More On Forgiveness…

A friend who read my post on forgiveness raised a few questions about the process of forgiving. Specifically, when you feel someone whom you considered a friend has betrayed you, how do you forgive them and move on with the friendship? Especially if the so-called friend doesn’t even acknowledge that they hurt you.

Let me just clarify that the act of forgiveness, as I see it, is quite a stand-alone process. It doesn’t make the behaviour that was exhibited acceptable or okay. Nor does it have any bearing on what happens to the relationship you have with the person you are forgiving.

When you forgive, you are not saying “I’m okay with what happened to me and I will go back to being treated that way by that person”. Quite the opposite.

You forgive so that the pain and anger within you is released. But you acknowledge that what happened was hurtful and distressing and unacceptable. In some instances it’s an opportunity to promise yourself you will never let yourself be put in that situation again (which is what I did when I forgave the boss who bullied me).

There is no obligation to resume any kind of relationship with the person you are forgiving: that’s totally up to you and it’s only dependent on whether you want the person to be in your life. Similarly, you don’t need to confront the person who has hurt you to tell them what you have gone through because of them and what pain they caused you.

When we’re hurt we often have a little vindication fantasy where we confront the person who has hurt us and they confess their guilt, acknowledge our pain, and apologise. The danger is that despite how you’ve played the scenario out in your head, the person may not react at all like you expect and you may feel doubly hurt as a result.

Often it’s helpful to understand why the person who hurt us behaved as they did. What was their motivation? Did they realise they were hurting us?

You don’t actually need to understand the behaviour, though, to forgive the person exhibiting it. Nor does understanding it make it okay and acceptable. What understanding will help with is working through the issues with the person if you choose to keep them in your life.

Forgiveness is about you. It’s not about the other person. You can forgive, and move on. Whether you choose to keep the person in your life and how you go about achieving that, is a totally different matter. Importantly though, it is a choice.

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Oh, To See the Sea

I’m not quite sure when my love affair with the beach and the sea began. What I can tell you is that going to the beach and seeing the sea has become synonymous in my life with meditation. It is calming. Centring. Perhaps because the sea connects us all, it helps me feel tuned into the broader picture, connected with far away places, with my fellow man, with the planet.

small waves crashing onto sand

The pull is so magnetic, so powerful, so magical, that I get a sense of excitement when I merely glimpse the sea, whether behind hills, through trees or gaps between houses, as I’m driving along the coast. Just one look and my heart skips a beat, my breath catches and I swoon.

boardwalk leading to the sea

It isn’t the sea on its own that attracts me. Several years ago I went on a cruise with some friends and I found it rather frightening being out in the middle of deep blue rolling waters that seemed more like a giant bowl of choppy dark blue jelly than the sea I’m familiar with. I felt as if the water was ready to swallow us up at any moment.

No, it’s seeing the sea from the comfort of land that does it for me. And it’s where the land meets the sea that I am most enthralled.

sand, sea and sky at dusk

I have friends who I know feel the same, and recently when I was in Greece I discovered that one of my cousins felt exactly the same way too. “Look,” she said, as the sea came into view when we were driving to the coast, “Doesn’t it make your heart sing?”

A few years ago I read a beautiful piece by Jason Newman called “I Like The Waves” that immediately resonated with me. First published in The Big Issue, it beautifully and eloquently sums up how I feel about the sea. Jason has kindly given his permission for it to be reprinted here:

I Like The Waves

Standing on the beach staring intently at the horizon. I like the way the ocean moves, pulsates, alive. Always moving and changing and yet seemingly still. I like the view of the water, makes me think of eternity.

Can there be nothingness? Where is the edge of everything?

I like how the waves keep moving.

It makes me feel free and at peace. Yet at the same time inspires within me an awesome feeling of how did we get here?

I like the way the ocean and the waves are like the moods of my life. Sometimes clear, calm and peaceful. Other times stormy, agitated and filled with fear.

I like how the waves, the ocean, the sound and smell can make me feel peaceful once again. Away from the chaos and drama of day to day life.

I like how the ocean and the sky meet and blend into one. I like the shoreline where the tides rise and fall. A forever changing zone or no man’s land, torn between two worlds.

by Jason Newman

tide washing over sand and shells and stones with weathered poles in background

I have a memory of being at the beach with my family and friends when I was around five years old and being extremely happy. I’m pretty sure it’s a memory manufactured from photos of the day in question, but that doesn’t make it any less reliable or strong. In the photos I’m frolicking in the waves, lying in the shallows with the waves tickling my toes; giggling, smiling, laughing.

Perhaps that day was when it all started. When I was charmed by the beach and fell in love with the sea.

child in water at the beach

To Forgive, Divine

Last year I learnt how to forgive. You might think that at 42 years of age forgiveness was something I probably should have already mastered but I’m not talking about schoolyard forgiveness. I’m talking about learning how to forgive the big things. The things that really hurt us.

I’d always thought forgiveness was over-rated. “I don’t forgive and I don’t forget” used to be my mantra. I didn’t understand how people who had suffered terrible pain or loss at someone else’s hands could forgive that person. Understand why they had committed the crime or injustice, sure. But forgive them? How could you do that? And why would you want to?

The thing is, Izebelle, the woman who taught me how to forgive, made a very compelling argument. She explained that when someone does something to upset you, you need to thank that person because they have helped you identify something in you, some wound, that you need to heal.

You need to do this so you can release the anger or upset within you in order to find balance again. We are all flawed; none of us are perfect. Forgiveness, Izebelle said, is about not taking on board the negative emotions – fear, jealousy, rage, evil and so on – of the other person. These things manifest in you as anger and bitterness, but left unresolved can lead to stress and even serious illness.

No one had ever explained it to me like that before. What she said immediately resonated as I recognised a lot of the anger and bitterness I felt was caused by unresolved issues from the past. People that had hurt me and that I could not forgive. Things that I had done that I could not forgive myself for. Things I could not let go of.

I’d also had a lot of personal experience with stress causing illness, including serious illness, and a lot of secondhand evidence, too, from within my family. Suddenly it all made sense to me: I could see why forgiving people would be a good thing to do. As my friend Joanna, who works in healing and wellbeing, put it when I shared my revelation: you don’t forgive them for them; you forgive them for you.

One of the first things I did when I first learnt about forgiveness was to finally forgive a manager that had bullied me ten years before. I had felt an ongoing hatred of this person and had never been able to let go of the pain she’d caused me. Yet now it was actually easy to forgive her as I realised I no longer wanted inside of me that bitterness, hatred, pain and anger. She could take it back, thank you very much. I forgave her and moved on.

Since then I’ve forgiven a number of other people, too, including myself. I realised late last year that if I still feel any anger over an event in my past it is probably a case of unresolved forgiveness. I try to identify the wound that needs healing and once I’ve done that, I thank the person, forgive and let go. “It’s in the past, let it go” is my new mantra.

Whenever it happens, I feel lighter; less burdened. Like I am literally carrying less baggage.

There have been other unexpected benefits, too. I recently met up with a friend in the foyer of the building where he works. It happens to be the same building that I worked in when I was bullied. For a very long time my memories of that workplace were tainted with such distress that I found it too painful to even walk past that building. He brought this up but I told him it was okay, I no longer feel that way.

Suddenly a flood of happy memories from my time in that workplace before I was bullied, things I had forgotten for over a decade, overcame me. I realised that releasing the painful memories had allowed the happy memories to be set free. I felt like I was reclaiming some of the lost fun, happiness and joy in my life.

And it felt divine.

Communicating With the Past

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Yesterday I went on a tour of the Telstra Museum with some old work colleagues of mine. Located in Hawthorn, the museum houses a fascinating array of telecommunications equipment from highly technical back-end equipment to phones of both the novelty … Continue reading