person. It may seem like saying ‘I’m sorry’ is conditional upon someone else accepting the apology and then bestowing their forgiveness upon you.
Somehow though, the relief that comes from simply saying sorry, is often enough to move ourselves to a different state of mind.
In the act of forgiveness, whichever side of the stream we are at, we find that in that interaction, what really happens is that we are at a point in which we are truly ready and willing to forgive ourselves of the judgement or conditions we have placed, both on the other party and more importantly ourselves.
The act of forgiveness is truly, as I realised, the beautiful act of forgiving oneself.