Posts Tagged ‘forgive’

The Presence of Self-Forgiveness

November 3, 2013

Forgiveness implies a problem – that something is wrong somewhere. A pain has manifested in someone and if I caused that pain, I was wrong and have to make amends. It does not matter that I did not know I caused the pain or the situation was out of my control. I did something wrong.

The message that there is something wrong with us gets reinforced throughout our lifetimes as we encounter the world and its ever-changing rules of engagement. Our laws, media, parents, teachers, and our children will tell us: you are wrong – you did something wrong – you have to fix it – you deserve a punishment. Laws can send us to prison or make us pay a fine. The media will deify those who are prettier/thinner/richer/smarter than us and punish the rest of us with stories and articles about how we are inadequate and here’s what we need to do change that. And if you can’t change, here is how you can “accept” (aka “forgive”) your failings. Punishment from parents could be anything from a frown to withdrawal of privileges to (in the worst case) abuse. Punishment from teachers includes failing grades, public humiliation, and a visit with the principal (who, despite popular spelling tricks, was never your “pal”). Punishment from your children is anyone’s guess. Take a look at your life and tell me what it is.

We also inflict self-punishment, a double-whammy when we’ve wronged ourselves. Hindsight 20/20 is the largest contributor to the embargo of my ability to forgive myself for transgressions against others or myself. For some reason, as I realize why I “should” have not done what I did, I proceed to believe that I “should” have known better and “should” have behaved better. A berating marathon begins and the punishment phase can last a lifetime.

An Internet search for ideas about self-forgiveness brought up the web site Greater Good sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley. While the site implores you to become a member (you can be happy for only $50.00 a year), there is plenty of free material, including some insightful articles and a quiz about forgiveness. All things being equal, I would think that how I apply forgiveness to others would be similar to how I apply self-forgiveness. I took the quiz and found out I have a moderate capacity for forgiveness.

Only moderate? Being the over-achiever I am, moderate is not good enough. Where am I failing to be an excellent forgiver? My test results showed that while I would not want anything bad to happen to anyone, I have a tendency to avoid and withdraw from people who mistreat me (duh – who would hang around?).

I thought about myself as the person who I would need to forgive: What if the person is me?

What if I am avoiding the me – the self – who I was when I made the transgression? What if I have withdrawn from that self who committed a real or imagined sin? I chose the word “sin” here because there were plenty of them sneaking around while I was growing up Catholic along with that offensive right hand we were told to cut off (Matthew 5:30).

Hmmm . . . I wonder where I got the message to avoid or “cut off” from the part of me causing the offense lest I be cast into the horrors of hell for all eternity?

Perhaps it is time to visit with those selves and offer them my right hand in forgiveness.

©2013 by Barbara L. Kass

A hooked presence

September 5, 2011

Many of our loved and not-so-loved ones are skewered on the hooks of our resentments.

Our best-known hookees (<== not a real word) are our parents. Some people are excellent parents. They know how to nurture, have the resources required to raise healthy children, and we grow up with a strong sense of self and belonging. Others had parents who should have opted, did not, and many of us grew up in emotionally fragile and damaging environments.

Even if we grew up without parents, we can still hook those invisible beings tightly on a barb and hoist them up high for everyone to see. We can proclaim something profound about how our lives would have been better had they been around to help us. We batter everyone (and ourselves) with the resulting being we have become all because of their actions or inactions. We hold them accountable for our response to their presence. Even invisible parents have a huge presence by virtue of the empty space they do not occupy.

Occasionally, hookees are complete strangers . . . people who happened by in our lives either by design or circumstance and something happened to us that we did not want to happen. Sometimes, we never even see or know our hookees. I have had property stolen from me and never saw the person, but he or she left a mark, a trail, a permanent indentation on my trusting psyche who can forever recount that episode, mourn again what was lost, and have that person’s actions influence my way of being in the world.

Others have had worse episodes of infringement upon their boundaries. Children suffer unspeakable abuse. Entire families are wiped out by murder. Some are left financially devastated by the actions of the greedy and ignorant.

There are deadly villains who are not even human. Along with lions, tigers, and bears, we have microbes, bacteria, and viruses. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can wipe away any evidence of our prior existence.

On a world-wide basis, famine steals the lives and dreams of thousands. And we are ALL on the hook for that one, but that’s a blog for another day.

Life is a dangerous existence, as I have alluded to before. We have the idea that someone at some point should have made our lives perfect and protected us from reality . . . or at least invented a better reality. And because they didn’t, they are going to pay. In our daily memories, we feel again the humiliation of that forgotten birthday, the embarrassment of a drunk alcoholic showing up at our parents’ night at school, and the betrayal of having just been beat because someone else had a bad day. In our imaginations, we strike back: we think awful things about them, we create vindictive scenarios where we win, and, if they are still alive, we let them know often just how they failed us, and continue to fail us. Or, we don't acknowledge them at all.

But everyone still knows they are there.

Some of us are public torturers. We brandish and berate our hookees publicly, shamelessly, with a flaunting sneer and righteous attitude. We are proud of how those people did us wrong at some point in the past. We don’t hesitate to tell anyone who will listen just how badly we were treated.

Other hookees are silently suffered. The silent sufferer sighs a lot, with woeful heaves and crumpled shoulders. We recognize their burden is tiresome and heavy.

And I want to yell at all of them “Give it up already!” (Yes, some smarter part of me yells this at me, too.)

At some point, we have to lower the hooks and let those people go. Letting someone “off the hook” is a fancy term for “forgive” without all that God stuff looming around it packed with its religious and saintly forebodings. When we let someone off the hook, we also let go of our responsibility for feeding them and the hurts (real or imagined) that they caused. It doesn’t change what happened, but it does change our chemistry – our way of interacting with the world. While that person is still accountable for his or her actions, they can no control our response. We are free to acknowledge the incident, know it will always be a part of us, and transcend it . . . we can still be the presence we intended for ourselves when we came to this life.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of forgiveness

September 16, 2010

What is the color of forgiveness? How big is it? What scent does it carry? If forgiveness walked up to me and smacked me in the head, would I even recognize it?

In all my explorations of personal growth and desire to connect with divine grace and eternity, forgiveness has been an elusive concept defined for me through the perceptions of others.

This word and its watery definition has caused me all sorts of problems and been the root of justified abuse. The religion in which I was raised insisted that we forgive others for their transgression, but often people used it as a rationalization to cause further hurt; in their minds, they could do whatever they wanted because “God would forgive them.” I came to believe that forgiveness is nothing more than a cheap way out for people who don’t want to change or be held accountable for their behavior.

I don’t see any need to “forgive” someone of their human nature. I have hurt others out of my ignorance and stupidity, and have said I was sorry, made amends, and worked to not harm another. However, I know I continue to say or do things that, when viewed by another’s perception, are harmful to them or others. (Anytime I see a cheap, useless trinket that has a tag that reads “Made in Japan” or “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan” I feel a twinge of remorse that someone has to make such things to be able to exist and I am actually torn between buying it so that person would continue to have a job or not buying it because it serves no purpose and simply perpetuates the problem.)

I would prefer to accept us for all our humanness. But I don’t forgive anyone who purposefully harms another with knowledge and intent — that, for me, is enabling them to continue that behavior. My forgiveness in those cases consists of removing my presence from theirs. I do not have to let those people back into my life. I love me too much.

Forgiveness means to let myself off the hook of being responsible for anybody else’s behavior. My eternal presence nudges me to “let it go, let the incident go, let go your feelings to blame yourself or to seek revenge. We’ve other things to move on to.”

But I come to find that I do not have an honest, working mechanism of forgiveness for myself. I don’t know what forgiveness sounds like, looks like, or feels like. I know what it does not feel like. I still walk through life with ancient strings tied to my emotions over incidents long past and feel the same sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and pain as if the incident had only occurred yesterday. I continue to hurt myself through my memories.

My eternal presence does not urge me to pray for anyone to change their energy to what I think it should be. People are entitled to have the energy they have chosen. What I am hearing from my presence is that I need to view life from another person’s perspective and know that I can never really, truly perceive their experience accurately. I can only glimpse a fragment of how I might be and act given that person’s circumstances and beliefs. That is full of guesswork and projection. From my limited human point of view, I must find the God struggling to become within them.

And then I will be able to see the God struggling to become in me.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Finishing presence

April 30, 2010

Finishing presence feels somewhat like I imagine forgiveness feels like: the circumstances, the person, the situation, or the event no longer stirs evocative emotions in me. I feel neither this way nor that way. I am finished.

I struggle with the word “forgive” because it implies that someone or something has wronged me in some way. As a child, I was taught that the concept of “forgiveness” meant people could do anything they wanted and as long as they were sorry, God would forgive them. It did not necessarily mean that the person had to stop that behavior.

As an adult, I have to grow into a new concept and definition of forgiveness. Finishing is as close as I can get right now. To let myself off of the hook and quit feeling bad over life long past, I need to be finished and let it go. It does not mean I forget. Finishing means I remember from a new perspective.

From this distance, I can look at events that occurred in my childhood and know that I felt bad. I can even recreate the bad feelings over something that might have happened forty years ago. I am still that child feeling awful about something someone else did. I might even feel bad over something that I did. I am not finished. To be finished requires some creative work. A mindful meditative journey with that child works well for me. From my adult perspective, I can point out and create new stories about the event. As I tell myself (the child) several different stories about the event, why it occurred, what was going on with me and other people, I come to realize that I feel bad because I’ve attached meaning to the event. The meaning almost always is some derivative that I did something wrong, that I was a bad person, that I should have done something else, I should have known better, I should have (fill in the blank). I continue to suffer because I want life to be different than what it was or how it is right now.

This internal work moves at its own pace. The child in me signals readiness when the memory surfaces and I become that child again, feeling bad over things long past. My eternal presence urges me to let it go . . . not to forget the incident, but rather, to let go of carrying the emotional weight. If I stay present, being with the child in the moment, life will bring me all sorts of ways to let go: reading a sentence, drawing a picture, writing a memoir, a physical movement, witnessing life unfolding. It does not matter. There is not any one specific way except for me to trust myself, know that I am eternal, and make the choice to live joyfully.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

Forgiveness

April 3, 2010

This word and its watery concept has caused me all sorts of problems and been the root of justified abuse in my life. The religion in which I was raised insisted that I forgive others for hurting me and those who hurt me used it as a justification to hurt me further; in their minds, they could do whatever they wanted because “God would forgive them.” I still find this “forgiveness” thing as a cheap way out for people who don’t want to change or be held accountable for their behavior. I don’t see any need to “forgive” someone of their human nature. I have hurt others out of my ignorance and stupidity, and have said I was sorry, made amends, and worked to not harm another. However, I know I continue to say or do things that, when viewed by another’s perception, are harmful to them or others. (Anytime I see a cheap, useless trinket that has a tag that reads “Made in Japan” or “Made in China” or “Made in Taiwan” I feel a twinge of remorse that someone has to make such things to be able to exist and I am actually torn between buying it so that person would continue to have a job or not buying it because it serves no purpose.) I would prefer to accept us for all our humanness. But I don’t forgive anyone who purposefully harms another with knowledge and intent — that, for me, is enabling them to continue that behavior. My forgiveness in those cases consists of removing my presence from theirs. I do not have to let those people back into my life. I love me too much.

Forgiveness means to let myself off the hook of being responsible for anybody else’s behavior. My eternal presence nudges me to “let it go, let the incident go, let go your feelings to blame yourself or to seek revenge. We’ve other things to move on to.”  

It seems easier to forgive those who are truly sorry, stops what they are is doing, understands the harm they have caused, and feels remorse. I know have been guilty of behavior that has harmed others, and I need forgiveness, too. But if someone won’t or can’t acknowledge it and make amends for the harm done there is no need to offer forgiveness. In my heart, though, I will forgive because letting it go keeps me from being full of bitterness and resentment and further poisoning my life.

My eternal presence does not urge me to pray for anyone to change their energy to what I think it should be though. People are entitled to have the energy they have chosen. My preference is that they honor my boundaries and keep to themselves unless I have invited them into my life.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass