Updated: May 9, 2019
How easy is it for you to forgive? Take some time to reflect.
In my experience, conversations about forgiveness can be very often a door opening into a deeply profound and powerful dimension of our humanness. If we drop the defences in our minds, open the doors of our hearts and are willing to look inwards and share what we find, we can experience some real beauty and connection. Something that is so needed these days. So let’s talk about forgiveness, shall we?
On the eve of January the 1st, 2019, I received a profound insight about the depth of forgiveness and its new meaning for my personal path in life. In this moment of greater knowing, or should I say, of being known by something greater, the light of awareness filtered into my present experience and I was taken back to two important memories in my life. What I so clearly saw, inspired me to write in these two sentences in my journal:
"A new level of forgiveness, for a new level of hurt, calls for a new level of love...Perhaps my greatest source of hurt, my worst nightmare in life even, is my greatest opportunity to grow into a vibration of more love and truth."
When I wrote these two lines, something of a resolve had occurred within me, and clarity about the path ahead was illuminated: I didn't know how or for what, but I was going to have to forgive. I knew this because it was the third time in my life that the felt intuition or inner knowing that this was what I had to do, had arisen in me.
The first time this deep knowing of a need for forgiveness saturated my heart and informed my mind, I was sixteen years old. To give a bit of background story, I had spent a good ten years prior to this, since the age of four or five, deeply sad and hurt about my parents’ divorce and the subsequent absence of my father during my early childhood; a time when I needed him the most. By the time I was sixteen my sadness, and the actual rage that was underneath it had been suppressed and turned into indifference, which then manifested in the form of an angry teenager Me who would say things to himself like “I don't care about my dad anymore, I don't need him”. This was easier than to dwell on how much I missed my father, and plus, I was a "grown-up" sixteen-year-old now!
My longing for his presence in my life, and the confusion and loneliness that came with learning how to be a man in the world with hardly any guidance had become too painful that I just hid it from myself and developed a great relationship with numbness and disconnection. However, this movement towards numbness that was only ever briefly relieved in order to feel anger, even at that time, was always accompanied with an intuition that this was not really what I wanted to do, or what I even thought was right or intelligent. I felt this as a subtle helpless sadness that pricked my heart at every movement towards more disconnection. A few months before this intuition was attended to, I went to see my father, having decided not to call him about two years prior and therefore boiling with hurt and anger as to why he had not still called me to say hi after almost two years. When I saw him I basically got angry and expressed how hurt I was. I wanted answers and for my inner child's confusion to cease so I asked him many helpless why questions about the past. Long story short, I was disappointed as I didn’t get any answers that ended my suffering. In fact, I actually felt worse off to have all of this rage flowing through me with the "why, why, why" thoughts now even stronger, and telling him he was a shit dad didn’t actually help me either. So I went home, now even more confused. However now as I look back on this with wiser eyes, at least I was now actually doing something about this pile of hurt and numbness. Remembering and reclaiming your power to act and create movement in one’s life, even if it is only a tiny amount of power, is always the first step to change of any kind, and especially forgiveness.
A few months later, having understood at some level that anger, hatred and justice was not going to bring any peace or freedom to the suffering I experienced around my father and I's relationship, I guess I was open to something new. As fate would have it, my mother felt that she needed to send me to a youth leadership camp in California organised by a great man named Tony Robbins. I owe a great deal to this man and the many leaders who created an environment of positivity and love that allowed a young person like me to feel safe enough to reveal and speak my truth; another necessary prerequisite before any healing or transformation. This homelike environment was the catalyst that gently pushed me, or rather pulled me back to my naked self, where I could see my naked truth, and for some unbelievable reason, follow the inner nudge to accept the unacceptable.
A final and additional nudge from Life before my first ever desire to truly forgive, came in the form of an elderly man who spoke on stage at this event and shared his life story. Lo and behold, a big part of his message was about forgiveness and healing our relationships. He told us about his father, with whom he had been angry with and completely disconnected from for something like twenty years. When they finally reunited in person after so many years, his father was on his deathbed waiting to see his son one last time before he passed away. As he walked into the hospital bedroom, his father took one look at him, and died. This elderly man on stage poured his heart out as he urged us all to not make the same mistake that he made. The mistake to hold on to pride and anger, and the regret of never having tried to make amends with someone he loved. This hit me right at my core. I remember how time slowed down and there it was: the felt knowing of what I needed to do penetrated my being with a sacredness that brought both peace and fear at the same time and the insight became clear.
I had to forgive my father. I wanted to forgive my father. I remember feeling the truth of my love for him as I saw the both of us from what felt like a third perspective; what I would now call a Nondual perspective. A sacred viewpoint that held both of us in an equal embrace and just forgave all that it saw. For a brief moment, I could see my father and I could see myself outside and at the same time through, all of the hurt. As this sunk in, there was also great resistance and fear. How could I just forgive him? What if he doesn’t receive it? How was I going to do it? What was I going to say? How can I just 'forget’ everything he did or didn’t do? How could I just let go of everything I have been through?
This was an experience of Grace, and Grace can rarely ever be reduced to reasonable explanations. Thus, despite all of these attempts to understand and question, the force of insight was far too powerful for me to ignore it and I pretty much had no choice but to follow it and trust in faith. When I look back at this time, I remember a Bible verse in the Psalms of David that always confused me but now seems to make sense. It's the one that says:
“The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom.” - Psalm 111:10
This speaks to me not of a fear of some punitive being, but to the experience that every divine seeking man or woman who has ever encountered the Sacred Presence knows, and for no reason at all, will bow down in reverence. It is the fear that arises in every person in the face of something grand that we cannot safely grasp or understand. It is the very human fear of what we have never encountered before and cannot place into a safe little mental box. This fear arises with the threat of having to let go of who we feel we are. It is a fear that calls for a psychological death of the sense of self that is associated with the hurt: the ego or separate self in its current form and identity.
The little old ‘you’ that will die as soon as you take action on that guidance and evolve into the greater more loving and divine you, cries with fear…and this is how God, Love itself, can be truly terrifying. And, at least for me, this moment was indeed the “beginning of all wisdom” as after I took action on this intuition and had the talk with my father where I forgave, it felt like my life had now truly begun.
I will always remember the joy and the beauty in being able to now hang out with my father without hiding my feelings of hurt and without a wall in between us. This was my first taste of the sweet flavour of inner freedom. Freedom to not need to change who I was. The freedom to be authentic, and transparent in relationship. The freedom to be wholly me; and thus the very experience of the Holy. I was no longer this victim that things happened to, but had regained the power to change my life and forgiveness was my superpower.
So what did I learn about forgiveness from this experience in my life?
Well, the first insight was simply how powerful it was for me, and therefore how powerful it is for anyone, period.
From this first experience however, I learned that forgiveness was not merely about letting the other person off the hook. Nor was it about payback, revenge or justice. But it was about love, and it required a new level of love from me to do it. I had to love myself harder than I had ever done before, to see clearly that not forgiving was only hurting me, and that if I cared for myself and wanted a happy life, the path I had to take was clear.
I also had to accept that I indeed loved and wanted a relationship with my father, and that despite everything that I felt, underneath the hurt, he was still my father and I loved him dearly. This last kind of recognition is where the bravery lies. It was the hardest thing to do to accept that I still loved him, even though I hated him at the same time. To accept that you still love and want to be loved, despite how hurt you are, is perhaps the hardest thing about forgiveness. However, it is also wherein lies all of its beauty and sacredness.
For it is in truly forgiving, that the recognition, acceptance and honouring of your essential and irreducible nature as pure Love, experienced in the form of our desire to love and be loved, is forced upon us.
“How can I love even though I hate?”
“How can I accept, even though I don’t accept?”
“How can I care even though I don’t care? … asks the mind, and only silence ever answers these questions for they have no answer.
But the heart, in its Nondual, and non-divisive intelligence, knows that silence is, in fact, all one needs for the paradoxical act of accepting the unacceptable and for forgiveness to occur. When the “no but, I can’t, I am right, they are wrong” noise of the mind stops, and silence’s holy presence shines purely, the whole truth is witnessed, embraced and healed. This whole truth being that I can in fact and want to love even though I also hate, simply because I do. There is no ‘because’ - I just do. It is simply what is, that I experience both. It is for this reason that only a mind free of its dualistic and divisive tendency is capable of forgiveness that truly heals and transforms.
The little you, from your limited egoic reference point, cannot take it all in until the ego - the ‘you’ that exists only in thought as a concept - is surrendered, seen to be non-existent or momentarily forgotten such that the light of pure consciousness, or God’s infinite being - the knowledge ‘I am’ - shines unfiltered by the limitations imposed by the mind’s belief in a conceptual self. As this happens, the One and Only Nondual Self ceases to be veiled, or rather, overlooked and it shines on all experience healing all pain and suffering in sight.
This has been the story of my first ever real experience of forgiveness, of which there are three in my life. I will share the other two times in my life in the following parts of this series on forgiveness, so stay tuned for Part 2 where we will contemplate forgiveness of oneself.
In the meantime, do you have someone you want to, need to or must forgive? Take some time to reflect. Let us know in the comments below!
I hope my reflections about forgiving another have been insightful and may inspire action of some kind.
Thank you for reading.
Subscribe at the bottom of the page!