One of the themes of today has been forgiveness. Not what it is but how to achieve it. Especially when a lot of time has passed.
Forgiveness is a key virtue in many religions. Some also have rituals to help someone achieve a state of forgiveness. However, I have always found that to forgive can take a lot of inner work as well as a willingness to do that work. Perhaps the things I consider small transgressions are easier to forgive. In myself and others. I used to be particular about timekeeping. Arriving late was unforgivable. And that applied to the other people too. Perhaps even more so as I didn’t like to be kept waiting. Then I learned that sometimes, no matter how early I set off, I got to appointments late. Because it was me could I keep being so unforgiving?
At that point I started to understand that forgiveness is also based on a judgement about extenuating circumstances. In other words, it was ok for me to be late if I had been prevented by things I couldn’t have foreseen. I was allowed to forgive myself. If I could forgive myself I also had to be able to forgive others if they were delayed. It was only fair. But only if they had done their best to get there on time too. Perhaps this was a somewhat selfish application of my power to forgive. However, I found that I became less focused on timekeeping. As an offence it bothered me a lot less that it once had.
My next lesson in forgiveness came because of an old saying ‘I can forgive but I’ll never forget’.
At some point arriving on time, either me or others, became a fluid matter. I seemed to have lost my unforgiving need for punctuality. It was much less stressful to understand that time doesn’t rule my life unless I make it something I focus on. So I started to consider other things that I might need to forgive. Like my impatience with myself. It seemed I always wanted things to be perfect first time round. Although I was learning to forgive myself I didn’t seem to be able to forget that I wasn’t perfect every time. Or even to forget that drive to be perfect. I could excuse myself, tell myself it was ok to be good enough. But every time I started something I remembered.
At times this inability to forget caused me a whole lot of problems. I resisted starting new things or trying new experiences. My comfort zone shrank instead of getting bigger. Forgiveness seemed an empty achievement whilst I was still beating myself up for not being perfect. Of course quite a lot of that had to do with expectations. I noticed that this push for perfection was based quite a lot on what other people expected of me. I really was trying to please all of the people all of the time. Yet that favour wasn’t returned. Other people seemed to be quite happy being less than perfect when I wanted perfection from them. And they were able to forget all the time.
So where did that take me? Could I forgive, forget and do so over and over again?
I’m still working on forgiving some of the big things. The things that hurt me or those close to me. Whether they are what I’ve done or other have done. But it’s hard when forgetting is difficult too. Sorry is never enough. It doesn’t move the feelings on. Forgetting is no easier even if you feel that you have been acknowledged. It’s even harder where you never get that acknowledgement. I like to think of forgiving and forgetting as a process. A spiritual challenge that takes time to be completed.
I also think that it’s ok to be human. To recognise that perhaps there are some things that will never be forgiven or forgotten because they have had a deeper impact. However, there is always the hope of forgiveness. That enough will be resolved within me, and with others, that a state of true forgiveness will happen. That there will be a time when all hurt is really forgotten because the circumstances that created the feelings cease to happen ever again. Now I’m working on more forgiving and forgetting as a way to clear my path for all of the new, exciting things that I’m going to be doing. Time for another expansion of my comfort zone!
Day 424 of my blogging challenge.