Ten Thousand Days

On The Other Side of Forgiveness

November 6, 2018

Photo: Tim Mossholder

Day 1530 – Day 1543

As we neared the end of the fourth year of gratitude practice, empathy became a key theme in working with gratitude, joy, oneness and service. With empathy, it is possible to overcome our differences and even to forgive those who have deeply wounded and wronged us.  I’m usually a forgiving person, and I faced a struggle with forgiveness for the first time in my life.  Someone I had loved had exploited my love and betrayed me.  I truly did not believe that I would ever be able to forgive him.  And in that,  I had lost a big part of what made me the person that I am.

People move on at different speeds.  I remember that the man ‘forgave me’ for all my wrongdoings very quickly.  Perhaps it was magnanimous of him.  I’m certainly not perfect and I said some thing I regret, but his accusations of feelings I didn’t have, and wrongdoings that I hadn’t committed, were, it seems to me, the projections of his own feelings and actions.  In that case, it made sense to forgive quickly, because if they originated within himself, then forgiving me was really excusing himself.   Forgiveness made sense, for him.

It’s also fairly easy to forgive someone who has had your best interests at heart but whose actions have unintentionally disappointed us or hurt us deeply.  It is even easy to forgive someone who has loved us and has tried to act in our best interest but who, when deeply hurt, has intentionally hurt us back.  In each case, having the other’s best interests at heart is key to finding the redemption in the transgression.

Some people don’t think much about forgiving or not forgiving.  For them, they simply move on, choosing not to work through their emotions.  The package up their memories and their emotions and they stuff them down where they think that they will never be found again.  Unfortunately, blocked emotions and memories don’t always stay where they are put, and even if they do, they may be harmful to long term wellbeing.  It seems to me that at the very least, pushing down our feelings robs the tapestry that is our life of its patterns and colour.

Whatever I may do, unconsciously, as an adult, my conscious choices have been to try to work through my emotions.  Sometimes this can’t be done with the participation of the person who has elicited the emotions and I’m grateful that where this has not been possible, I’ve had the support of friends, healthcare professionals and spiritual wayfarers to help me. While they may help us gather the tools, in the end, the work resides in our own hearts, where only we can do the work.

I recover from emotional blows very slowly, but I try to do it completely.  When I love, I love deeply, and the wounds are therefore equally deep.  Recovery takes time and even when I feel patched up, I may still be tender for a long time to come.  I suppose this is why I fall in love so infrequently.  Once I have loved someone, I have loved them forever, although the love takes a different form.  I’ve always managed to transform feelings of romantic love into something else, with all the men I had loved.

The person I needed to forgive was someone I had loved deeply but when our association ended, he burned the bridge between us, and his lack of remorse makes it unwise for me to attempt to rebuild it.  It saddens me that there would be no way for us to ever experience, together,  the epiphany of love transmuted.  My love for him had been so deep because we shared a spiritual life and at one time we both agreed that we had what could only be described as a soul connection.  I had promised to love him, no matter what.  And, while I could not be held to that promise, this story would have been incomplete if I had not found my way back to some sense of agape love.  Love and compassion are the two sides of the sacred heart.  If I could not, eventually, find my way to love, I’d consider it my saddest failure as a person.

All through our relationship, I knew he was a troubled soul, and this showed up in behaviour that hurt me.  I didn’t always like him, but I did always love him, I knew that he was worthy of love, as are all people,  and I wanted the best for him.  After he betrayed my trust and exploited my love for him, I spent nearly a year hating him, and in that time, I never once wished for his happiness.  If I could have, I would have, but I couldn’t and I didn’t.  I’m not proud of myself for that, and just as I’ve had to take full responsibility for the decisions I made to continue to see the best in him when he repeatedly showed me other qualities, I also have to take responsibility for the stone that settled in my heart where love had been, when I finally saw the other side of him.  I am responsible for my hurtful words and my hateful thoughts.

Women forgive the people who murder their children all the time.  If they were capable of this, then surely I was capable of forgiving him.  I had given up the idea that love would ever return to my heart when I thought of him, but, at least forgiveness was in my power.   In time, with new techniques of active imagination, I was able to connect to my empathy for him, and without condoning his behaviour, I forgave him.

I thought that was the end of it.  But he remained in my dreams.   And something happened that caught me by surprise.

On the other side of forgiveness, I started to feel not only empathy, but compassion for him.  Having imagined whatever suffering or deficiency had caused his behaviour, I wanted his suffering to be removed – not for my benefit – but because I wanted him to be free of anguish.  I was surprised, but pleased to feel my heart soften to him.  And, I thought, surely this is where this ends.

But I was taken by surprise, yet again, over the next few weeks.

Where there is compassion, love often arises.  With compassion, for him, I noticed fleeting and uncontrollable wishes for his happiness arising within me.  To be honest, I was annoyed to feel these stirrings.  He had pursued his own pleasure at my expense.  I had forgotten what I already knew: pleasure is not the same as happiness.  Happiness, and the peace of the soul that would go with it, was the only thing I could wish for him, once connected by empathy to his pain and having my compassion activated.

Compassion is the desire to see someone free from suffering; The wish for another person’s happiness is Love.

On the other side of forgiveness, I rediscovered love.

Even for the sake of experiencing – together – the epiphany of love transmuted, it would be unwise and indeed, unsafe for me to rekindle a relationship with or even to build a bridge to someone who shows no regard for my wellbeing.  But, I am grateful to see that I am not forever changed, nor forever damaged as a person, by the experience of loving him and suffering his remorseless selfishness.   I have reclaimed my compassion and I am profoundly grateful to unexpectedly find the pathway to fulfill my promise to love him – truly love him – no matter what.

Wisdom promises that on the other side of forgiveness, there is freedom.  There is, and it comes through love.  I am once again my best self and it is a joy to see:  a woman with great capacity for personal responsibility,  empathy, forgiveness, compassion and love.    I like who I see, when I look in the mirror,  and I believe that I, too, am worthy of love – my own love, firstly,  and also the love of a good man who has my best interests at heart and who cares for my wellbeing.


Photo: Neon Brand

For what are you most grateful today?

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