I have been trying to find the words to talk about forgiveness these past three days. I have concluded that forgiveness is an ongoing process. Although most of us understand that when we can forgive and let go of trauma, we will feel better and carry more light, some of us just are not ready. Some of us still need to process the five levels of grief – shock/denial, pain/guilt, anger/bargaining, depression/reflection/loneliness, before comes the turn around and the beginning of working through/reconstruction, and the breakthrough to acceptance and hope. The early stages are things we might be stuck in for years!
I have a couple of experiences from listening to other people that have taught me to be very sensitive of bringing up the topic of forgiveness too soon, with the understanding that there can be a benefit in stopping another person from repetitiously engaging the story of the wounded self.
Years ago a friend shared that she had been molested by her brother while very young. She said that she had carried her wounded self like a badge upon her sleeve, until one day she was sharing her story with a spiritual mentor, and the mentor broke in upon her one-sided conversation with a simple question: “Have you asked your brother for his forgiveness yet?” Stunned into silence, my friend eventually asked her mentor, “What do you mean?” Her mentor replied that my friend’s anger, hatred, and rage now carried their own vibration of violence against her brother, and that her unforgiving thoughts of him kept them from any reconciliation. My friend was ready to hear that, and subsequently went back to her brother now as an adult woman, and asked him for his forgiveness. Sister and brother really talked. She learned how horrible he now feels for what he did then, and she has a deep level of compassion for him as a wounded soul, which she carries into her own healing work as a yoga teacher and spiritual guide. Hers is a successful story of moving through years of pain.
Another time I was in circle with friends and one of us mentioned how she had been molested by a spiritual guru. Those of us who had been doing Shadow work for a while wanted to talk about how everybody has their Shadow, but the real blessing came from someone new to the circle who said, “Not one of you is listening to her!” Those of us who had been talking immediately felt bad, and one of us apologized, saying we just wanted to help! From that point we really began to listen. Engaged. That episode taught me how important Silence is to holding a person in supportive, loving circle. It’s like that when you are in a group and pass the talking stick around and everybody just gets to say what they need to say that day.
Creator, thank you for teaching me through other humans that there is a time to speak and a time to listen, a time to hold Silence, and a time to Share. Grant me the sensitivity of discernment so that I might truly be present to another in their time of need; and grant me the wisdom of boundaries so that I might not be enabling another in their shadow of rage and anger. Amen.