“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.” –Desmond Tutu
We are often told to ‘forgive and forget.’ I don’t believe these two words should ever go together. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting what happened. Whatever happened did happen and we do not have a magic eraser to clean it from our mind. We remember what we did or what someone did to us and forgetting the event simply, does not happen. The work of forgiveness is challenging. There are many layers to it. I often hear people say that they have forgiven themselves or someone else, but if there is still something about the situation that continues to bother us, the work is not complete. I once heard someone say that there were some people who were not safe to walk the streets of her mind. Whenever she thought of ‘that person’ or what they did she would attack them. I love that visual and whether it is someone we are rehashing an argument with or beating ourselves up for something we did, as soon as the thought occurs, our brains go into attack mode.
Forgiveness is something we do to release the anger we are holding. This is for both self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. The Buddha compared holding onto anger, to holding a hot coal with the intent to throw it at someone. The problem is that while you are holding the hot coal you are the one who is getting burned. We need to drop the coal, because we are only hurting ourselves. Releasing the anger does not mean saying that what happened was okay. It does not mean that we condone whatever happened. What it does mean is that we can move forward. We have not yet developed the time machine, so none of us can go back to change the event. We can decide to release the anger over the event though and that is powerful. Choosing to forgive is to accept our own and other’s imperfections. It is to acknowledge that what was said or done was painful, but we don’t need to carry the pain indefinitely. It is a choice to say that we have suffered enough and we are ready to forgive. It is a personal choice that can have a profound effect. Who are you ready to forgive?