What does it mean to forgive someone? I’ve been grappling with this question for years. Various memes, articles, and quotes tell me that forgiveness does not mean that you are excusing the person’s behavior, but that when you forgive, you are freeing yourself. There have been times when I believed that I had completely forgiven a person, but then something comes up, and buried feelings float back up to the surface, and I am reminded of more work that I need to do.
This morning, a friend posted a video of a Holocaust survivor named Eva. During the Holocaust, Eva was a young girl living in Romania. She and her entire family, including her twin sister, were taken to the concentration camp of Auschwitz. Within 30 minutes of getting off of the cattle car that transported them there, Eva was separated from her Dad and Mom and never saw either of them again. When the SS Officers realized that Eva and her sister were twins, the two young girls were sent off to special barracks were the doctors were performing experiments on twins in an attempt to figure out a way for the Aryan race to proliferate faster. As you can imagine, it’s a very sad story, but also a very inspiring one. You can watch the video HERE.
The reason that I am writing about this video is because in the end, years after the Holocaust had ended and Eva was an adult, Eva took it upon herself to go to Germany to meet with one of the doctors from Auschwitz and later, ultimately forgave him for his part in the torture and killing. She later forgave Dr. Mengele, the doctor directly responsible for the torturous experiments that were done on Eva and her sister. To me, this was extremely powerful. Here is a woman who lost everyone but her sister at Auschwitz, and she’s finding it in her heart to forgive the people responsible??!! While I acknowledge that all struggles are relative and that we don’t have to go through the Holocaust to have deep wounds from a painful past, to me, if Eva can forgive these SS doctors, who am I not to forgive people in my life? Later, Eva was denounced by many other Holocaust survivors, because of her act of forgiveness to these doctors, but she stood by her decision. Eva saw that forgiveness had led to her own healing, and to her, that was more important than staying in line with everyone else. So I went for a walk on this gorgeous day. And as I walked, still amazed by Eva’s ability and willingness to forgive those SS doctors, I started thinking about forgiveness and my own relationship with it in my life.
In the years when I was struggling with illness, I felt trapped in a body that I no longer recognized and simultaneously, I also felt trapped in a marriage that had become toxic for me. My belief is that we all choose the big, key players in our lives. As souls before we incarnate into this life, we choose our parents, siblings choose each other, and I believe we also choose those who we share major relationships with in our lives. And likewise, our children choose us, their parents. In every case, our souls make agreements with each other to help each other learn various lessons in this life with the ultimate goal of our incarnation being to awaken. (If you want to read more about this, check out the book, “Your Soul’s Plan: Discovering the Real Meaning of the Life You Planned Before You Were Born” by Robert Schwartz that I posted on my book list.) Each of our souls reincarnate to this Earth School many times over, thousands of times, in order to learn the lessons that we are meant to learn that will eventually wake us up. And many times, we travel with a soul group that we have known in past lives. So it is highly likely that my ex-husband and I have been closely connected in many past lives. We choose the souls in our lives knowing the details of what the relationship with them will look like. To put it in the simplest terms, I think that his soul lovingly agreed with mine to enter into my life this time around in a relationship that would tear me down, so that I could eventually build myself back up from the ground to be the person that I came here to be, and to do the things that I am meant to do. And for that, I am very grateful. It’s like the story of myself was broken down, and when I got back to re-writing it, I relocated some of the positive aspects of myself, but released a lot of the negative parts. I believe had that not happened, I would have likely been carrying some of those negative parts of my story around with me for a lifetime. I see now that I was ready to finally question and work through the self-limiting beliefs and the story that I had held about myself for so long.
My human mind has worked hard to come to terms with the way things happened, and I am still working to forgive, so that I can be free. I see myself as a willing participant in a marriage that I chose for myself. That being said, I learned some lessons the hard way. I questioned everything I did, said, and felt, and I allowed myself to completely lose my sense of self. And the situation, with us living so far from any family members, was very isolating.
I have forgiven lots of people in my life, and have also been forgiven lots of times. And I know the relief that comes with forgiveness. The act of letting go of what happened moves you beyond suffering, so that you can go on and live your life. I am very aware of the feeling of stuck energy in my body when I’m holding onto the feelings of resentment. I know that to end my mental suffering, I must FULLY forgive people. So what is the process of releasing that? How do I move past the abstract thought of forgiveness and actually forgive? A big part of it for me is remembering that we are all humans doing our best in the life that we have been given. I do not claim that I was a perfect spouse. I had baggage with triggers that were getting activated regularly, and I was not mindful of them during that time. I realize now that a lot of the time, we all walk around with our baggage getting triggered, and we think that it’s all happening because of one person, or one situation, when in fact, we are likely dealing with feelings, emotions, and beliefs that we picked up during childhood, or even from our ancestors. A marriage is bringing two people with all of that baggage together, and if neither person is even aware of their baggage, it can be a disaster. When I look at my ex as a whole, I can see the story of his life and all that he has been through, and I can see how he came to be, and I feel compassion towards him. I know that we were both doing our best in the marriage even if our best was less than either of us believed we needed at the time. I also recognize that if it wasn’t for him, I would not have my amazing son. I highly recommend doing this practice in your own life. That’s a big part of the work I’ve done to get me to a place of true self-love. I look at the whole picture of myself, from my birth to the present, and I am reminded of all that I have experienced in this life, and how far I’ve come. Think of a person that you’re having a difficult time forgiving (even yourself), and do a quick overview of their (your) life in your mind’s eye. (this requires that you know the person pretty well, otherwise you can just trust that everyone you meet has been through a lot to get them to the person that they are now). Can you see how the pieces might fit together? Can you view them with compassion as a fellow human being doing their best in this life? Can you step back and stop taking things personally, so that you can see that no one’s actions or words have anything to do with you, but everything to do with them? I know sometimes the things we have to forgive are absolutely horrific, so in that case, can you forgive solely out of kindness to yourself, for your own healing? To free yourself?
We all have similar baggage and triggers, but we can react to those triggers in very different ways, which is why relationships can be so complicated. It takes a certain level of mindfulness to navigate through the triggers and subsequent reactions that come out during a relationship. It also takes mutual forgiveness to get through those times, and come back together. I am extremely grateful that I have experienced first-hand how drastically mindfulness can positively impact a relationship. When two people can be triggered and react, yet come back together and talk about what happened, and are able to see that their individual reactions had nothing to do with the other person, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. And it allows for self-awareness, individual growth, and compassion to blossom in such an amazing way within the relationship.
As I was out walking today, I actually asked my guides out loud for help and support so that I can finally forgive. I told them that I was having a really hard time with it, but that I am ready. So as I switched gears and headed to another spot, I was just enjoying my surroundings and the weather, not really thinking of anything in particular when I came upon this little sign that someone hung on the bridge that read “Forgive others.” And I just started laughing. There really are NO coincidences in life! I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried! As my friend, Erin, likes to say, nicely done, Universe! Nicely done!
While my health problems did have physical causes, I believe that the disease I experienced stemmed from the fact that I had stopped listening to my intuition. Eventually, when you live in a state of mental and emotional stress for so long, the toxicity will manifest in your physical body. If you don’t listen to your intuition, your gut, your heart, and take care of yourself first and remove yourself from negative situations, the Universe will step in and make you physically ill to get you out of them. That’s how the Universe works: we get small warnings, then bigger warnings, and then it eventually knocks us on our asses! So, it is important that we learn to pay attention to the small warnings, or better yet, learn to follow our intuition more closely and trust it. When we follow our intuition and live in the flow, we will find that we no longer need to experience the big tests, like a complete loss of our health, and that our lives become easier and more fluid.
I had to almost die, so that I would finally start giving myself the love, attention, and care that I always deserved from myself. But you don’t have to wait until you get to that point. We have all heard that chronic stress is bad for our health. Well, after getting sick, I would physically feel the effects of stress on my body. I noticed that stress caused flares of the pericarditis. So, naturally, I started limiting the stress in my life. I began to stop sweating the small stuff, because none of it was worth my health. Knowing that my body couldn’t handle the stress of my marriage AND the stress of being a new nurse, I finally worked up the courage to get myself out of the marriage. Once I started following my intuition again, I immediately became healthier without changing any other part of my health regimen. And over time, with regular use, my intuition has only gotten stronger and stronger.
We must all work to forgive the people in our lives who have hurt us, because we are the ones who suffer, not them. We must recognize that holding onto negativity or resentment creates stress in our own bodies which will eventually bring about pain and disease. And we must forgive regardless of if we ever get an apology or not, because it’s really about us and our own healing at this point, not them. Remembering that I have made mistakes and have hurt people in this life helps me respond to others from a place of empathy and compassion when they hurt me. Regardless of what we think about some people in our lives, they, like us, are on this Earth for a reason, and they are in our lives for a reason. And they are experiencing their own set of struggles in this life. Again, the message comes back to self-love. Love yourself enough so that you are able to move on and forgive others. More self-love = more love for others = what the world needs right now.
Sending you all so much love!
Michael Franti “Let It Go”
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