Forgive and Forward by Cylvia Hayes


Forgiving is no simple thing.  There’s a quote attributed to both Buddha and Ghandi along the lines of, “Hating someone is like drinking rat poison expecting the other guy to die.”  I get it intellectually, but man, with the handful of those who attacked most viciously or professed to be friends but weren’t it is taking serious commitment to move beyond intellectual understanding to real forgiveness.
I want to forgive — not because I think they were justified, or were in the right, but because I don’t want to add to the ugliness.  I don’t want to contribute to the anger, the hatred, the meanness and lack of love that is behind so much of the misery in our world. 
I want to forgive — not to forget or condone what was done but to find peace.  I’ve heard it said that when we feel anger we’re being human but when we stay locked in anger we’re being prisoners. 
I’ve made a lot of progress.  The anger has eased a lot. 
One exercise I’ve been working with is to better understand, and even recognize within myself, some of those darker human traits like the desire to tear others down to feel somehow better about our own small lives.  It is humbling to admit I have at times felt a little delight when a certain successful person got knocked down a few pegs.  It is even more humbling to realize those feelings came from my own sense of inferiority and misplaced competitiveness.  I am acutely aware of those types of feelings now and far less likely to harbor them.  For that growth I am deeply grateful.  These insights are helping me to turn the arrows into flowers. 
I’ve also been working with the beautiful Book of Forgiving, written by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho.  The book is written for individuals exploring forgiveness but it pulls from some of the incredibly powerful healing that took place in South Africa, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, addressing the atrocities of apartheid.  It is a treasure chest of wisdom and helpful exercises.  It drives home the point that forgiving is not about, or for, those who harmed you.  It’s about you. 
Forgiving isn’t saying what they did was OK.  It’s saying what they did no longer has control over me.  The number one dictionary definition of forgive is to “stop being angry about something.”  It’s not about absolving the perpetrator; it’s about choosing how you want to feel.  It’s about choosing your power.  I am actively forgiving because I am moving forward.
Oprah Winfrey said, “True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”  I’m getting there and I’m grateful for that. 

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Cylvia Hayes

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