What you judge, you’re attached to.
What you’re attached to, limits you.
To release yourself from the limitations of attachments, release judgments.
In other words: forgive.
Forgiveness is close to my heart because last March I forgave something very big, and the results have astonished me: I feel freer than I ever have in my life.
So, I want to talk about it. Not because forgiveness is good. But because it frees you.
Why I Was Reluctant to Forgive
Forgiveness sounded like a fine thing, but I had good reasons for not pursuing it.
I thought an apology needed to come first. I wanted those involved to acknowledge the harm done to me, take responsibility, affirm my blamelessness, apologize sincerely, and be punished in some way.
I asked for these things, but they protested their innocence. I was never going to get what I wanted from them.
People rarely do. Freedom, I learned, can never be contingent on what other people do for you.
I confused forgiving with condoning. I thought that to condone was to say that the thing that happened to me wasn’t that wrong. I could not do that – especially in the absence of an apology.
However, there are meaningful differences between forgiving and condoning.
First, condoning concerns a wrong that is happening now. If I condone something, I allow the harm to continue in the present.
Forgiveness, though, deals with harm that is in the past. It’s over – except as it continues to exist in my thinking. To forgive is to end the harm my memories do to me.
Second, condoning overlooks a wrong, but forgiveness requires that you look closely at it. What really happened? What do you see if you take the perspective of the person who hurt you? What was your role?
These are sensitive questions! They are best posed to oneself, with compassion and curiosity. (Aggressive questioning could do more harm than good).
Feeling angry felt better than feeling sad. To be hurt is to feel vulnerable, and I had had enough of that!
Anger felt so much better – more powerful – than to be hurt, so I clung to it. It was my armor.
It was also heavy. After many years of wearing that armor, I was tired and ready to set it down.
I said to myself, “It’s okay to be sad.” Such a simple, light touch! But I burst into tears and let myself sob. Allowing the sadness ushered in a wave of compassion for my broken heart, and then I felt something: a shift, something lift off my shoulders. I was so surprised, I abruptly stopped crying, and then I sighed.
Then was I soft enough to begin to forgive.
Slowly, then All at Once
It was a process. The first step was to see the one who hurt me as a whole person: the star of his own story, and I was a supporting actor.
This perspective shift cracked open the story and let light in. Bad guys aren’t complicated, but whole persons are.
Including me. I became willing to look at my own role in the harm.
This – looking at one’s own role – is part of The Work of Byron Katie.
The Work is a meditation in which you investigate the thinking that causes your suffering. As soon as I discovered it twelve years ago, during Life Coach Training, I knew it was the thing that could help me finally to forgive – no more conditions or reservations! I could at last be free!
It only took 12 years.
Not every day for 12 years! Rather, I did The Work on my judgments whenever they troubled me. It was like untying small knots and loosening big ones. I worked at the knots until I felt better – freer – and then I’d set it aside.
One day last March, something triggered me – I was in full fight or flight and had no idea why.
So, I went back to The Work. The judgments came fast and furious – she shouldn’t. . . I need her to. . . I don’t ever want. . . he shouldn’t have. I captured them all on paper until I felt empty, calm.
I met the judgments one at a time, with curiosity:
– Is it true?
– Can I know absolutely it’s true?
– How do I react when I believe it?
– Who would I be without the thought?
And then I turned each one around:
– To the opposite
– To the self. How have I done this thing to myself?
– To the other. How have I done this thing to the other person?
All at once – finally – I broke through. I burst into tears (again), and the suffering – the blame, the shame, the desire for anything to be different – left me.
All I felt, all I still feel, is gratitude and love.
Do You Love It Yet?
If I can do it, anyone can.
But no one has to. You’re not better if you do and worse if you don’t. You’re more or less free.
You also don’t have to settle for a little bit of forgiveness. Total freedom is possible. Byron Katie, the originator of The Work, says, “Do you love it yet?”
I can honestly say that I do. I’m free.