I did a search of my blog today, using the word “forgiveness” as my word, to see if I had written about it before. Five blogs came up, from the last 9 or so years, that had the word “forgiveness” in the title. It is something that has been on my mind quite frequently over the last three years or so in particular. And, the beauty of it is that my understanding of what forgiveness really is keeps evolving and changing for me.
I have defined forgiveness as release, acceptance, as letting go of judgment of others. And, all of that remains true. However, as I sat quietly this morning and did some reading, I realized that I have a new, higher level of understanding of what forgiveness means for me.
For me, true forgiveness means two main things. First of all, it means that I forgive you for not being who I think you are, or want you to be. Ultimately, as human beings, we are all unknowable. No matter what I think that I know about my wife, my son, my friends or my coworkers, all that I “know” about them is just a story. It is both a story that they tell me about themselves, and/or a story that I tell myself about them, based on my assumptions and beliefs. So to practice true forgiveness, it seems, I have to begin by forgiving you for not being who I think that you are or should be. If I am able to do that, then that means that I won’t take anything that you say or do personally, and I can more easily accept who you are, just as you are.
It seems that the second component of true forgiveness is forgiving myself. I get to forgive myself for having expectations, judgments and stories about the people in my world. And, I also get to forgive myself, for having expectations, judgments and stories about myself. Indeed, it I don’t forgive myself each time, I will feel even more prone to judging or having expectations of others. That is because I will have full faith and belief in the story about that person or myself, so more likely to judge accordingly. When I start from a place of forgiveness, it helps to let go of my expectations more quickly.
The other important aspect of true forgiveness, for me, is that it is gentle in its nature. When I judge another person, or myself, it only creates more damage, both in myself and the Universe, if I criticize or belittle myself for the stories that I have. When I bestow forgiveness on myself and others, I can do so with no residue, so that it can feel clean, clear and loving. I deserve that, as do the people that I encounter in the world.
Forgiveness is not just about setting others free from my judgments. When I forgive, I set myself completely free as well.