For years, when I read about forgiveness in books, all well meaning and intentioned books, I never could get comfortable with it all. It seemed like a very irresolute process. Everything I read suggested a process along the lines of acknowledging the wrongdoing or injustice as wrong but almost forgetting that it even happened. Forgiveness meant forgetting in some way. And forgiveness of myself seemed even more ridiculous. Even as I learned more acceptance of myself, my feelings and my actions, forgiveness seemed like something for the weak, something for people who needed to “deal with their pain”.
Then one day, I found a quote by Lily Tomlin (my understanding is the origin of the original quote is unknown or at least uncertain but widely attributed to her. “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past”. Like a bolt of lightning, this struck me to my core. There it was, framed in a way which resolved my “conflict” in all other modalities of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not some deep emotional process, something that needs to be resolved before moving on. And, most importantly, it avoids the trap of the righteousness of the forgiver. “I forgive you.’ “ Oh, thank you, my liege, for your kindness and your grace”. Fuck that.
Here it s in plain sight. “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not within our stars but within ourselves.” Anything I feel about the past injustice, is just that, my feeling. The person committing the act – family, stranger, self – are not relevant. When I have heard people who have had really horrible things done to them and who have “truly forgiven” have a peace about them which reflects their knowingness of this concept. They realize that forgiveness comes from within.
Since using this tool, I can move through experiences in real-time and in the present. Before this tool, even if I accepted an experience in the past, I would try hard or harder to make sure I did not do the same thing in the future. In a sense, trying to fix the past. Now, I don’t think about the past or the future. Just the present. What does this feel like now. What can I do now and work on, now. And whatever happens to me or whatever I choose will be my future which will also be my present. And so it goes on and on.