Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah






Thursday, 27 February 2014

Forgiveness - Conclusion (Part 8)

There are so many things that can be said about forgiveness.

I expect I could go on for many more weeks, discussing, explaining, citing examples. But I feel I've touched on enough to come to my point of raising the question: Why forgive? Why is it so important?

To me, it's alien not to forgive, but that in itself is only an aspect of my personality or an expression of opinion. I think there's far more value in forgiveness for all of us, that goes far deeper than a particular incident or relationship.

I believe we have an inner core. When we choose not to forgive, that inner core hardens.

We have a heart that is a piece of flesh that pumps blood through our systems. But I believe we also have a non-material 'heart' that defines who we are. There is a non-physical part of us, where we are vulnerable, sincere, genuine, the place in our being where what really matters to us resides. When we have been hurt we are understandably tempted to protect that inner core - it's only natural; we don't want to be hurt again. But in protecting that part of us that is so delicate, we can put up barriers to keep hurt out. In so doing, we also make it difficult for our true selves to live, breathe, express.

Apart from being unforgiving because we have been hurt, there is also the aspect that if another person has done wrong, he should face consequences. I believe this is true. But if those consequences includes our judging them, we are really hurting ourselves. I happen to read the Bible, where it says, 'don't judge or else you'll be judged.' I understand this to imply a few different things but the one thing I'll address here is this:

There is self-interest in forgiveness, maybe it's even selfish. Forgiveness is healthy.

When we forgive, we are letting go of an issue and living in the present rather than in the past. When we forgive, we are keeping ourselves soft so that our faith and trust in people can be restored through other - better - relationships. When we forgive, we place all of the judgment we are putting on the other person to the courts, or onto their own conscience. When we don't forgive the opposite is true: by keeping that antagonism alive, we are hardening ourselves.

It is ironic that when we are unforgiving we may think we are holding the other party to account for a wrongdoing. In actual fact, we are holding ourselves to account for the relationship and trapping ourselves in the past.

Forgiveness and trust are not the same. Forgiving someone doesn't mean we blindly trust them again. It does mean not personally holding them to account for what damaging thing they have said or done. It means not having expectations or demands or requests that they fulfill. Forgiveness sets us free from the one who has caused us hurt or pain.

Of course there is risk involved in forgiving and opening ourselves to the future. We may get hurt again, in fact, we can almost guarantee that we will. But we will be wiser from the experience, and not fall as hard the next time. Trying to prevent being hurt again by holding on to the anger or bitterness will prevent joy as well.

I spoke last week about my mother, who died of cancer. She was a person who was deeply disappointed in me and in many aspects of life. She was, in many ways, a bitter person, because she was unforgiving. Unforgiveness is a kind of cancer. I'm not saying that cancer is caused by a lack of forgiveness and I'm not saying that by practicing forgiveness you can prevent cancer. But I do believe that had my mother been a forgiving person, she may have been a healthier person, not only emotionally but physically as well.

"The Sound of Silence" is a song from the sixties, by Simon and Garfunkel. In that song is the line, 'Silence like a cancer grows'. The silence between people, when hurt and blame have occurred, grows. And in that growth, we can so easily nurture our hurt and feed our blame. It is so much healthier to give that pain and blame away, so that it doesn't feed on us anymore.

So, what do we do if we choose to forgive? Where do we send our pain? How do we express the forgiveness? Sometimes it isn't even possible to speak or to write to the person who has hurt us. Sometimes it is unwise to confront them, as they could harm us.

Just as we choose to forgive to set ourselves free, we live through the pain - the temporary pain - in order to heal. And we do heal, so that life can continue in all its richness. That's what I believe. It's what I try to practice. I've been hurt, but I've been healed. And life continues to be rich and full of hope. For me it's been a journey. But one I wouldn't trade.

Next time I'll start a new series, about Insecurity. Because in my case, through the experiences I lived combined with the sort of person I am, I developed insecurities from a young age. In order to find the richness and hope that life has to offer, I have chosen to face them and have overcome.

Until next Thursday....



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