One night ten years ago, I awoke in darkness and suddenly knew what I needed to do – forgive the man I’d been angry with for the past seven years. At the time I was dogged with respiratory infections since contracting mononucelosis. I had to rethink everything about my life, from diet to thought patterns to spirituality, to help myself recover. It was the start of my foray into a conscious spiritual path.
The particulars of the conversation that had triggered my anger are not important, but I believe the intensity of the feeling is. For the year following our exchange, if a stray thought of him breezed in, I slammed it out of my mind. The second year, if I thought of him I cursed him thoroughly, then pushed the memory away. The moment I forgave this man, a heaviness I hadn’t known was there lifted from my heart. Life force energy surged through my previously depleted body. I realized how much magnificent energy had literally been knotted around this subject, forcing it to stay in my physical being and energy field.
Suddenly I understood what forgiveness is all about – it’s not a favor passed down the from “do-gooder” (oneself, of course! :)), to the “bad guy.” It’s a decision to let life take its course, its precious and infinite course, without being diverted or damned by the dead weight of old grudges, no matter how well-deserved one believes them to be. It does not mean destructive behavior is now okay. Forgiveness is simply the choice for happiness over the self-punishment inflicted by holding on to hard feelings. It is “for-giving” to oneself.
I don’t mean to negate the value that being truly forgiven may have to the other person, nor the importance of experiencing the full spectrum of one’s own feelings. I don’t believe being a “good person” means eliminating all unpleasant emotions. Such feelings have their place. Be with them long enough, (not everyone’s cup of tea, I realize, nor the only way to transform them), and they naturally transmute themselves. Emotions are “e-motions,” unless hung onto. That’s when shame and blame become stuck spots in one’s energy field and physical body if left unchecked. I decided my life was worth more to me than my grudge, that I didn’t have to punish myself over a past experience.
In the years since, I’ve found myself returning to the original situation again and again, experiencing new levels of love and forgiveness. I see more sides of it now, have compassion for both of us, and appreciate the wealth of learning it afforded me. Now when I’m unhappy with someone else’s choices, I ask myself if holding on to this feeling is really worth it to me. If I don’t want to let it go, what is my issue with the behavior? What is it stirring up within me? It may take some time before I’m willing to make the change, or look at the specific button being pushed in me. But once I do, the rewards are instantaneous.
As a general rule, I’ve found that investigating any particularly intense grudge uncovers self-blame in the mix. Self-forgiveness is often the greatest challenge, but also carries the greatest gifts.
It can be startling to realize that minor irritations are often held on to longer than the ‘big deals” in life, assuming one has already chosen the path of forgiveness. “What? I can let go of my anger at being cheated out of $1,00 but I’m still ticked by the growing pile of shoes in the hall?”
Ultimately it’s a question of self-worth. Do I love myself enough to cleanse my heart of pain? Once the choice is made, the action is simple.
© Roslyn McGrath. All rights reserved. Originally printed in Harmony Bridge, Volume II, Issue 11, Winter 2003 – 2004.