I’ve often heard of the idea of forgiveness being the way to the ultimate in freedom. It’s written everywhere. In the Bible, Jesus says “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you”. Ghandi said, “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (An eye for an eye makes everyone blind). Mother Teresa said “if we really want to love, we must learn to forgive.”
How do we get to the point of forgiveness when someone has done you wrong? A wrong that hits you below the belt, that cuts off your oxygen supply, that disenables you to the point of paralysis, depression and hate. What do you honestly do then? I mean, how do you really live through it? How do you start to forgive in this state? When I have felt anger I’ve been guilty of going directly to this thought: will the wrongdoer really get what they deserve? Is there such a thing as comeuppance or karma? What I’m curious about is how do you get to the point of feeling that you were wronged to showing love toward that person. It seems like a huge leap.
I was reading an article this morning about vengeance. A woman was writing about her 3-year torturous struggle with emotions of bitterness and vengefulness toward her ex. Her husband left their 17-year childless marriage (by choice) within 6 months of meeting someone else who had 4 children of her own. Just after the breakup, her ex insisted that they remain friends – he still loved her after all, he just couldn’t live with her and wasn’t in love with her (that’s another blog posting unto itself). But the one thing that struck me about this situation was the feeling of vengeance. How do you really go on when all you ever consistently feel is this hateful, I want to hurt you feeling? How do you get past the imprisonment of the pain?
The Greek philosopher Plato often said, through the main character of his stories, Socrates, that it’s better to suffer injustice than to do injustice. Plato being an agnostic but one who enjoyed religious stories, argued that doing the injustice creates the most harm. I think what Plato is getting at is that at its most basic and fundamental level, the deepest most fulfilling experience in our human lives, is our connection to other people – and when we damage that connection and endanger it by doing wrong to others, we hurt ourselves in the most real sense. Human beings may be able to put the things they’ve done out of their conscious mind, but in the back of our brains we always remember our past deeds and vices. Someone once told me that their teacher used to say that all of us carry around a ‘catalog of concupiscence’ in our minds, always reminding ourselves subconsciously of the wrong things we’ve done and feeling shame and desperation because of them; a large part of life is getting rid of that shame and dealing with those perceived wrongs so that we can be more fulfilled.
I’m a big advocate of self-care and feeling the feelings: getting in touch with the basic right to feel (second chakra) which is related to your emotional identity and its orientation toward self-gratification. A healthy emotional identity means you can clearly identify your feelings and their sources and can experience them and work through them appropriately. When you know your own feelings, you are less likely to project them onto others or become dependent on others for your well-being. This sense of knowing what you’re feeling, promotes well-being and is a natural healing force. So next time you’re feeling anger – feel it, scream into a pillow and let it rip. Find a way to safely express your anger. It will then morph into another emotion. Possibly frustration. Let yourself feel frustrated. Keep going and allow the emotions to work through you (whatever wants to surface). You will eventually get to the point of love. Once you’re there, forgiveness is a step away.
The beauty about being human is that we’re able to feel all the emotions of the rainbow. And what benefit does that have you may ask? Emotions allow us to fully step into growth, change and possibility in our lives. We become renewed and fully self expressed. And that to me, sounds like freedom. The ultimate freedom.