As we grow along the spiritual path, we realize how critical is the process of forgiveness to this journey. Today’s blog explores the topic of forgiveness and how it looks a lot like a Figure 8 or an infinity symbol…depending on your perspective.
Sometimes our Relationships Get Broken
I know I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. Human relationships are challenging at best, and in our own state of brokenness and perceived separation, we often find our intimate and not-so-intimate relationships breaking down. In these states of breaking down or breaking up of relationships, forgiveness shows up as the virtue that we are invited to embrace in the goal of bringing healing to these broken intimacies. And, as you are well aware, the journey toward forgiveness can be long and arduous and mysterious at best. Being the “Queen of Grudgeholding,” I certainly have no room to even begin to speak on this topic, but I will attempt to muddle through this in the hopes that I might actually learn something!
How Things Get Broken in the First Place
Well, this is a big duh! How do our relationships get broken? Because….someone got hurt. Out of our own sense of separation and woundedness, we say and do things that hurt another person, and we act in ways that are non-loving, covetous, greedy, controlling, gluttonous, lazy and selfish. We fail to listen to the people in our lives and to acknowledge their needs. We fail to listen to ourselves, to our own needs and to ask for them to be met. We lash out when we are afraid, anxious, scared. We respond to others out of our own unhealed wounds and we project our past painful experiences onto others. In a nutshell….WE ARE A MESS…..and we SUCK at being healthy, loving, intimate partners, collegues, friends and family members. And….no matter how much inner work we have done or continue to do, it is our intimate human relationships that cause us the most trouble. This is why FORGIVENESS is so important, critical and necessary. Without forgiveness, I think we would just kill eachother off and be done with it (which I sometimes think we are doing as a species anyway).
The Signposts on the Forgiveness Path
Again, being the “Queen of Grudgeholding,” I’m not sure I really have anything to offer on this topic….but there are a few things I have seen that have helped me in the few and rare moments that I have tried to enter into the process of forgiveness.
1) When we perceive that someone has hurt us, or failed to honor one of our needs, we feel deeply hurt, and in immediate defense of that hurt and loss, RESENTMENT arises.
2) If you are like me, you rush toward that RESENTMENT, scoop it up, bring it into your heart and caress, nurture, cultivate it like Gollum and the ring, chanting and moaning, “MY PRECIOUS,” harboring it close, and making it grow so as to protect yourself from further hurt or pain. For you see…..we believe (falsely) that the resentment will protect us from the pain of separation and hurt, keep us safe from further hurt and that it will keep us strong, defensive, courageous.
3) At some point, we begin to realize that all the resentment is actually doing is keeping us from healthy intimacy and from knowing love…and from realizing the VERY PAINFUL human truth that in relationship….we will be hurt…..and we will hurt others. It might just be the nature of the beast.
4) If we want to find healing of the pain of hurt and be open to knowing love and to cultivating healthy intimacy, then at some point, we need to accept the invitation to forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a Figure Eight
Once we decide that forgiveness might be the journey on which we want to embark, we are invited to further understand that forgiveness is everything BUT a linear path with a clear destination. Instead, we are invited to recognize that forgiveness is more like a figure 8 or an infinity symbol, ever looping back and forth over itself in an on-going journey with ever deepening and widening layers. And it might look something like this:
1) Examine the initial hurt (or hurts), acknowledge the resentment that arose, THEN….look deeper into the hurt, the loss the pain that is hiding behind the resentment. THEN….GRIEVE IT! Feel the hurt, feel the loss, feel the separation, then cry, weep, wail and moan. Let it go.
2) Pray (remember, you are NOT alone in this process)
3) Now look deeper still….what is YOUR role in the perceived hurt? What was the deeper emotional wound or spiritual fear that was triggered through the experience – the fear of rejection, the fear that you are not good enough, etc. and where did those wounds come from? What have you done to heal, release, etc the origin of those wounds (often coming from our childhood.)?
4) Pray some more
5) Seek out resources to allow for the healing of those deeper wounds and the recent circumstances that triggered them (spiritual direction, counseling, self-help groups, recovery programs, etc.).
6) Pray again
7) Enter into a state of empathetic awareness. Look at the person who you perceive to have hurt you and look at their deeper wounds. What might have been the fear, false perception, childhood wound that caused their “hurtful” behavior toward you? Can you hold them in compassion for their fears? Can you allow empathetic awareness and compassion to open a space for forgiveness.
8) Pray some more
9) EXAMINE your SHAME. When we are the recipient or the cause of separation in our intimate human relationships, SHAME naturally arises. (some might use “guilt” to describe this state) In this way, shame acts as a red flag alerting us to the fact that something has wounded our drive to pursue and cultivate healthy intimacy with other human beings (this is part of our survival drive).
10) Pray again
11) Open yourself to self-forgiveness, allowing yourself to be healed of the shame that arose out of this separation and brokenness in your relationship.
12) Pray some more
13) Allow for the possibility of forgiveness- of the person you perceive to have hurt you AND of yourself.
14) NOW…START THE WHOLE PROCESS OVER AGAIN….and AGAIN….and AGAIN and PRAY SOME MORE!
There is a reason that Jesus said, “Forgive 70 times 7 times!” I don’t think he was issuing a command, but making an observation of the long and arduous road to forgiveness. And then, we are invited to remember that the moment of TRUE forgiveness is NOT ours to accomplish, but comes mysteriously, unbidden and as a result of God’s grace and out of God’s infinite (ahem!) love. Forgiveness is a Figure Eight!
Where are you being invited to enter into the process of forgiveness?
What are some of your deeper fears, unhealed wounds, that may be vulnerable to hurt in the context of relationship?
How can you allow the Divine to assist you in this process of forgiveness?
Authentic Freedom Ministries