“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” “Holding a grudge is like gripping a hot coal.” And as the song says, “Let it go!” These are profound words of wisdom. But it is never that simple. Even when you want to let it go. When you know you should let it go. After reciting mantras about forgiveness, dropping it into the burning bowl, and seeing the Christ light in all others… Sometimes it still comes back. The anger, the pain, the injustice! Even after declaring that you are no longer holding on to some painful incident from the past, IT still has a hold of YOU. If there was a switch you could flick and have it all be gone I am sure we would gladly flick it away! But there is no such switch. And if you are like me (human) the act of forgiveness is not so easy as simply saying, “I choose to let it go.” Rather than trying to let it go I believe we need to let it be. I will tell you why in a moment, but first let me share a very personal example.
For seven years I worked at the prayer center known as Silent Unity. Those were some of the most rewarding and yet frustrating times of my life. Rewarding because of my amazing fellow Prayer Associates and because of the opportunity to pray (via phone or internet) with people all over the world! Frustrating because instead of a ministry it is managed as a call center. It has such a beautiful legacy and yet it is wasting away.
I am not a complainer. I am a solution seeker. I suggested ways to create team-building and spiritual support for the associates. Officially, meetings were in place for such a purpose. In reality, we met about once every two to three months to cover announcements and policy updates. My other “radical” suggestion was to have ongoing training and skills development. Again, officially, we had monthly meetings with a supervisor to review our prayer. In reality, we met perhaps five or six times throughout the year to get feedback about format or technicalities. There IS an initial training program. The majority of the training hours are spent on how to choose an appropriate prayer category from the book and how to complete the records in the computer system after each call.
I encouraged ways to restore the ministry and shift from HEAD to HEART. I offered detailed opportunities to anyone who would listen. Perhaps I was naïve. I did not realize how threatened people would feel by any call for change. Management can perceive suggestions as a message that they are not doing a good enough job. It became clear that not only were my ideas not welcome in this corporation, neither was I. “You’ve got a big target on your back,” one coworker told me. I left before it got too bad. And it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever done.
It has been 13 months now. I would say each day gets a little easier, but it does not progress continually. Some days, weeks, or months are great! I don’t even think about missing the ministry I so cherished. And then I get triggered. It all comes rushing back and I am fully hurt again – for myself as well as dear members still there. Helpless to what is being done and what has been taken.
I try to let it all go. I remind myself I am a spiritual being. The anger, the hurt, and resentment serve no purpose so I should just be done with them. I know I SHOULD, but that does not change what IS.
Now instead of trying to let it all go, I let it all be. I feel the feels. I notice and acknowledge the thoughts in my head. Thoughts of fear, betrayal, and judgments – so many judgments… Judgment of others, judgment of the system, and judgment of myself for having such judgments! And I let it be. I give myself permission to think the thoughts and feel the feelings. This is not to dwell in the past nor to focus on the negative. This is to fully live in reality. I gently offer my own heart a touch of compassion.
It is not a matter of getting rid of the aspects of myself I do not want. It is a matter of loving them. And that is when the shift occurs. If I am honest with myself I could have handled things differently. Could I have been more tactful? More patient? Yes, of course I could. Yet I cannot change the past. I cannot erase it from memory. I can let it be. I can find some peace in the present moment.
And only from there can I approach the actions of others with compassion. From that place of equanimity, swimming in and out of fear/love, I can offer empathy. I can try to imagine what they may have been going through. Empathy and compassion lead to liberation from the bonds of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. Only from a place of acceptance of self can one offer acceptance of others, acceptance of the past, and hence forgiveness.
I have let go of “letting go.” And now I embrace letting it be.