What gift bag do you choose for a man that wants nothing to do with you? Smiling giraffes. Yes, smiling giraffes will perfectly convey “it’s okay that you don’t like me and therefore, treated me like dirt. I forgive you because I am kind, practical, and so magnanimous.” At least, that’s what 22 year old me was telling herself, as she dropped the gift off on the porch of a guy she dated for a few months. She then ran like hell toward her car before anyone saw.
Yes, I’m aware that I’m speaking in third person. No, I’m not crazy. At least, not crazier than anyone else. I just feel like a completely different person than that poor delusional child. Plus, the human body regenerates continuously, so a woman is actually a completely different being every seven years, at least physically. That used to be what I sited for not wanting to marry when I was in my twenties. “How can I promise to love you FOREVER,” I’d ask, “I’m not even sure who I’ll be in seven years.” With a mouth like that, it probably comes as no surprise that no, I didn’t ever marry, at least not yet. But, who knows who I’ll be in seven years.
With the topic of ‘happily-ever-after-forver’ aside, I have learned a lot about forgiveness. What 22 year old me knew on a visceral level is that you can’t get on with your life if you don’t forgive the person that wronged you. The process and execution were just all wrong. Now in my thirties, I recognize a few things. First, there was no real processing of emotions. At no point did I sit and think, ‘wow, this hurts like hell… maybe I wasn’t expecting forever, but I sure wasn’t expecting to be thrown out like an old sock’. I also didn’t really get angry at any point. There was no punching a pillow, going for a run, or even venting to a friend. I dropped off a parting gift, patted myself on the back, and got on with it. Textbook avoidance behavior.
Through the years, I’ve recognized that the other person should probably be part of the process. It was a step in the right direction, but I laugh every time I think about how I’d handle these interactions. The person in question would wrong me somehow. They’d insult me, ignore me, or abandon me. I would again skip the anger part and decide, as if I were only a floating brain, to forgive them. For almost ten years, the process was to write a letter, deciding that I am a much better writer than speaker and therefore, it’d be best to use that medium. In two single-spaced pages or less, I’d declare in my most benevolent voice, “I forgive you.. I hope you can be happy without me.. blah, blah, blah.” Can you imagine the look on the other person’s face? I forgive them for the wrong against me. To imply, or in my case demand, that someone else had anything to do with how I felt about the situation is ridiculous. Acknowledging that most descent humans only try their best with what they know, I can imagine the resentment a person may feel reading one of those letters.
Could it be that I, too, was responsible for the transgression? I began to recognize that yes, I was partly culpable for all of my relationships, but only on a superficial level, as evidenced by my gift giving and incessant letter writing. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when I completely annihilated a relationship that I started to think back on a conversation I had with a intuitive (a stranger that knew enough about me to make a serious impression). She said, “you will never meet your beloved if you can’t forgive him“. I almost argued that ‘I had forgiven him and had the letter to prove it’, but recognized how ridiculous I was before the words left my mouth.
For weeks, I’d also been feeling as if there were an actual arrow through my heart. The arrowhead fighting to make it’s may out of my back. I sat with those sensations and the word ‘forgiveness’ on my lips for days until I was spurred to action. The part that was missing in the gifts and the letters was me. I never took responsibility for anything. What I was doing was not forgiving. I was blaming and avoiding. True forgiveness, I recently decided, is taking responsibility for the parts you control in any relationship and asking for forgiveness.
I lit incense, covered myself in juniper oil, meditated, and prayed before writing my first real letters of forgiveness. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. Pride is a difficult beast to subdue. Yet, I did it. I sent the letters with no hope for response, and finally freed myself of that karma. I felt almost immediately lighter and expansive; able to now love the whole world with my entire being.
Now, I didn’t take responsibility for all of it; just my part. I also made sure to set boundaries by adding that ‘this action’ made me feel ‘this way’. The difference was in writing about what I know for certain, and all I know is what happens in my body from my perspective. Asking for forgiveness, instead of granting forgiveness, allows for divine forgiveness of self. Once the letters were sent, I was able to let go of everything I secretly felt guilt for, but was too proud to admit.
If you’ve never asked for forgiveness in this way, I highly recommend it. I recently suggested this to a friend who responded, “he doesn’t deserve it.” Maybe not, but who are you to say. Furthermore, don’t you feel you deserve it. You have every right to be free of the past and in love with your life right now.
I look forward to you contributions below.