Have you ever felt a sense of incompleteness with forgiveness? The first time I felt this was many years ago when my mother me asked to say “It’s Ok” to the apology of a boy who threw sand in my face at the park. Despite having “forgiven” I still felt the anger, frustration, and humiliation of the experience. And I still felt a resentment, which meant I had not truly “forgiven” him.
Many years later, my special someone’s rejection opened the door to many, many incomplete emotions. So much was left unsaid and miscommunicated but I was confident that this relationship was over. I knew that talking to him or starting something new with someone else would not complete the incompleteness. What I needed was to truly feel, accept and acknowledge the experience and emotions however terrifying they may be. Clearly just saying sorry or accepting another’s apology had left me incomplete.
Choose the feeling you want to have
And so began my journey to complete forgiveness. I did not know how at the time but thankfully I had been a meditator and a mindfulness practitioner for a long time and had become apt at being able to identify my limited beliefs. My criteria for feeling complete forgiveness were threefold. First, I needed to heal from the emotions of victimization and abandonment that accompanies the feelings of rejection. Second, I needed to ensure that I did not continue to carry any blocks to the emotional vulnerability that results from any failed relationship. And third, if I were going to start a new relationship with someone else I would not be needy and unconsciously require them to fill my gaps.
Asking the Right Question
I had recently read the book Life on Earth Mastery by Sherwin Ng. It explains that the question to ask is not “Why it happened to me”, but “What it Happened to Me For”. Instead of feeling like something had been taken from me in each situation where I needed to complete my forgiveness, was it possible that those that hurt me had given me something too?
Meditation and Self-Enquiry
In my meditations, I brought up one by one all those whom I felt had taken from me, and with great difficulty, searched for what they gave me. The boy who threw sand in my face was a child who did not know his boundaries. He embarrassed me but he also evoked a depth in me. I could have laughed it off as fun, but I felt insulted and small. He had stepped into my boundary. I learned from that incident that I was sensitive and that I liked my personal space. His action shocked me and I ran to my mother. In doing so, I felt I had failed myself. Other kids around me were laughing. I too could have laughed and thrown some sand back in a playful manner. Right there was an opportunity for me to grow. I could have handled it myself in a playful way but I succumbed to my fear, thinking he was attacking me and preferring instead to let my mother solve my little problem.
That little boy had given me an opportunity to face my fear. I did not choose to face it in the park that day, I was just being a kid. But from my meditation I could clearly see I had a natural fear of confrontation, choosing instead to avoid it, instead of learning to progressively confront and deal with my fear. Once I realized what he had given me, I felt my breathing relax and I knew I had finally forgiven him.
Recognizing the “Teachers”
One by one I did this same meditation with each person that hurt me and each incident that provoked me. I began to see that each person or each incident was a “Teacher” here to give me an opportunity to recognize the emotion, face the fear that arose and consciously choose an action that pushed me through the fear. Once I saw what they were there to teach me, I realized I was forgiving them but I was also forgiving myself for having failed to grow. There is a wound attached to this. I certainly felt it. At the end of each meditation, I truly felt a completion of my act of forgiveness.
Was it those “Teachers” that stirred up the negative emotions and fears? Yes. But I chose the reaction. It is truly a gift, to know that the entire experience of emotions & reactions is something that happens within us, and it can be changed if we love ourselves enough to choose to do the inner work. My target upon meeting any future “Teachers” (should any more be sent my way) is to quickly come to “Ah, that’s the emotion and that’s the fear – thank you for the lesson”. Right now I accept I am my own beloved work in progress.
“We cannot solve our problems from the same thinking we used when we created them – Albert Einstein”