Updated: Jul 24
Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, June 5, 2020! Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again. I can’t think of a better day to forgive.
Some of you know that I paint rocks. I’ve never really considered myself much of an artist, but I’ve heard from influential people in my life--Brene’ Brown comes to mind--that creativity is vital in living a meaningful life. Not that I’m any good at it, but I enjoy painting. As an act humility – to remind myself that I’m human and that I do my best – I started decorating our ornamental garden with the rocks I paint. I even gifted a few of them to my family.
A few days ago, I was out watering and appreciating this rare and precious life and I noticed that three of my rocks went missing. A few thoughts came to mind. The first thought was that of impermanence – everything is temporary. Many of the rocks I paint are mandalas. They are no-where near the complexity or quality of the sand mandalas that Buddhist monks create, but mandalas nonetheless. I thought about how the monks must feel to let go of such a beautiful piece of art shortly after finishing. I was working on letting go.
Though the rock-taker didn’t even take some of my better creations, a sad yet kind of angry thought came to mind, “That wasn’t very nice. Why would someone steal these from me?” (Before my mindfulness practice, this would have been my first thought.) Here, I chuckled as visions from my past came to mind. How many things did I take that didn’t belong to me? Oh my, that’s right. Oops. Karma. It was here that forgiveness came to mind.
I’ve learned much about forgiveness in my recovery. In one of my programs, there is a suggestion that we make a list of all our resentments. That was easy. It states in our literature that “Resentment in the “number-one” offender.” This means that harboring resentments while in recovery is responsible for more relapses than any other cause. Resentments are poison! When I first heard this, it scared me. It still does! I don’t want to relapse! But in this step, we don’t just list our resentments, we explore them deeply by looking at our side – how did we contribute to the turmoil?
Seldom are we innocent victims. We almost always have a part. Some of us find that we have more remorse for ourselves than we have resentments for others. This was my experience. In the last part of the step, it is suggested that we share with a closed mouth friend (and our Higher Power) everything on our list. This was not easy. More like terrifying!
When we share with someone else what we’re really like; our deepest resentments, hurts, sorrows and fears; our selfish tendencies; our crimes; our shame, we discover that we’re not so different from the ones who harmed us. We are not perfect, nor are they. This was profound.
In mindfulness, I am taught that forgiveness comes from wisdom – when we truly understand our imperfect humanity, we see that the wise thing to do is to forgive. When it comes to amateurly painted mandala stones, even though they represented something meaningful and I appreciated them, forgiving was relatively easy. I was going to give some of them as gifts anyway! I very quickly forgave the rock-takers, whoever they are, within minutes of noticing the missing rocks.
This is all well and good, but what about atrocious crimes – the racism, violent rioters, murderers? How can we forgive the perpetrators of these crimes? Why would we forgive them? While it may seem insurmountable, it is imperative if we hope to have peace.
Mindfulness has helped me to see that I am more similar than I am different to those who commit the most horrendous crimes. I’ve found that we are different by degrees only. I have harmed the innocent. I have stolen things. I have cheated and been dishonest. I have said hurtful things and done violent acts. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t. I also believe that if I were raised in conditions similar to those I tend to resent, I would no doubt think, speak and act in the very same inappropriate way. We don’t forgive or approve of the crime; we forgive because of our shared imperfect humanity.
What it really comes down to is that we don’t forgive others for their sake. Like I had to do for myself, it’s up to them to forgive themselves. Through the act of forgiveness, we give ourselves permission to stop suffering for what someone else has done. A resentment is like holding hot coal and hoping the other person will get burned. When we forgive, we are in no way approving of what happened, we are simply acknowledging that it happened, recognizing their imperfect humanity, and are meow willing to move on. This probably won’t happen overnight. It didn’t for me. It’s taken me years to forgive some people – myself in particular.
Nevertheless, if we hope to have more peace in this messy world, we can Start with Forgiveness.
One final thought: Considering our human imperfectness, the wisdom of forgiveness may be that there is nothing to forgive. Why would we need to forgive someone for being human?
I love you and there isn’t anything that you can do about it!
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