Friday, June 17, 2005

Forgiveness brings release

Today I'm thinking about forgiveness, and how cleansing it is. When someone doesn't behave as you want, or come to the same conclusions you do, or when they actually do something damaging to you, forgiveness is the only way to find peace.

My friend Dr. Fred Luskin of the Forgive for Good project at Stanford characterizes forgiveness not as condoning what the other person has done, but as releasing resentment from within ourselves. It's only when we are free from resentment and anger that we can determine next steps -- does the person need correction, do we need to leave the relationship, etc.

I find this true with my kids and friends and fellow motorists… it's only when I'm free from anger or hurt that I can effectively decide what to do. And I'm responsible for my hurt, not the other person. They may have taken an action that I didn't like, but I'm the one that let it become a hurt to me. Even in the worst cases, I believe, the person who feels hurt or damaged can deflect that through forgiveness.

Sometimes when I'm gritting my teeth in anger or smarting heartily from hurt feelings, I remember what the Bible tells us Jesus said, even as he was hanging on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I sometimes transpose this in my thought to, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." This Christian standard of forgiveness doesn't demand that the other person change, it just releases the resentment that eats away at us.

I'm reminded of the time I finally fully and completely forgave my ex-husband. It was several years after our divorce, and mostly I was over it. But there were still moments of frustration when I went over details of our relationship in my head. One night, as I drove home from an inspirational meeting at my church, my relationship with him popped into my head again. I was too inspired to just let it be business as usual, however. This time, I felt differently.

It occurred to me that I really had once loved the guy. There was indeed a deep love between us, and it saddened and hurt us both that it didn't work out. As I meditated on this love, I remembered that Love is God, and God is All. Love fills all space, within us and between us. I couldn't get away from Love, and neither could my ex. In fact, if there was ever Love, there was only Love.

I let this conclusion wash over me as I drove. Such as sense of peace settled over me. All the hurts and resentments paled to nothing. I let go of the past, and allowed myself to love him again. I reclaimed the Love that had always been there, and ejected the hurt, permanently as it turned out.

No, we didn’t get back together. No, we didn't even talk about this really. But he's like a brother to me now. On many occasions I've honored the inspiration I felt that night by not letting any further resentment gather over inconsequential things. And we have a healthy (albeit distant) respect and friendship.

So I've added this concept to my standard of forgiveness: If there was ever Love, there was only Love. I've applied it to many situations, and it helps bring me clarity. Then, the correct response comes naturally.

Have a happy weekend, full of inspiration and light.


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