Saturday, May 23, 2009

Unconditional Forgiveness

Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past. ~ Jack Kornfield

I have tried unsuccessfully to begin the story of just what has been going on in my mind and heart for quite a while now. I have started, diverged, evaded and given up thinking I could actually tell my story and leave in anonymity the characters so much a part of that story. Some of my readers have known much of the story. Others who frequent my blog have probably guessed some parts of it as periodic articles hinted at issues upon which my attention focused. It is the larger story of the love, hurt, hypocrisy, deceit and lies that finally led to the disintegration of a family. Finally, it is a story about forgiveness.

This is not an article about forgiveness accomplished. It is about the effort, the desire, and the absolute requirement to achieve full atonement so life can go on. The only person to have never made a mistake does not live on this planet. I have made so many mistakes that I am sometimes surprised I am still able to believe I can find yet another opportunity to see and set things right in situations yet unresolved.

Everyone makes poor choices in words or deeds before they know any better and before they realize what the consequences will be. There is nothing on this planet or in this universe that is outside the bounds of forgiveness . . . I said nothing that a human may have done, is doing, or might do, is outside the bounds of forgiveness. Nothing.1
You may want to read that paragraph again. I have read it numerous times and ask the same questions you probably are: “But what this person did is so heinous, how can you expect me to forgive?” We typically think that there are just some things unworthy of the effort to forgive. We can name names and events and conditions, all justifiably worthy of our contempt and lack of forgiveness, in our mind. We have been hurt, disparaged, humiliated and abused in some way. But the truth of our lives is that we have no choice. Without forgiveness, total and unconditional, we cannot move on in life. Failing to forgive brings the persons, events and conditions ever forward in our lives, harassing us and impeding our growth. Our physical and emotional energy is depleted by our constant attention to the open wound. Ultimately, failing to forgive will literally take our life from us.

Yes, there is real pain when relationships fall apart due to actions that seem purposely designed to stab us in the heart. Forgiveness is mostly concerned with problems in our relationships with others. It is here we make ourselves vulnerable because we trust another and we invite them into our innermost thoughts and feelings. When there is a misunderstanding, anger, frustration and disappointments arise and we are devastated. When trust is broken all we want to do is get far away from the person, event or condition. We try, but it does not work.

We are told to “forgive and forget,” but I think we all know that does not work either. When forgiveness is expressed there is no need to forget. The cycle is complete when forgiveness is offered and we can learn from how that cycle of events developed. To simply forget might include escaping the lesson to be learned from the situation that caused us hurt. When we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat that history with new faces and new places. It might save us a great deal of time and effort if we can begin the healing process right where we are by taking specific actions of forgiveness. It is difficult, but no one ever said life was easy. The difficult lessons impress us more deeply oftentimes so we learn them more completely.

In my family there has been a terrible disintegration between the various members. Unpleasant words and actions resulted in tense and uncomfortable conditions. Love appeared lost and separation occurred. My heart has been broken by the conditions that brought about the destruction of trust and caring for one another. When one member disparages another to yet another member of the family, a betrayal takes place. When that happens a great deal of effort is required to return to the truth. I wish I could tell you that I have been able to forgive without conditions, but I have not. I have told myself that I had done what I needed to do, but if that were the case the healing would have a different look. I would feel comfortable about my family members. Some situations have been resolved and love is again rebuilding. It is wonderful when that occurs! Other situations remain open awaiting my ability to see more clearly the path I must walk to that place where forgiveness is fully functional in all parties, but mainly in me, and resolution is achieved in whatever way that comes forth.

Sometimes resolution does not mean returning to the way things were, in fact, I don’t think it ever works out that way. Breakdowns occur and reconstruction may be started on the basic foundation of a relationship, but the product will be different with new materials/attitudes and new ways of communicating, caring and loving. With that belief in mind, I continue to place myself and my family—son, daughter and grandchildren—in the Presence of All Embracing Love. I trust that healing can and will take place for all.

1 Women Who Run With the Wolves. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD, page 377


Inspector Clouseau said...


A couple of things:

Over the past couple of weeks, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, has become one of my all-time favorite people. The manner in which she has articulated her position warrants close scrutiny. It is a reasonable and functional approach to dealing with disappointment.

Second, I am sure that you are familiar with the Serenity Prayer. It's always served me well.

Best wishes.

Dan Perin said...

I have followed Elizabeth Edwards response to disappointment as well and she sets a high mark! I am also familiar with the serenity prayer and have used it often.
Thanks for your comment!

Elaine said...

Forgiveness isn't easy actually. I just started learning and trying to discover the goodness from the one who ever let me down. I would rather believe that the person wasn't intended to hurt the other. I felt better when starting to think the whole story in that way.
Much thanks for your sharing.

Dan Perin said...

I agree with you, Elaine, that it is best to believe the other person did not intend to hurt us. This attitude is more likely to make it easier for us to forgive and to eventually resolve the issue. There are those, however, who DO intend to hurt others for whatever reasons they may feel are justified. They are more difficult to forgive, but we must decide to do it anyway.