The sights and sounds of the holidays are in perfect harmony. Lists have been written, gifts are being beautifully wrapped, invitations to our pick of soirees have been received, decadent feasts are being planned and the invitation to accept and revel in untainted joy whispers: Will you let me in?
By now we have reflected on what we consider "missed opportunities" this year and how we would like 2014 to be written. Mixed in with those moments of reflection and in the midst of our planning for the new, the sting from the past however mild may still be felt bringing with it either mere acknowledgement of the growth that occurred or a roar of fresh emotion.
In there we find the residue of hurt, anger, disappointment or dare I say it: the roots from the planted seeds that dug in a little deeper. Forgiving and/or forgetting these are usually the furthest from our mind, but as we have heard seeds of unforgiveness sprout gardens of bitterness when left unattended.
In P.B. Wilson's book she brilliantly sums up the potency of subtle peace disturbances in this one line: "Betrayal had a baby and the baby's name is bitterness." What seeds have we planted in our thoughts -- even the secret ones, and what can you expect it to produce?
Is it time to write a peace list?
A little over a year ago, a friend of mine by the name of Larry Byers wrote on his Facebook page: "I forgive anyone who wronged me knowingly or not. I also ask for forgiveness of anything I've done to any of you. No resentment, no anger, no regrets...".
It resonated with me and I jotted it down and I have reread it often, giving it much credit for prompting me to write down a deed or two I simply need to make peace with or an apology I need to issue.
Isn't this what life is about? Accepting that we really are imperfect beings functioning in this space we call life, with the unwritten guarantee that while here we may hurt others along the way. We all are perfectly "unwell" to some degree. Nursing different wounds and knowingly or unknowingly desiring to be healed.
In the process we hurt people either because we don't know or fully understand their "trigger points" or we don't actually realize the depths of our own illness or acknowledge the severity of that 'something' that is not right within ourselves. Denial is powerful, but our silent cries for help are heard in our hurtful words and deliberate actions that negatively affect another.
I function from a belief that at the core of who we are, we're good people. Layers of internal struggles, insecurities, lack of love, or energy from dark thoughts at times overshadows the person we meet. But I wrestle with accepting anything other than the good soul we really are at our core versus the version we have for various reasons found comfort in being.
With prayer and in tears I've penned the words "I forgive you," spoken them in person or put them on a card in the mail. Partially because I need to for my own clarity of heart and mind, and also because hanging on to what was done or said gives another source continued power over my life.
I'm not really wrestling with the person carrying out the act, let's face it. There are principalities and dark forces in this world using whoever is available on whichever day to do their greatest work. I give them all the credit and set you free. In a few instances I cried a little harder, prayed a little longer because to be honest on my own I couldn't figure out how to forgive some deep wrongs, yet knew that I couldn't let darkness win twice. At times those tears were in disbelief at my own actions that wrath brought forward. So I neither judge nor cast stones as we're all in this together yet separately, and any progress made is determined by constant forgiveness of self and each other.
"If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity," Amy writes "it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life, and when it comes, hold your head high. Look it squarely in the eye, and say, 'I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.'" Darkness disguised as hate and ill-wishes on another, won't win on this watch.
Caution: Deciding to forgive a person is best done when not hinged on an apology or an expected reaction, but the decision to let go of "the story." Freeing others and ourselves -- is there a better gift we can give ourselves or better way to start the new year and each new day?
Caution: We wish ill into the lives of those who've crushed us, not realizing that where our thoughts are like a magnet (even then) draws those things into our own lives. And darkness wins. Again, times two.
How do you forgive someone who has murdered your loved one, ended the life of someone near and dear to you -- accidentally, destroyed the vows you shared, violated you, or in some way betrayed you? The wounds are deep and offences range from what may appear trivial to some, to life changing for others.
Offences at all levels of intensity survive at the price of your internal peace and lose power when we grab hold of our quest to live and love freely. To have the desire to forgive is the needed beginning and will align with a greater source to see us through on that leg of the journey. Prescription for forgiveness: Rinse & repeat as many times as needed.
Caution: Going ham in our thoughts and our prayers from the posture of something's wrong with another, fix them, show them their ways, or pay them back, is energy spent on making someone wrong and you the victim. Pain, I recently read, is an opportunity to grow, calling on us to dig deeper than the wound to set the example on how to be a source of light in this dark corner. Unfortunately at times our growth is stunted by our decision to accept the darkness as our playground and stay there.
We function in a time where we've mastered the art of concealing our honest thoughts perfectly so in some instances on the surface we're friends with someone who may have said or did something we didn't like yesterday or years ago, or betrayed our trust somehow.
We've never talked about how that made us feel nor have we let it go. Those secret grudges (however small) stand in the doorway of not only that relationship but our relationships in general and that's the bigger picture.
So instead or in addition to sending them the cutest holiday card or the perfectly wrapped gift with the prettiest little bow, can we add them to the peace list and take a step in building more authentic friendships? The truth not only sets us all free but swings wide open the doors of peace.
I've learned that our capacity to forgive others correlates with our love and forgiveness of ourselves. If I become so enraged by your actions that I do not ever let it go, how then do I process forgiveness when I'm at fault and how does this ability to constipate my hearts function affect my life and health as a whole? When we stop to really consider all that's at stake, our desire for a better heart condition, greater peace of mind and becoming our best self will always win.
Here's to living and loving freely!