We are, once again in the season of the long shadows. The sun’s light dims and shadows reach far across the earth like a memory that will not die in yesterday.
“How do you forget the awful things someone did to you?” a friend asked me awhile ago.
“I don’t strive to forget,” I replied. “I seek to forgive.”
When we forgive someone, or ourselves, it is not that we are saying the deeds that hurt us do not matter, or that it was right for those things to happen, or that the other is not accountable for what they have done.
Forgiveness isn’t about righting wrongs. It’s about accepting the wrong happened and letting go of the pain of reliving the wrongs day after day after day. In letting go, we become freed of the past. Freed of the past, we are free to walk in the light of today savouring its beauty, wonder and awe without carrying the burden of the past into our tomorrows.
To forget we must be able to wipe the slate of time and our memory banks clean. I’ve never found the magic wand that will do that.
What I have found is the power of forgiveness to take out ‘the sting’ of remembering. Just as when stung by a wasp, it’s critical to take out the stinger so that you can heal more quickly, removing the stinger from the past frees you to embrace this moment without the pain and trauma of what was in the there and then casting long shadows over your journey in the here and now.
Forgiveness takes conscious practice.
I remember when I was in the depths of healing from a relationship gone really, really bad, well-meaning people told me that to heal I needed to write a list of all the awful things he’d done so that I would remember how awful he was.
I didn’t need reminders of how awful those days were. The evidence was all around me. His transgressions were many. My brokenness profound.
I was not powerful enough to make him change or even be accountable for what he’d done. I could be accountable for my role in the debacle and aftermath of that relationship. I could make amends in my life. To do that, I needed to focus on sifting through my brokenness to find myself in peace, joy, harmony, love.
And it all began with forgiveness.
Forgiveness was my path to setting myself free of him. It meant, whenever a thought of what he’d done and what had happened arose in my mind, I repeated to myself the simple phrase, “I forgive you.”
No listing of the countless ways he’d ‘wronged’ me. No remembering of all that had happened. I did not need to recite the litany of his sins. Recitation wouldn’t change them. Repeating “I forgive you,” could and did change me.
“I forgive you” had nothing to do with him. It was all about me. And after almost five tumultuous and devastating years of his abuse, I deserved and needed to make my life all about me.
It also meant I had to forgive myself. To write a litany of all my sins in those first heady months of healing, to force myself into ‘the remembering’ of all I’d done to cause pain to those I love would also have forced me to relive the trauma. And in those early days of healing, I was not strong enough to withstand my desire to whip myself with the lashes of all my transgressions.
I had to rest beneath the soothing blanket of being free of his abuse, until the cold, harsh winds of the self-destructive voices inside my head that wanted to ensure I never forgot how much pain I had caused in the lives of so many, abated.
Just as every spring’s arrival awakens new life, forgiveness awakens gratitude for the beautiful dawning of each new day.
In gratitude, there is no need to remember, there is only the call to forgive and grow. In gratitude. Joy. Beauty. Harmony. Love.
Forgive and grow.
And slowly, like snow melting under spring’s lengthening days, memory will release its hold on dark days and cold nights. As shadows shorten and the sun’s warmth awakens the earth, buds will once again appear and beauty will grow brighter day by day by day.