Happy Thursday, Friend! Yesterday we were chatting about how someone…nope. I don’t think I got that far. I only gave you a little background information on why I started my spiritual journey. It didn’t spawn from some sort of new-age craze or a hippie-dippie, peace-love-soul movement. I began delving into the world of spirituality out of desperation for survival. Okay, here’s the situation…
Nearly every major global religion addresses the need to forgive. The Christian Bible states in Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, the heavenly Father will also forgive you”. Islam’s holy text, the Q’uran, reminds us to “…forgive with gracious forgiveness.” (15:85). The holiest day of the year in Judaism, Yom Kippur, focuses on the need for atonement or forgiveness. While atonement cannot be granted by humans, two other Jewish principles, mechilah (forgiving debts) and selichah (forgiveness reached through understanding and sympathy) can.
The concept of selichah is also highly regarded in Buddhism. This is where I first explored the principle. Essentially, Buddha taught that holding negative thoughts about another person does nothing to that person. It only damages the one holding the anger, hate, vengefulness, etc. The best thing one can do for a healthy life is to forgive those who have done wrong and release any negativity surrounding the misdeed.
Since my bitterness was causing more damage to me than to my enemies, I reasoned that I would be immensely healthier and happier if I learned to forgive. Cool. I could do that. I say that glibly now, but in reality it took me years of mental work to get to the point of true forgiveness. I had to let go of grudges I held for trivial slights as well as for major offenses. I had to relinquish notions of unworthiness and start self-identifying as a victor, not a victim. It took time, but I eventually came to a place where I could actually understand and sympathize with people who had wronged me.
Now, I am able to accept people with all of their faults and flaws without feeling the need to judge those shortcomings. I am able to do so, because the same was done for me. I know that there is some good in everyone, so I focus on those characteristics. However, that does not mean that I will completely forget about the harm those people caused me. I will not stupidly let them have space in my daily life in any major way. My job is to make sure that I take care of myself and my family to the best of my ability. If I see a hungry bear at my back door, I’d be crazy to open up and invite it inside. Unless it’s Winnie the Pooh. I’d open the door for Pooh Bear.
Please understand me. I am not writing this post to shame or degrade anyone for their past sins against me or anyone else. Furthermore, I do not need sympathy or pity. Despite circumstances, I have had an awesome life. When I think of the children and adults who have endured conditions much worse than mine, I am humbled. In fact, this post is dedicated to those who have had to overcome severe challenges. I congratulate you for expelling toxic people and encourage you to guard against future toxicity.
The reality is that most toxic people may not even know that they are toxic. They are not inclined to seriously listen to the language they use about themselves and others. They usually run on a loop of negative dialogue which replays continuously through their minds. Those people don’t think they’ve done anything for which to be forgiven. Or they know that they have hurt you and manipulate you into questioning your memory and sanity. Or they ask for forgiveness and immediately list off justifications for their actions. Or they burst into tears at the mere idea that you blame them for the harm they caused you. Or they tell you how your actions damaged them. Or…Or…Or… If I were to list all of their deflective tactics, I could fill a book. Ultimately, toxic people are quite clever at steering the discussion back to themselves as the victims.
Forgive them. At the same time, don’t let them gaslight you into thinking that your experience was not valid or that it was trivial. Maybe they do remember things differently. Maybe their brains have reconfigured past events to fit the narrative they believe to be true. Everyone has a right to their own memories. That doesn’t make them accurate. While it is possible that conversations were misinterpreted between individuals, actions leave little room for debate.
There you have it, Friend. That is the story of my frustration. I am annoyed that someone has the gall to try to guilt me into expanding a limited relationship. Forgive and forget is not a moral weapon to be used whenever it suits a cause. I have forgiven, which is why there is a cordial relationship at all. However, it will remain limited, because I will never be able to forget.
Stay strong peeps!