I recently had the pleasure of spending four days with a new friend who happens to be a terrific listener, a boon for a born storyteller like me. As I regaled her with tale after tale in this short time period, I got to notice a pattern in the way I speak about my life. A not-so-nice pattern. An uncomfortably large number of my stories ended something like this:
"And then that f*ckin jerk wronged me and I've hated/ resented/ felt hurt by them ever since."
[I feel tingles of vulnerability and shame even now writing this. In fact, my ego and pride are urging me to erase that last sentence. But even bigger than my ego or pride is my commitment to consciousness, so I'll push through.]
What I uncovered about myself is that I have carried a lot of old hurts and resentments inside me. Acknowledging that truth led me to see that I don't want that for myself any more. And forgiveness seemed like the right way to digest and let go of that old pain.
Forgiveness has always been a bit mysterious to me. How to "do" it. What to think in order to "make" it happen. And then I read an interesting passage in Louise Hay's book, "You Can Heal Your Life" that said you don't have to "do" anything other than be willing to forgive.
Be willing to forgive.
Am I willing to forgive?
I am willing to forgive.
It's that simple.
When I got back from my trip, I sat down in front of my laptop and composed a list of everyone I still have an outstanding grievance against, going back as far as middle school. I wrote a few sentences next to each name - what the person meant to me, what I felt hurt by, and the sentence: "I am willing to forgive."
Five single-spaced pages later, here's what surprised me:
1. I was willing to forgive everyone on that list except for one person. That's pretty damn good.
2. Half of the people on the list, I was ready to forgive on the spot.
3. Several of the people on this list required no forgiveness at all.
4. I had to ask a handful of people on that list to be willing to forgive me.
5. I had to write the following several times: "I am willing to forgive myself."
I went to sleep that night feeling a sense of light, swirling space in my chest cavity. I slept the sleep of the dead.
The next morning, I noticed that none of the grievances had returned. Nor had they returned the next day, or the day after. Now, sure, I've gotten annoyed since then. You can't walk through Flatbush Avenue without the occasional wince of irritation or hastily thrown dirty look. But the impacted, old stuff is gone. The stuff with stories attached to it...dissolved. I don't even feel tempted to ruminate on any of it.
What will I fill all that light, new space with?
I don't know, but I bet it will feel better than yesterday's hurt.