Cutting the Chain of Resentment: How forgiveness is setting me free!
When I wrote Real Freedom — The Impact of My Choices, I intentionally omitted the topic of this article because I knew this was next. Real Freedom cannot live without Real Forgiveness. Yeah, even assholes like me need forgiveness. That’s why I started with myself. Nadia Bolz-Weber says it this way. Watch this!
I have learned over my lifetime that what I perceive to be true, often is true — for a while. When I come to a new perception, I come to a new truth and forgiveness for me has been evolving over the last 25 years or so, but even more so in the last few years because of the need to look more closely at myself.
You see, for me, forgiveness of anyone else is inauthentic without starting with the mug I see in the mirror . In fact, in my view, it’s impossible. Beginning outside of numero uno wastes an awful lot of time. It is also potentially exacerbates the resentment by covering it with mounds of crap.
An illustration from my own world serves as a pretty healthy example. After 15 years of marriage to my second wife it finally dawned on me that at the end of the day I was doing my wife no favors. Unfortunately, she payed a very painful price for our relationship. As the trellises of the relationship began to deteriorate and the roses that adorned them began to wither over the years, it was clear that I had learned nothing about being a man in the second phase of my life. History repeated itself and what dawned wasn’t the new day, but a man who didn’t know himself enough to look under the hood of his emotional hot rod.
I treated my second wife the same way I had treated my first because I had forgiven all of my past abusers…every one of them - but me. I was living in my survival mechanism, my victim mode, and every one of my responses to life’s circumstances was based on what had happened to me. My responses to the people around me were predicated on my pain bodies, as Eckhardt Tolle would say. I reacted from positions of my past where I was victimized. I just never came to terms with my position as a survivor. Hey, I said, I survived. I’m a survivor. Well, guess what? All that means is that I’m surviving, not living!’ And in the process of not forgiving myself I damaged those around me through using my survival mechanism, which was to lash out, to fight when I felt threatened and to fend off any further anticipated abuse by striking first. My lack of forgiving myself caused an entire field of resentment to precede me and that state of un-forgiveness took its toll.
What unlocks the door to the heart? In my opinion it is an awareness coupled with a decision. The awareness came from years of work on my inner child; going back to the torturous events of my past, armed with the courage to face as an adult what I was unable to face as a child. The events as seen through my adults eyes were not that challenging, but they were daunting as a kid. Being teased by my older brothers, neglected by my mother and abandoned by my father. They left deep scars for which I was able to forgive each of the perpetrators…except for myself. I thought that was how life was and I re-enacted them in my own life. The decision was simple — face them again with a different set of eyes.
There is a bridge between here and there, between knowing and not knowing, between victim-hood and living a life in freedom and that bridge is forgiveness. There are so many forms in which we can approach the concept of forgiveness, but none more impactful as compassionately acquitting ones self. When I came to the awareness that I was intentionally carrying the guilt of my past around with me and using it as the basis for my emotional survival mechanism, I recognized I had a choice. I could stay in the place I had always been OR, I could change.
It’s what’s inside that counts and it’s natural to uncover it. I never would have known what was inside me if I hadn’t attended 4 years of training to find out. There was some intense self-examination. What I learned is that revealing the true nature of me is a lifelong process and every moment and every circumstance is important in my discovery. After forgiveness of self comes another of working out the me that has been hidden all these years by un-forgiveness. Yes, what I resisted, persisted. Now, I know, is the time to begin taking responsibility for my vision of who I am and how I show up in this world. There will never be another time. My time is now. It takes work and being vulnerable in this very moment is the most difficult part for me, as I suppose it is for many others.
Being aware that there was a true self, after forgiving myself for trying so long to be something I wasn’t, required a courage that only a commitment to vulnerability could allow. And I could not have gotten here by myself.
There is so much more to say, but for now, I will abide in the contentment that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am knowing that I live from a place of vision and mission. I am grateful for every experience that I have ever had, good, bad or indifferent, because each one of those experiences brought me to a place of possibility, a place of saying to myself; from here on out, I DECIDE how I respond to my circumstances, not my survivor. I DECIDE, to live the balance of my life in a place of possibility and I am willing to continually stay in the question of and determination of Who AM I and Who I AM?
To all of those whom I have hurt I ask forgiveness. To those who have hurt me and to myself I say…you are forgiven. I cut the chain of resentment. I AM Free!