I’ve been avoiding writing on forgiveness since the question “who am I to share on forgiveness?” looms large in my mind. On the other hand, who am I not to think of forgiveness?
As just another suffering person in this world, I’m required to wrestle with it. It’s not so much the overcoming of overwhelming hurts that teaches us about the process of forgiveness; it’s in the daily insults that we may connect with its rhythm. In addition to my own experience, my clients have taught me that as we engage more honestly and compassionately with our wounded parts, we create space to shift our relationship with them.
I notice parts of me stuck in resentfulness, envy and unforgiveness when I scaffold my identity around a wound, as someone who was wounded in such-and-such a way. Years of mindfulness practice and therapy have brought me solace and empowerment by teaching me how to reach for the choice to compassionately relate to my wounded parts rather than to construct my identity around them.
When I choose to relate to my wounds rather than over-identify with them, I notice that my identity opens up into a spacious sense of self, into a sense of safe refuge that has room to relate to both the hurt self and the self longing for healing and transcendence.
It’s not that I choose transcendence at the expense of the wounded self, it’s more that I allow it to change, in its own rhythm. And change it does once I relate to it with mindful compassion. The original wound does not want to stay stuck and unchanging even if I have insisted on building a rigid identity around it. It protests, it constantly ebbs and flows, and it requires that I offer it some safe space to metamorphosize on its own terms, since the only constant in the world is change. At first, the wound may weep and even demand justice as equal punishment, yet if I’m spacious enough to relate to it with presence, it naturally changes into a sense of readiness for more. More understanding. More freedom. More personal power. More imagination, for, as David Whyte so eloquently expresses,
“to approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw centre, to reimagine our relation to it”.
If I relate to my hurt from a differentiated, spacious self that allows me to hold the hurt instead of collapse into it, then I find it easier to imagine myself reaching into the basket of forgiveness as an act of self-nurturance. Forgiveness is more about feeding our own sanity than about ‘doing what is right’, for moralism has yet to offer any real sustenance in this complex world. Forgetting and absolving the other who wounded us is missing the mark of forgiveness, for it may be wise to take realistic measures that protect ourselves from future hurt, as much as it’s within our control to do so. The point is that we reimagine our relationship with the wound, or hurt, such that our sense of self does not shrink or calcify around the damaging actions of other suffering people.
The question is, how may I embody the sane self that can hold the hurt while touching healing, resilience and personal power?
May we all feel beckoned by this generous self that can hold both the hurt and the healing, without being reduced to either.
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