‘I understand the wounds
That have not healed in you.
Because God and love
Have yet to become real enough
To allow you to forgive the dream.’
- ‘Forgive The Dream’, by Hafiz (from The Gift, Translated by Daniel Ladinsky)
It would seem that I’m being taught a thing or two about forgiveness at the moment. It began a few weeks back when I decided to get in back in contact with a friend I’d lost touch with some months earlier. We’d argued, for the first time in our friendship, and neither of us had spoken since. Despite feelings of sadness, there was a part of me that felt willing to let the friendship fade; I thought perhaps it was a natural ending, a moving on, a closing of a long and happy relationship. But I was forgetting that often things which end acrimoniously usually hold a within them a blessing. Sometimes many. At the time I didn’t see it.
Fortunately another part of me chose to stay open to some kind of reconciliation. My sense was that if I kept my heart open, the space would be held for the friendship to grow again – if it needed to. Almost six months had passed when I had a powerful dream about my friend. So the next day I got in touch by text, to test the waters and let her know I was thinking of her. The communication opened up from there. In a step towards healing the wounds between us, I asked her for her forgiveness. At which point I realised that until that moment I’d been waiting for an apology. And so was she. We’d been in a deadlock of hurt feelings.
But I’d now wandered into unfamiliar territory. What was I doing, asking for forgiveness for something I’d felt to be justified? And was my asking for my friend’s forgiveness merely a smokescreen for the assumption that she’d reciprocate? Was this just my way of getting her to apologise?
A power-struggle was emerging, and I didn’t want what was intended as an olive branch to turn into a rotten old stick. So I took a moment to assume the spiritual warrior stance: to reflect, to look beneath the surface of appearances. I remembered something I’d read about how the best way to diffuse power games in relationships is to serve. I asked myself the question, ‘Is this asking for forgiveness a genuine act of service, or am I looking for something in return?’ Immediately I recognised the part of me that wanted an apology, that was holding on to past hurts and ‘wrongdoings’. I saw just how much it wanted to be right. Then, hiding away behind all that wanting, I saw its deeper wish to be loved. When seen from that perspective, forgiveness comes easy. It became clear that before asking anyone else for their forgiveness, I first had to forgive myself. I had to forgive my ego; its clinging to the past, its need to be right, its simple forgetfulness of the love that I am.
It was my ego, in its quest for one-upmanship, that was asking my friend for forgiveness. It believed that by taking the first step, by asking for her forgiveness when it was her that ‘should’ be apologising, it’d come out on top. What had at first seemed like a simple, altruistic act was suddenly rather complicated. But that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way it seems. We notice a knot in our thinking or intention that blocks the flow of spirit in our lives, and we embark upon the task of unraveling it. Once unraveled we get a glimpse, sometimes more, of that which lays within; the beauty of no-thing. Nothing in need of justification. Nothing to prove. And nothing to forgive.
After some time spent unraveling the complexities of my ego, I emailed my friend anyway, asking for her forgiveness. In doing so I wasn’t asking her to pardon my behaviour or past events; I was asking her to forgive the part of me that had yet to give itself back to God. Except I didn’t say it quite like that, nor did I give an explanation or feel the need to share the process I was going through. I’d forgiven myself, in this moment, and was free to ask her for hers.
Yet despite being dangerous territory, in terms of it’s potential to generate further karmas if dished out from a position of superiority, forgiveness is essential ground to cover if we’re to release ourselves from the shackles of the ego and express our true nature: that of love. So by all means forgive. Forgive everyone and everything, but perhaps ask yourself first: In forgiving someone or something, are you not perpetuating the illusion that this one or thing is outside of yourself? Are you not that very person or event that has come into your life to reveal your pain? In which case, can you welcome the experience, open your heart to the messenger and give thanks for this opportunity to take another step closer to this love that you are?
Forgive yourself, in all your manifestations, no matter how far from the truth they may appear – and you’re on the road to lasting freedom. That is of course until the next time your ego takes over the wheel and you forget who’s driving! But then you remember. And so on and so forth until one day you stop forgetting and find that there’s nothing you need to remember. But for now, practise forgiveness; and watch as its simple magic brings a healing touch to your relationships.