Have you ever read a self-help book or looked at a person who is evolving in ways that are outside of the “norm” and thought, yeah this is too hard, there’s no way I can do that? That’s just too much work. We look at the evolving person as special, strange, or weird. Cynicism normally sets in right? That cynicism keeps us from getting close to our potential for growth and greatness.
This was how I felt when I started reading The Book of FORGIVING by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. This book put me in such a vulnerable space that it took me years to embrace and get through it. I couldn’t believe the amount of courage it took for me to even read the book.
I’ve listened to other spiritual leaders and those in the field of psychology around the subject, but their book moved me into action.
Does forgiveness come easy for you? It doesn’t always come easy for me but I aspire to be a forgiving person. Desmond and Mpho Tutu’s invitation to what I consider radical forgiveness was life altering. BUT, it was also pushing up on some covered wounds. Wounds that I patched up and never wanted to be touched or acknowledged for the rest of my life. So, there was some serious contemplation on whether or not I could actually do this. I fundamentally knew that forgiveness was for my own freedom. And then I remembered Valarie Kaur’s beautiful voice reminding me to breathe and then push.
And so my journey continues.
It’s been several years now; I’ve hit some major bumps in the road and I’ve had some truly healing moments. I’m a slow learner and I tend to repeat some lessons before I get it, but I will get it. The way I understood and witnessed forgiveness in the past was passive. Where victims were expected to offer forgiveness to release the abuser. And in most cases the abuser moved on without seeking to make amends leaving the victim carrying the pain, guilt and/or shame. I certainly don’t remember seeing people go through the work of forgiveness, at least not the way the Tutu’s describe forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not airy-fairy.
My ego. Have you ever met her? She’s stubborn and self-righteous. She’s a fierce protector. There are many times she barges in because she wants to keep me safe. It has taken a lot, a miracle really, to assure her that I am OK. Especially when I started on the path of forgiveness. She put up a good fight for a long time. I had no idea that this was going to be so hard.
My ego wanted me to stay in the victim role. That role helped me avoid being responsible for my own life and actions. I was all jumbled up around all this. But I committed to this, so I started the fourfold path for healing explained in the book. It wasn’t easy but I can now say it’s possible. At times I’ve had to revisit some things. My journey began with learning how to forgive myself. In the past I would have been hard on myself or justified my behavior. Now, I have more compassion for myself.
The path of asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness had me breathless. I was afraid. Afraid of softening enough to feel the pain I caused someone else. I was also afraid to forgive people who hurt me. It was unfamiliar to me. I didn’t know what would happen next. Would they reject me? But with tears and a shaky voice I started conversations of forgiveness. I didn’t want healing and freedom for just myself; I want that for all of us, no exceptions. With that I also knew that it was for me and others will get there when they get there.
Forgiveness is a courageous act. We do not have to forgive, we choose to forgive. It’s personal and only for you and your freedom. I hope you can be brave enough to take the journey of forgiveness with me. I’m still learning. I have to keep reminding myself to be patient. It’s not about mastering forgiveness, it’s about daring to open up a little more, softening my heart and mending what’s been torn.
Life doesn’t always turn out in all the ways we envisioned it and that’s okay. We may not be able to make amends to everyone for various reasons. We can make amends to ourselves and then offer and seek forgiveness where we can. I encourage you to be one of those evolving people that helps change the world because you dared to forgive and love a little deeper. Easier said than done I know but we can do it. Keep working in real time. I have accepted the invitation from the Tutu’s to take this path of forgiveness, I hope you will too. Breathe and push.
Prayer Before the Prayer by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
I want to be willing to let go, to forgive.
But dare not ask for the will to forgive,
in case you give it to me
And I am not yet ready.
I am not yet ready for my heart to soften.
I am not yet ready to be vulnerable again.
Not yet ready to see that there is humanity in my tormentor’s eyes
Or that the one who hurt me may also have cried
I am not yet ready for the journey.
I am not yet interested in the path
I am at the prayer before the prayer of forgiveness
Grant me the will to want to forgive.
Grant it to me not yet but soon
Can I even form the words?
Dare I even look?
Do I dare to see the hurt I have caused
I can glimpse all the shattered pieces of that fragile thing
That soul trying to rise on the broken wings of hope
But only out of the corner of my eye
I am afraid of it
And if I am afraid to see
How can I not be afraid to say
Is there a place where we can meet?
You and me
The place in the middle where we straddle the lines
Where you are right
and I am right too.
And both of us are wrong and wronged
Can we meet there?
And look for the place where the path begins
The path that ends when we forgive