Forgiveness can be hard to access and hard to define. It is sometimes portrayed as an intention that is easily realized and has the effect of a magic wand, leaving only sunshine and even erasing the effects of years of misbehavior. For me right now, I think of it as an ability to find peace around a certain person or situation. In my experience, forgiveness has been a circuitous path.
There was a person in my life that I tried to forgive for many years. No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t forgive this individual. I read books by different spiritual authors and tried to put their philosophies into action, but nothing worked. I just couldn’t let go of the resentments that I had towards this person, not to mention the guilt (around not being able to forgive).
A few months ago, this thorny issue arose again for me. This time, I tuned into higher wisdom, and I received a new insight. I realized that I was holding onto the resentment as a way to stay connected. I was honestly surprised. I hadn’t even realized that I had any desire to be connected to this person. Certainly, holding onto resentment is not an ideal way to be connected, but since there was no other way that seemed plausible, I was clinging to it.
Even with this realization, forgiveness seemed out of reach. I tuned into my inner self and my Divine Source again, asking how I could forgive, and I was guided to something a little easier. The words that came to me were “let go”. Don’t try to forgive, just let go. Stop expecting something different from this person. Accept the way that they are and don’t expect them to change.
Thinking of my process as letting go rather than forgiving opened the door for me to find more peace. On the way, I found myself managing another turn in the road, which was grief. The acceptance of this person and situation necessitated that I relinquish false hope and face the sad truth of their unwillingness to act differently.
Forgiveness as a syrupy sweet act was not real or attainable for me. Instead, the simple message of “let go” led me to the gritty work of accepting reality, not expecting different behavior, and grief for what was and what would never be. That was attainable.
As I shifted to more and more acceptance and more of a realization that holding onto resentment was not serving me, I began to experience increasing emotional distance and peace. Though I have come a long way, my journey is not complete. But my willingness to see clearly and tend to what arises within me is growing my peace over time.
Beginning with letting go is just one way that we can approach forgiveness. It is not always the best or right way. Our individuality dictates that each of us will have a unique path, depending on countless factors, such as our own needs and tendencies and the particular situation. What I really appreciate and value is the ability (that we all have) to tune into a higher source of wisdom to guide us on our path.
In my own journey of tuning into the Divine source, and in working with others, I have witnessed that the brilliant gems of guidance that come forth are perfectly aligned with each person’s unique needs at that moment. It's not the waving of a magic wand, but it feels pretty magical to me. And more importantly, it works. These gems lead us on a path to real change.
PATRICE SPITZ, C.S.C.
ThetaHealer, Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor