You know that phrase that you hear once and it shoots like a fire-tipped arrow to your heart. And you can feel the Truth in it, like a heart-fire. That’s how I felt when I read Jerry Jampolsky’s line, “Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.”
Jampolsky is the author of book I haven’t read, Love is Letting go of Fear. Another line with that burning core of Truth to it. It wasn’t as if I completely understood it – the forgiveness quote. It was the fact that I knew I didn’t understand it, not viscerally anyway, and that heartburn effect that kept it out there circulating like a Truth boomerang. Until….one fine day. Plop. It landed, right at my feet. And I knew exactly what he meant.
I knew, because I had done the work. I had forgiven. And it was so different to what I thought forgiveness meant. I’d been carrying this idea around about forgiveness, that it was something you achieved when you had reached a certain peace with a person and what you felt they had done to you. Forgiveness was something bestowed upon high. You had to be this side of a saint to fully enact it. Forgiveness was, in short, was what people did who were better than me. But it was only when I had forgiven the people in my life that had hurt me, that I realized, forgiveness is not a thing, it’s a verb, it is the step you take TOWARDS THAT PEACE in all your weakness, uncertainty and pain.
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past.” There is no mention of the ‘other’ in this phrase. And that is really key. Because forgiveness has far less to do with your relationship with that person, than your relationship with the entire nexus of events that that person became part of. Forgiveness, I discovered, wasn’t just giving up all hope for a better past. It was, in many ways, giving up the past itself. Because so many things could have been better. Sure, the person who caused you pain could have been better. But so could have you. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t situations, my own included, where there was possibly nothing that you could have done to have made it better. Except one thing. You got wounded. This isn’t about blaming the victim. This is accepting that part of that hope for a better past, was the hope that you could have been less wounded.
This is not about judgement. Quite the opposite. It is about accepting the past as the past. Accepting others as the immensely damaged traumatized and clumsy souls they are. And accepting yourself as the same.
It is nice, so nice. when your friends say things like ‘how could they have done that to you’ and ‘I’m so sorry you went through that.’ That’s what friends do.
But we, as they, must face something deeper. That no matter how wronged we have been, no matter how unkind or unprovoked the slings and arrows, no matter how designed to inflict the most damage (and the closest to us know perfectly well how to do that) that it all arose from such a morass of events and circumstances that we could never truly know their cause.
Forgiveness then, is accepting this ignorance. It is accepting the wounds that you felt. It is accepting the It is accepting the pain of it all. It is, when all is done, not especially personal. And this is the secret to all peace.
I’m not trying to pretty things up here. I’m not talking about when someone says something offhand a little drunk or whatever, and they apologize, or at least accept they might have been drunk, and you ‘forgive’ them. I’m talking about when someone says pretty much the shittiest thing anyone could say in that moment and never apologizes for it or accepts that it was mean. THAT’S the only forgiveness that really counts. The rest can be simply filed under ‘being a grown up’.
Forgiveness of the awful is a full-body nod to the SHADOW. In us all.
Yeah. I’m talking about THAT thing. That comment or text that arrives as if calculated in a thousand karmic laboratories to land with the most lethal impact on your little fantasy island. To blow its innocence to bits. Forgiveness is not condoning this behaviour. It’s not even accepting this behaviour. Forgiveness is ACCEPTINGTHAT IT HAPPENED. You don’t need to have all the answers to all tyour questions to move on. Forgiveness is true POWER. It sets you free in truest sense. Because it makes you available to the present.
What many call ‘closure’ is a trap. Closure can be a scoreboard. A way to try to feel that you ‘won’. Real closure – is when the past no longer has the power to determine who you are. FORGIVENESS IS PURIFICATION. How do you know when you have truly forgiven? I believe it is when you can re-run the wounding event in your mind and you no longer feel the pain.
There is a deep awe to the experience of true forgiveness. A sense of wonder at the ties that bind us all. Forgiveness requires taking a knee to the forces beyond your tiny fishbowl view.
Forgiveness is almost always not what we think it is. Because when we truly forgive. We feel a peace deep down about it all. We no longer replay those classic drama scenes like some half-mad editor. We no longer pine for a better past.
In a world where the it often seems that the most cynical wins, forgiveness is an honour that we deprive ourselves of by holding onto grievances. It lights us up from the inside, and so lights up the world.
It takes work. It takes time. It takes pain. But it is – achievable. And when you have it, you know it. There’s no question. Will you ever talk to that person again? Maybe. Maybe not. In the sphere of forgiveness it doesn’t much matter. Because forgiveness is – at the end of the day- how you feel. And when you truly feel free, my friend. You are.