The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mahatma Gandhi
It seems in my life right now every time I sit down to write about our curriculum, the theme that is next on my list is something I am dealing with everyday. For instance when I wrote about gratitude, I had just started meditating every morning on what I am grateful for. When I wrote about self-acceptance and bullying I found through my writing that I was being extremely hard on myself, and not allowing myself some freedom to mess up and start over. And now I come to forgiveness. I find myself scared to write about what I am dealing with – because in all honesty I do not know how exactly to forgive.
This is much like my students, who when we talk about this theme they constantly say – how can I forgive her if she hasn’t asked for it? My response is simple – by just saying you forgive her, you are doing yourself a favor. You are not simply letting that person off the hook. Instead, you are giving yourself a gift. You are choosing to allow yourself to get over whatever mistake was made, or painful experience was felt, that someone else caused you. This alone is a new concept for many of our students. I have seen this in an individual suffering from substance abuse, who has never forgiven his parents for beating him until almost the point of death, and then choosing to abandon him. My student, who when he talks about this issue goes back to what he felt like as a child – beaten, bruised and left too die – is still struggling with his past. His parents (for all intensive purposes) have literally moved on – and he is stuck in the exact moment of being left. Yes, this is a horrible thing. Something that years and years of intensive therapy has not been able to cure, and this hatred to his parents led him to use opiates (and then heroin) to mask his pain. When we discussed this, he told me he would never forgive them, because what they did was “wrong” and how could I ask him to forgive someone who was so wrong. This led to me realizing the problem is when our students do not want to forgive because they get something out of it. They get to feel “right” and make the person who they are forgiving “wrong”. This rightness gets them through the day. They get to look back at the situation and make the other person wrong. They get sympathy for being wronged, and their decisions thus leads them wanting to maintain this feeling of being right.
I told my student he had to admit that he possibly could be wrong for not forgiving them. He had to believe that his parents were doing the best they could given their current situation. That they were attempting to do right – no matter how hard it was for him to accept it. That by making them constantly wrong, he was preventing himself from growing as an individual, getting past his childhood, so he could be a better human being right now.
I am definitely not comparing myself to anyone of my student’s situations. Instead I am identifying the feeling of being right. This is why I find myself in situations unable to forgive – even when the person I feel wronged me may never ever apologize. I need to take a hard look at what I POSSIBLY COULD HAVE DONE, and who I am being now. I need to without hesitation believe he was doing the best he could, and did not know what his actions were in turn doing to me emotionally. That no matter what the outcome, be it we reconcile or not, in this moment I am not being the best human being I can be because of the need to be right. I will make mistakes, I will wrong people, I am not perfect – and I will hope to be forgiven by them. Once I truly grasp this concept I can forgive. And once I forgive, then I can move past this situation, which is running all my thinking, so I can fully exhale and move into the next situation, which will need my full attention.
Forgiving is a concept we talk about more often with our students than others, because it is what most of them are dealing with on a daily basis. Our teachers have stories from students who have been hurt in the worst way possible, and we simply want these students to not live in the past. The best way I know how to speak about moving on – is by giving them tools which worked for me – so we can give them hope that forgiveness does allow one’s past to stay in the past.
Next up: vulnerability
Thank you for reading.
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