Forgiveness is like most important things in life (flossing, eating your veggies, or getting on your yoga mat every day) they are always good but rarely easy . We all know the benefits of forgiveness. Blogs, forums, and articles that talk about forgiveness usually just conclude by telling us to forgive because it’s good for us. Easy enough right? Wrong. I think that for forgiveness to truly be effective one must accept forgiveness as a journey, or a process similar to the grieving process, and be able to allow themselves the time needed to forgive. Also, it’s crucial to be open to the idea that you might actually have to open your heart in order to forgive.
Disclaimer: Life has been pretty good to me up to this point. That being said, my realm of experience for hurt and subsequent forgiveness is limited- but regardless, I believe everyone has been hurt by someone they never thought would hurt them and has consequently had to pick up the pieces. So, whatever that looks like for you, I hope a part of you can relate to this blog. ❤️
When it comes to forgiveness I’ve realized that you won’t always get an apology. And even if you do, in this day and age of texting, tweeting, and random hook ups it’s rare that apologies are sincere. The best advice I can give in relation to apologies is, “I’m sorry” is a statement and requires no response but someone actually asking for forgiveness is an entirely different thing. Life is too short to respond to hollow “I’m sorry”s. You can forgive a toxic person without letting them back into your life or fueling any kind of negative fire. Because really it’s irrelevant whether the person apologizes or not. Forgiveness should happen either way and in its own time.
The act of forgiving itself (apology or no apology) is difficult, because it requires accepting someone’s true nature. This means that not only do we have to accept that this person hurt us but we also have to let go of the idea we had of this person in our minds. Perhaps we always thought of them as someone who would always fight to protect us, and then they did the opposite. They said hurtful words or even abandoned us and broke promises. Realizing that you saw someone as better than they actually are is the curse of being a “fixer”. I’m a fixer and I know other fixers too. You find someone and fall in love with them, or become friends with them, or you even go into the helping professions because you consider yourself messed up up so as soon as you see someone else who is messed up you want to help them. I talked about this with a wonderful yogi friend of mine while on our retreat to Boulder (more on this adventure coming soon). It’s amazing how many people are going through, or have gone through, something similar and opening up about it can be truly liberating.
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all kind of messed up and we’re all kind of trying to fix each other and I’ve never related more to the Kurt Cobain quote when he wrote, “There’s good in all of us. I think I simply love too much that it makes me feel too f*cking sad.”… Loving a lot takes a lot out of a person and I think that’s why we’re so quick to try to stop ourselves from loving.
I spent months with a closed heart chakra (shout out to yoga teacher training for all of the ways it’s taught me about myself)- in essence I wasn’t allowing energy (good, bad, or indifferent) to flow through my heart, causing blockages and all kinds of other emotional and even physical problems. This is a completely natural defense mechanism. But for me, it led to all sorts of destructive behavior and bad decisions. A lot of it came from a place of hurt and insecurity which slowly turned into anger.
When someone hurts us or leaves us we have to go through a grieving processes and when we share this process with those around us, who love us, they often display anger towards the person that caused someone they love so much pain. Because of this I felt like I should be angry too. And that’s just not me. I was sad for a long time before I got angry. I stopped practicing yoga and felt the spiritual and physical effects of closing my heart. Months later the anger subsided and I found my way back to yoga. I also got slapped in the face by the scene in Eat Pray Love in which the main character says something akin to the fact that she loved her ex boyfriend even though she knew they were bad for each other and she still misses him. Her newly acquired friend says, “So what? Miss him. Send him some light and love every time you think of him then let it go.” This is powerful. Missing someone, or even missing the way things use to be is all part of the process. Then comes the light and love. Then the letting go.
Although I wasn’t angry anymore I still didn’t feel as though I had managed to let go and I had certainly failed miserably at the art of forgiving. Then one day during a shavasana after a particularly grueling practice I slipped into a deep meditative state (something I actually never thought would happen to me because that meditation stuff is all malarky 😉 ) and something came to me. I had been focusing for a long time on the idea of letting go and then suddenly during my final rest after practice it came to me as clearly as if someone next to me had whispered in my ear… “Just love” is all it said. Bam. There it is. In order to let go we have to love. We have to send light and love to the person or experience every time we think about it and THEN we can let go.
Being someone that gets easily attached (like an emotional sloth or something) I’d spent all of this time trying to stop loving. Perhaps it’s true that when we go though a romantic break up, or even a friendship break up, that we have to learn to stop loving that person the same way we use to, and to stop being attached to them. Like Kurt Cobain said (among thousands of other wise things) loving can make us f*cking sad. But that does not mean that we stop loving completely. And sometimes we have to realize that being one of those people who “loves too much” isn’t easy. But when we close off our hearts to romantic love, for example, we’re really closing our hearts to any and all kinds of love. You have to reopen your heart, breathe through the hurt, and experience it. Easier said than done but breathing though it is a heck of a lot better than numbing it. Anything you numb you’ll have to face the effects of eventually. In the case of an ex boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse or lover or whatever this doesn’t mean that you continue to love them like you want to marry them or grow old with them or have their babies or anything. You begin to love them as you love the person who cuts you off in traffic or who you pass walking on the street or the person you share an elevator with. As another human who is not separate from you but, in fact, sharing this cosmic experience with you and all other humans and living beings.
I think this idea still continues to hit me, sometimes harder than others. When my yogi friend and I shared experiences about being “fixers” and trying to forgive we realized that we shared a very similar experience. It wasn’t until days later that I realized how sad that was. So sad that both of us had experienced a similar hurt and that people are being hurt and hurting others like this all over the world, everyday, every hour. And that’s heartbreaking. In response to realizations like this it’s easy to get sad, hurt, or angry. It is not as easy, but infinitely better, to just forgive. To just love.
I think, for me, looking at forgiveness as a journey has empowered me to see all the good in that journey as well. All the hurt you have to go through to forgive someone can lead you on a pretty amazing spiritual and emotional path. Eric Church is modern country music’s saving grace, in my opinion, and on his new album Mr. Misunderstood he has a track entitled Record Year. The song is about a breakup that he didn’t see coming, that lead him to sit alone with his vinyl records and alcohol. Sounds like a pretty run of the mill country song at this point and also something that most of us can relate to on some level. But there are a few lyrics in it that have spoken to my journey of forgiving in a way that nothing else ever could. He basically refers to his time spent getting over this person as a “record year” both in the sense that he’s spending all year listening to music but also in that this year contained record ups and downs for him as a person. At one point he talks about all of the songs and artists he rediscovered because she left him and says “if you find your way back I owe you a beer, for my record year.” Not necessarily implying that he ever wants to be with her again but that he would, if given the chance, thank her for everything she put him through that led him to having a record year. And that lyric right there is how I have come to look at forgiveness… Learn to let go of what was, and enjoy what comes out of being hurt, the inner journey and moments of self discovery.
But most importantly learn to love the person that hurt you. Not enough to run back to them or give them any more of your time just enough that if you ever saw them again, in this life or another, that you would figuratively or literally, be able to buy them a beer.