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I have been grappling with forgiveness.
There are so many little understandings + realisations connected to forgiveness that I had no idea about, and the more I read about it and tried to apply it in real-life, the more I found myself uncomfortably challenged, but joyfully liberated.
Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the act or the situation, but it does mean applying the maximum amount of compassion possible to a situation. It means seeing the person, people, or situation requiring forgiveness in the most human light possible; seeing all the short-comings and vulnerabilities, all the imperfections and jagged edges, and softening into the pain and grief, the accusation.
The moment you dehumanise a situation, you walk the other way from forgiveness. Forgiveness is hard work. It’s uncomfortable and gritty, and requires tenacious persistence, and equal amounts of peace and solitude. It’s heart and intellect rolled in one, and it requires practise. I’m learning, all the different colours and nuances of forgiveness. It is nowhere near as black and white as I thought, and each time I forgive, I find a new light and shade in my understanding, and another skill in emotional problem-solving in my repertoire.
Forgiveness works really well when you try and do it in steps, or increments. You need to take time out from the intensity of feeling something, and yes, true forgiveness requires walking through it all. All damn lot of it. Every joyful moment, every searing moment of rage, every farewell, every stomach-churning moment of grief. All of the emotions. So it stands to reason that you need to take a break and, you know, maybe have a cup of tea + a Tim Tam, before diving headlong into it all again!
Forgiveness can look different over time, and might need to be done over and over, but each time you do, it definitely becomes easier. Especially if you’ve made sense of it the previous time you “forgave” and you are building upon a strong compass of forgiveness. So forgiveness needs to be done with an excellent understanding of what your own values are, who you are, and what is okay for you. And each time you make progress, or take another step, something becomes freer and easier. You might suddenly miss a person more, or want to hug them a little tighter. There is the old warmth and joy in conversation, rather than just careful politeness. You are more yourself, and there is connection. Because there is trust.
Finally, forgiveness is freedom. It is like finding more lung-space to breathe deeper, because everything is lighter, the air is clearer, and you have wings that move more. There is still ache and stretch in each step, but there is unmistakable freedom. And that freedom spells itself out in each playful word and new conversation built upon trust. Even in the most dire and difficult moments of forgiveness, there is a deep resonant correctness and rightness about the gravity of the situation. Even if another word is not uttered, there is a sense of some sort of equilibrium. Maybe not the restoration of ANYTHING; perhaps things are far too broken for that. But there are new personal understandings, hard won, and a sense of courage, strength and freedom that comes from walking away from a situation, having forgiven.
Forgiving this week for me was unexpected and simple. For months, I had lost connection with a dear friend. We were in touch, but really not. The old trust, the quirky playfulness, the immediate confidence – all replaced by polite conversation. I was holding back. There was a roadblock that I didn’t know how to shift. I was angry and hurt by distance. What did it take to shift things? Courage to articulate it and time. Time needed to pass, I needed to walk through every force of anger and disappointment, and the trust needed to tentatively grow. There needed to be discomfort and struggle. There needed to be “try” from both ends.
But this week, after 6 months of missing one of my dearest friends…I finally, finally want to hug her breathless and share a ridiculous joke with her. I finally also put into words, compassionately and lovingly, how much I missed her, loved her, and was hurt. It took all my courage to name the hurt and to risk the anger and tears. But somehow, we find ourselves on the other side of it all, freer + lighter.
I’ve taken a step toward freedom.