Forgiveness is like walking a mountain path. On one side is a wall of denial. On the other is a cliff of despair. The path is between them.
When we forgive, we are fully recognizing the harm done to us. To do less is spiritual bypassing. Forgiveness is not a way to avoid uncomfortable realities. It’s a way to deal with them. The path is not a wall of denial.
Neither is the path a cliff of despair. It’s not a matter of falling into our pain. We can become so identified with our losses that we feel like one giant, gaping wound. Our hearts clinch, and we no longer have the freedom to forgive. We’re locked in suffering.
To walk between these two, we can forgive a little at a time. Break up the hard work with things more lighthearted. Do some yoga. Wash your car. Help a friend. If the pain is strong, we need to step away from it at times if we can.
Even then, we may find we don’t have enough space in our hearts to forgive. What then?
We can cultivate compassion for the person who hurt us. We might pray for them. We might do lovingkindness meditation – perhaps metta or tonglen.
A few years ago, someone hurt me badly. I had trouble letting go. What I found helpful was metta. As part of my practice, I thought of the person and repeated for a few minutes every day,
“May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be at peace.”
Early on I didn’t feel the words. I was still angry. But I repeated them anyway with a gentle desire to feel them. Slowly, a bit of space began to open in me. After a few weeks, I felt free enough to begin to forgive.
Ultimately, we place what happened in the ocean of peace in which this whole universe exists. Another way to say this is that we place it in God’s hands. Loss is part of this material world, all given infinite attention and care.
As we release the unpayable debt, we may find our awareness opens a little. God comes near. Our wounded humanity, we now sense, is held in a larger wholeness where it can rest and heal.
Here’s the magic. When we forgive, when we love, our hearts open to Love.