“We tend to think of the rational as a higher order, but it is the emotional that marks our lives. One often learns more from ten days of agony than from ten years of contentment.” –Merle Shain, Canadian journalist and author, 1935-1989
Forgiveness is the highest form of virtue. It requires a strong and open heart. It challenges faith, trust, and understanding. It demands a willingness to let go of judgment. It moves us into compassion and elevates our consciousness. It fashions a deeper awareness of ourselves and others. Its gift is a more peaceful and fruitful life lived here on Mother Earth.
Forgiving someone a deep hurt is one of the most difficult challenges I have had to face.
As a small child, I was abused and often overlooked in favor of my younger sister. I was an afterthought. Because children have embryonic coping mechanisms, this neglectful behavior by the adults in my life carved a deep hole in my psyche. Desperate to be recognized, I became an overachiever and a slave to codependence. The imperatives of service and recognition fueled my desperation to a point where it imploded. I fragmented, and many took advantage. I was a walking, breathing wound.
In my teenage years, salt was added to that wound by those who mistook my need to help for egoism. Fortunately, I have a strong will and was able to rebut such claims. Unfortunately, this got me nowhere. I was labeled stubborn, angry, selfish, and a know-it-all. I would be the first to volunteer and the last to be selected. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get people to see me.
These labels followed me into early adulthood. Every time my eagerness to serve was mistaken for arrogance or selfishness, I either lashed out or fell into despair. My life had become one of emotional extremes – a roller coaster ride of peaks and valleys, racing fast to stand still.
All of this began to change when, at age thirty-three, I apprenticed to a medicine woman. She was as brutal in pointing out my weaknesses as she was compassionate in acknowledging my strengths. She forced me to dive deep and breathe while in the grasp of fear. Upon surfacing, I saw that all emotion is self-imposed. I alone am responsible for the choices I make. As my awareness grew, I began to own who I am – a wounded warrior made stronger for having faced that which terrorized me.
A few years into my apprenticeship, an issue I thought I had resolved attacked with a sudden and nauseating potency. Once again, and painfully, I felt overlooked. The hurt cut so deep, I nearly lost my life. I thought I was regressing, but I thought wrong. Issues become lighter as they are resolving. The pieces we have dealt with rise toward the surface. The nearer the surface, the more clearly we see them and the more powerful the impact. As these pieces are released, we might feel we are exploding, much like an erupting boil or volcano.
Naively, or perhaps wishfully, I thought I had finally battled this demon for the last time. Again, I thought wrong. Releasing negative emotion is like peeling away the layers of an onion – we clear different aspects at different times, until we reach the core and identify the source within. Since I have not yet reached the central part of this devastating emotion, it made a return visit, and very recently.
A friend I had become close with unknowingly overlooked me. This time, I was not even an afterthought. The pain struck sudden and hard. I reeled for several days, wondering why this issue still haunted me. When I let go of asking why and instead asked what it was I needed to learn, I received an answer: forgiveness.
I closed my eyes and moved into the hurt. I gasped and caught my breath as the pain ignited and burned my heart. For the first time in my life, I willingly held and comforted that little child so brutally abused and ignored all those years ago. Once her needs were met, a voice spoke to me:
This is an old hurt. You may hold it or let it go. It is an ancient hurt with roots buried in the beginning of time. You may carry it until the new light dawns, or you may release it into the custody of Mother Earth. The choice is yours, and the result will be the same. We have crossed the threshold into awakening.
I had become attached to a pain that my inner child mistook for love. It was time to hold myself in my own arms. It was time to let go. As I did, I discovered that letting go is a process – two steps forward, one step back – the human condition. At times, my mind wants to refute that the pain I continue to feel is of my own making. Yet my heart recognizes this as truth.
“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it.” –Nicholas Sparks, At First Sight
My friend does not know her action triggered this old hurt in me, for it was I who pulled the trigger. So often we want to blame others for our feelings, forgetting we have a choice. If we did not have a choice, we would not have free will. Yet we pride ourselves on free will being a hallmark of the human species.
Owning our feelings does not mean granting license to ourselves or others for the commission of heinous deeds. Emotions are raw and private. They harm or uplift only the being in which they reside. If we act on our emotions in a way that inflicts harm on others, we must be held accountable. We must take responsibility for our actions as well as our thoughts and emotions.
I have forgiven my friend her shortcoming. She has given me the gift of opportunity. The hurt is still acute, but I will not close my heart to her. Although the pain I feel is not of her, it stands in relation to her, so I need to step back a little in order to witness myself more clearly. I am not pulling away. Or am I? Perhaps a little. We cannot see our reflections in the mirror with our noses pressed against it. We cannot survive a fire if we stand too close to the flame.
It is interesting how one person or event taking center stage can actuate a lesson of a lifetime. I observe myself each day as my mind battles my heart, attempting to reconcile the vestiges of a deep pain conceived so long ago. In remaining witness rather than doer or receiver, I am slowly healing the hurt that has controlled my life.
It is both fascinating and excruciating to keep one’s heart open to someone the mind perceives as having inflicted pain. This has enabled me to own my feelings. It has moved me to feel compassion for my friend. It has rewarded me with the ability to forgive us both.
I have learned that divine love is born of wisdom, and forgiveness is born of love. I have learned that if we humans are capable of forgiveness, we are capable of germinating the seed of divine love within us. And most of all, I have learned that the more my mind does not want to forgive, the more my heart must …
Until the next time, my friends . . . Namaste ❤
© Tina Frisco 2017
Written for D.G. Kaye published on August 8, 2017