Today’s blog revisits the topic of forgiveness and offers tools when even the desire to forgive feels outside of our grasp.
This weekend, grief decided to make a reappearance. The grief that paid me a visit is the grief of loss as is related to perceived betrayal. On the highest and most profound level, I know that betrayal is not really possible. Another person does not have the power to betray me, hurt me or deprive me of love. But, since I have not yet achieved the fullness of enlightenment, Buddhahood, or Christhood, it often feels as if they do. So when I was reminded of what I might perceive as betrayal or harm to me at the hands of another, I found myself wrapped in the cloak of my inner victim, seething with hurt, rage, even hatred. I wanted to lash out in revenge. Scream my rage. “Make them pay.” Fortunately I think I know better…..maybe.
Setting Aside Old Behaviors
In the past, if I felt hurt or betrayed by another, I simply wrapped a cloak of resentment and hatred around me so that I would not have to feel the pain of loss. My first inclination when grief decided to pay me a visit this weekend was to indulge this impulse. But now after 20+ years of inner work, I have come to understand how unproductive and potentially hurtful these defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment have been to me and to my ability to be open to healthy intimate relationships. I knew I needed to set aside my defense mechanisms of hatred and resentment, be present to the pain, grieve the loss and be open to another layer of forgiveness. Ha….my defense mechanisms had other plans it seems.
Calling in Reinforcements
I tried, I really did. I tried to be understanding. I tried to be hospitable. I tried to stand in compassion. I tried to allow myself to grieve. I tried to be forgiving and let go. But when Tuesday came around and I was still being chased by my demons of resentment and hatred I knew I needed to call in some reinforcements. So while being attentive to my yoga practice Tuesday night, seething in anger, I prayed. First I tried a mantra. Then I tried to engage the practice of Tonglen. Then I tried breathing. Then I tried visualization. I tried everything in my arsenal of spiritual practices, but instead of relief, all I felt was more rage. Then somewhere between the in and out breath, in the middle of Sun Salutation A, I heard a tiny voice in my head that said, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing.” I immediately recognized this as Jesus’ words on the cross. While Jesus was hanging on the cross, being spit at, harassed, tortured, these were his words for his tormentors. Did Jesus feel betrayed, angry, hurt, disappointed, despairing….YOU BET…..and in the face of this, when he was perhaps incapable of offering forgiveness himself, he asked it of God. I heard these words and realized the powerful healing balm inherent in these words. I immediately embraced these words as my mantra and in doing so, I felt an enormous amount of relief. My hatred and anger subsided and I began to find peace.
Outside our Reach
What I realized is that sometimes (ok, maybe often), forgiveness is totally out of our reach. I wanted to be compassionate, loving, forgiving….but found I could not. I guess I’m still human. And, when forgiveness is outside of my reach, there is a source that I can turn to that can accomplish the forgiveness for me. And, in turning that which needs forgiveness over to this loving Source that I call “God” and Jesus called “Abwoon”, there is relief. So today, I continue to offer these words in regards to the perceived betrayal, “Father forgive them, they know not what they are doing,” and enjoy the relief of knowing that God is taking care of it.
What hurts, losses, betrayals are you still grieving?
Where are you struggling to forgive these losses?
How might Jesus’ words help you to surrender this forgiveness to God, inviting God to help you through that pain?
Authentic Freedom Ministries