Her absence is ubiquitous.
In her home,
at the park.
in our lives.
Her love is infinite.
We still feel it.
Her strength is unlike anything I can be.
And she’s unafraid to say –
I’m missing you.
I’m missing home.
I’m tired of dreary.
And in that honesty –
I find myself.
Through processing how to authentically achieve this, I became so stuck on the definition I had in my head, I all but decided there were some people I could never forgive!
I knew I had to change my definition.
It’s easy for me to forgive someone when they’ve owned their responsibility, changed their behavior and are not repeating the same patterns and ceased to harm.
It’s also easy for me to forgive when I can understand that something in someone is broken.
And to be honest, it’s easy for me to forgive when what they have done reflects my own past indiscretions.
If I am guilty of having once caused the same harm to another, I have empathy which goes a long way to my original definition of forgiving.
Or perhaps, if I’m really being honest – forgiving those who have perpetrated a wrong doing that I have been guilty of – affords me some measure of absolution for my own behavior.
And that is wrong.
Not being a religious person, I can’t turn to theological definitions or procedure when it comes to forgiveness. I can be open to their ideas of course, many truths are universal and have a common thread in a variety of cultures and religious teachings.
But here I thought I couldn’t begin the process of forgiveness until I felt completely ready to pardon the person who had harmed me – and I don’t do things in half measures.
I love, detest, work and forgive with my whole heart, body and soul – or not at all.
This is not an easy topic – so I reached out to some friends for their thoughts and definitions, I said ‘There’s no right answers’.
I also asked, is forgiveness Selfish or Selfless? And so the sharing began to flow.
I’ll use only their first names – but here is a sampling of responses:
Scot: there is nothing selfish about authentic forgiveness. It is needed for personal happiness. As long as we struggle with attachment to things, emotional responses, memories or make decisions based from an attachment based place we are not exhibiting authentic forgiveness. And that is selfish. Because of the attachment to self or ego if you prefer.
Selina: I’ve stopped forgiving , it is like giving that person an extra bullet and say here its ok try again :)) in my mind I eliminate them from my thoughts other words their are deceased, now it takes the most dirtiest despicable low life conniving ugly person to make me cut them out of my life but I have run across a couple of them but I now feel relieved I cut ties and saved me the stress:)))
Haley: You find compassion for others for being human and flawed, and you forgive them. In return, you can more easily and often do the same for yourself….and in doing so- let go of all those nasty “shoulds”, both for yourself and for others, that drive us all insane.
Ann: Forgiveness is a gift. Given for the satisfaction of giving, inspiring, sharing. It is not selfish however it is given in most part for self fulfillment. One cannot be fully sure of how the gift will be received and or appreciated…..that falls to the recipient. If I apologize to you for whatever reason and you spit back at me I still, if genuinely given, have the pleasure of doing what was right for me. If you embrace my apology well then even better. Forgiveness is a gift…..intended for the pleasure of both giver and receiver. If it does not work out it is still a gift. Kinda like the Christmas gift from great Aunt Edna of a box of jello. She knows you love jello and it makes her happy to think of you enjoying that fun delicious treat.
Jennifer: God forgives us, so we should forgive others.
Alyce: My take on forgiveness, you can be hurt really badly by someone- but a time comes when we no longer wish them ill or mentally wish for retaliation etc. We don’t need to go out of our way to befriend them or spend time with them, but we are free from wishing harm to come to them, we wish them well in their world.
I love that everyone spoke from their heart.
I cherish diversity – and while I agreed with parts of all of their opinions, I still wasn’t finding that one thing that clicked in my heart and summed things up for me until I read this:
That I can do!
The fact is, that when we are harmed, damage occurs.
That saying: ‘You don’t drink poison and expect your enemy to die’ rings true, we do have to let go and move beyond our pain – we are only hurting ourselves further and stunting our growth if we sit in our pain.
It’s certainly not exacting revenge on the perpetrator, in fact, it maintains their power.
I then thought of the saying and took it to another level – most people don’t purposely drink the poison.
Those with scars stemming from suffering forced upon them are in fact victims – having had something toxic poured into them without consent.
What happens after it’s inside you?
That is entirely up to you.
You can remain a victim, or you can begin to heal.
You may not have a way to heal the physical damage or erase the memories of the taste of the posion in your mouth.
It may take time until the sensation of the hand that wielded the metaphorical or literal weapon or the smells/sounds/sense memories burned into your subconscious during the offense begin to fade.
But out it must come if there is to be any chance!
There are labels on poisonous household liquids – ‘if swallowed, do not induce vomiting’. The reason for that is that it can do more harm to come into contact with your fragile insides once more.
Debilitating pain from injury and abuse are just as toxic, but MUST be purged.
Coming back up is bound to be painful – but necessary.
I had the great honor of speaking to someone yesterday who is, for me, the epitome of forgiveness. Mrs. Eva Mozes Kor.
I reached out to her for wisdom – this is a woman who is strong, independent, funny, kind and oh so wise.
She is a twin survivor of Dr. Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz.
Even at such a tender age, she was determined to live through her ordeal. She was orphaned, suffered unimaginably at the hands of Mengele and teetered between life and death – determined to survive to save herself and her sister.
Then years later … she forgave the Nazis.
Where does that strength come from???
I needed to know.
I wanted to speak with this amazing woman for any advice she might have about life in general.
I was to call her at 1:00 O’Clock – all day I glanced at the clock and when it was time, all I could do was stare at the phone.
The moment I heard her voice say my name, all nerves washed away.
Her first question to me: “Do you want to be free?”
Yes. Yes I wanted to be free.
I had no intention of interviewing her – of mentioning our chat here. I only wanted, as a woman, and student of life, to soak up lessons she could pass on to me.
But after our long conversation, I was fixated on ‘forgiveness’, knew I must write about the topic and sent her a message asking if I could include some of her words in this piece.
Her response was an enthusiastic yes.
“My Dear Amanda,
Forgiveness is my mission, my passion and my salvation from a life of victim hood. Once I discovered this simple idea, which is free and everybody can afford it. I am willing to climb to a mountain top and yell at the top of my voice; Forgive your worst enemy, and forgive everybody who has hurt you, it will heal your soul and set you free. Forgiveness is an act of self liberation, self-healing and self empowerment. Anger is a seed for war, forgiveness is a seed for peace. So, Amanda, by all means help me sow those seeds for peace into this troubled world.”
And so I shall.
I share with you what her answer was to my question: So then what is the difference between acceptance and forgiveness?
She went on to say that the perpetrators need not even know they have been forgiven. You are taking your power back in the simple act of forgiving.
She gave me an assignment, which I will be doing. And now that I have a better understanding, and new definition of forgiveness, I feel I will get it all out and succeed.
The last thoughts I have on this topic are these.
If you cannot find it in your heart to authentically forgive another – forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself for being in fear, for not feeling strong enough to release the pain.
We are only human after all.
When the time is right – it will happen.
This is another thing Eva shared with me – it does take time!
I laughed, as I did a lot during our conversation and said: “Will I really have to twirl on a hill? It’s really hot outside.”
And to laugh – and to seek answers and to want to learn and grow is a great way to begin to process forgiveness.
The thing is … lately I feel like I’ve been ‘wrapping things up’.
Letting those who mean something to me know it.
Giving back treasured memories of the past to the people they belong to.
My writing has not been good lately.
I know it.
My positive attitude has taken a turn.
I know this too.
I know it – and don’t have the energy to change it.
I’ve reached emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.
Someone received an arrangement at work a couple of weeks ago – and I became caretaker.
The vase was bursting with vibrant color and fresh cut blooms.
As they faded and withered, I removed them.
One by one.
I kept doing this – refusing to throw them all out because some part of the whole had passed on.
It came down to one stemless flower this past week.
I found the smallest container I could, and placed it gently in the water.
I couldn’t find it in my heart to throw it out while it still had some life in it.
While it still looked so beautiful.
It wasn’t finished.
Contrary to this, I found my pen writing the most obscene sentence in my own diary last week.
That I had been having fleeting thoughts of death.
Thinking that perhaps all that I was here to do had been done – and all that I hoped for might never be.
Perhaps not meant to be.
And that ink bled out onto the page with such rawness and so bravely – that I allowed the pen to finish the sentence.
And I’m not ashamed.
Because thinking of things does not make them so.
And because allowing myself to admit something so dark, even to the pages of a book no one will read – shocked me necessarily.
I find the smallest light I can find – and gently place myself in it.
I give my soul water – salty – and shed when I am alone.
I continue to share my memories with those who made them with me.
I don’t stop telling people how important they are – how loved.
And I steady myself for what the future might hold – and know that I’m strong.
On my drive home today, I saw an elderly person weeding their front yard.
I was reminded of something that had a profound effect on me almost four years ago.
It was a time when it was imperative I get out of self. That I reach out and be of service to others.
Summer in the desert, and I noticed an old woman on my street tending to her weeds. It was hot. In the mid 120’s.
I parked, set my belongings inside and walked up the street to her house and called out.
She didn’t hear me.
She looked up from her crouched position, and from under her sun hat met my gaze.
I was eager and just knew that she would think I was wonderful.
“May I help you weed your yard?”
I waited a beat – smile on my face.
“No thank you.” She said, with a peaceful smile on her own face.
I wasn’t expecting that.
I gauged her expression a moment to be sure she really didn’t want my help … bid her a good day and went home.
It hadn’t dawned on me for even a second, that perhaps she was content in her task.
That perhaps she enjoyed what she was doing.
Or that she knew how much more satisfied she would be when the sun went down, looking out at her weed-free yard, that she had done the work.
I have never forgotten her or that moment.
It was an epiphany of sorts for me.
I’ve heard people speak of what they would do if they won the lottery:
“I’d give some to my family and friends.”
“I’d buy my children houses.”
“I’d find needy people and help them.”
Such a noble and selfless intention – yet …
Don’t we have to be careful who we help and how?
Am I doing it for them or me?
Am I helping? Hindering? Enabling?
Are they making an effort to help themselves? Still have lessons to learn to strengthen them for hard times yet to come?
This comes to mind:
I personally think life IS always beautiful, (maybe not always what you want it to be, but still beautiful) but I agree with the rest.
Struggles do make you stronger. And grateful.
If you just hand someone a house – are they going to cherish it? Will it mean as much to them as it would to someone who saved for years to buy one?
Hand-ups and hand-outs have such a fine dividing line!
It’s hard to know who to help.
Harder still when you don’t know if they’ve struggled – if they are too fragile to have to struggle – if they’ve been put in your path to bestow a blessing on?
Personally, I can look back and I know without doubt, that I am grateful for my struggles.
I’ve been VERY prideful. And I’m trying to get over that and accept help when it makes sense. When the help doesn’t rob me of my spiritual and emotional growth.
Because, my life has blossomed from the weeds.
And I see weeds as blossoms.
Beauty in every thing, every person and every moment.
I’ve learned to focus on these things.
Stay in those moments – no matter how fleeting – to feel them and move forward with a positive attitude and an open mind and heart.
I look upon life with grateful eyes – a students mind and a peaceful heart.
And I’m so glad I struggled.
And I so love those who helped me along the way – and I love those who did not.