Both in my life and in my work, I come across so many misconceptions around forgiveness.
Think about the famous line from the book and the movie
"Love Story." "Love means never having to say you are sorry."
I can't even begin to imagine what it means. How many times have I heard it quoted?!
Why? Because is sounds romantic? Does it?
First of all - it is simply not true.
Loving means (among other things) being responsible to the person you love, and so - if indeed we did something we regret, something hurtful and wrong, we need to be honest with ourselves about it, feel the feelings that come up with this realization, and then act in a way that will let the one we have hurt know that we are genuinely sorry. Saying it (and meaning) is the least we can do.
Saying I am sorry and being forgiven, however, are two very different things.
As is saying you are sorry and forgiving yourself for what you did.
To forgive yourself, you have to know what you are forgiving yourself for. You have to be able to feel remorse for your actions. Otherwise, what is there to forgive if you don't really regret it?
If all you are doing is saying the words, you will never feel forgiven. Even if the other person forgives you.
And yet - feeling remorse remains one of the hardest things to feel.
Self-hate is easy. Self- recrimination? No problem. Self-judgment - easy again. Most people have done it all their lives.
To let ourselves really feel the sadness of having done something we cannot undo? Quite another story, isn't it? And there is no circumventing it. No short-cuts to get to the other side.
"But, Auriela, why should I even bother, if it is so hard?"
Because you want to be able to feel good about yourself.
Let's look at another line that is thrown about so much these days: "Just love yourself." Or: "I am just going to love myself."
Meaning - if you want to have love work in your life, you must learn to love yourself.
Which is correct. This IS the truth. Except, as many have discovered, it's easier said than done.
Because unless we are able to forgive ourselves for the things we've pushed under the rug and pretended to have forgotten - loving ourselves simply won't happen.
Life is about growth, whether we like it or not. That's why we have no short-cuts to avoid feeling remorse.
Just the other day a friend shared with me something that may or may not surprise you.
A couple of months ago she ended a relationship with a man after she had discovered a rather ugly betrayal. (An oxymoron, I know.)
She has been working with healing the pain and regaining herself and she is making beautiful progress. She is ready to look at forgiving herself and forgiving him for what had happened between them, so she can begin to let go and to allow deeper healing.
But her friends are up in arms. "Forgive him???!!! Are you crazy? You should never ever forgive that bastard!..."
We spent a good hour or more on the phone today just talking about it.
The "crabs in the box" phenomenon, yet again. Remember that one?
I wrote a blog about it some time ago. If you haven't read it, just go back to earlier posts. It's worth it.
Her friends' reaction is a good illustration of the lack of understanding around forgiveness. That's why I so often talk about the controversy of forgiveness.
Here is something I want you to think about. To ask yourself and to answer.
Take the time, please. Don't rush even if the answers appear obvious. And especially if they are not. The better and deeper you can explain your answers to yourself the clearer you are going to be.
-Who deserves forgiveness, and when do they deserve it?
-Which (if any) conditions must be met before we can forgive?
-Do only people who have met the conditions deserve forgiveness?
-Is forgiveness for the victim or for the perpetrator?
-Is there a crime that is "unforgivable"?
-How do you forgive yourself when you don't believe you deserve forgiveness?
-Why is remorse often the hardest thing to feel?
-Is forgiveness an act of will? A choice? Or is it Divine Grace?
And finally: Why no change is possible without forgiveness happening first?
The last question is my invitation to think and to imagine:
What life would you be living if your past didn't hold you back?
Not sure abut the answers?
I have written about this so much in The Power of the Possible. It is on pp. 96-98, 98-101, it is in the chapter
To Stay or To Leave, Forgiving the Unforgivable - pretty much through the entire chapter, especially from pp.115 -126, and you haven't read this chapter before, read the whole thing, you will do yourself a disservice by reading just these pages.
Also on p. 231 and on, in the chapter When Love Is Not Enough, where I explain remorse and why it is one of the hardest things to feel.
Read these passages, even if you have read them already. Your will read them with different eyes this time because you have grown and you have changed and your ability to understand has deepened.
It is always like that, with any book. That's why we experience them differently at different times. It is not the book that changes with time. We do.
All for now.
Much love to you, always.
Remember: never ever give up hope!