First and foremost, a new definition is required for forgiveness. Let’s work from the premise that we are striving to be receptive to the next right choice.
In most cases, we are striving to reconcile the story. In a perfect world, forgiveness would mean that both parties would walk away with the same movie running in their heads. There would be no need for a star because each actor would carry their own weight and be responsible for how they show up. Right?
We don’t live in a perfect world. Forgiveness is one of those moving pieces. Just as you feel like you have a handle on it, it slips away, we are thrown back into default. Under your new and current circumstances, life is good but then we walk into one of those old situations. Say Mom and Dad come by and suddenly, we are catapulted back to another time. A much younger version of our self shows up and voila… all of those same feeling and behaviors reappear out of nowhere. Default!
This default is an accurate measure for where you stand in the forgiveness department.
Our level of forgiveness rises with our level of healing and consciousness. Just as with our perception of God or the Universe, the way we perceive that entity depends on our level of openness and awareness. Those that live in a space where their picture of the Creator is fear based… God is vengeful and retaliatory. Or we slide up the scale a little and God is attributed with human emotion and action as a parent… this energy is benevolent. I like the metaphor of the interchange of energy and water: water is in and affects everything. Without it our world, our bodies, will disintegrate into dust. Water, in its strength and power, has the ability to give life or take it away. So you see our choice in how we interact affects the outcome.
So goes with forgiveness.
When rising out of childhood trauma, forgiveness moves into a category of its own. One that most cannot comprehend. When parents are involved, sexual or physical, “the forgive and forget” or “turn the other cheek”–You have done that everyday for the entirety of your years in their house. That level of forgiveness has been accomplished. You have made excuses for behavior and accepted blame and guilt for the choices of another for a lifetime. A child growing up in a traumatic home wakes up in a state of “turn the other cheek” forgiveness every morning. They have to. How would you go to breakfast? Each morning you woke up hoping for the offender to make the next right choice. And to be truthful, I really don’t feel that standing in front of a swinging door, as your whacked over and over again, is what was intended. This level of forgiveness has been achieved for you. Now it’s time to rise to a place where life isn’t Groundhog Day.
We must move past grieving over an idea of what we wish were and make choices around what is.
It’s your choice.
The definition of insanity: Do the same action and expect different results.
That is the warped programming of an adult of childhood trauma. We want more than anything in the world to be seen and get along—fit in. So we just keep trying. No matter the cost.
You have value! You are important! You live life purposefully!
The idea here is that you are responsible for elevating your game. Often, we talk about boundaries along side forgiveness. I don’t think any of us need more walls. But… we do need higher expectations for ourselves, for our relationships and for our circumstance.
Our first introduction to relationship is our parents and from here our expectations are set. Our inner circle relationships set the stage for what we expect a relationship to look like. For many of us that didn’t work out so well, and we live under the assumption relationships are a lot of work. We accept what we are given. Our happiness set point is very low. We must be careful to stay attentive to the way we are showing up.
We don’t want to recreate the same old game with new players.
You have been involved in this elaborate kickball game that has been going on for generations. Your goal is to learn how to play chess. Your default is kickball. Often just with any sort of reprogramming, you need to allow yourself some distance to allow your new patterns time to stick. It is easy to get sucked back in. This is like breaking a bad habit or learning how to eat differently… on steroids.
I like to compare this process, just for measurement sake, to say quitting smoking, or an alcoholic walking away from his drink of choice. It is not something that one just wakes up in the morning and does in most cases. It takes diligence of mind and willpower of steel to change a pattern like that. It is woven into each and everything you do. And yet each of these behaviors have a distinct start point. We can walk back to a time before that first drink or that first cigarette. For childhood trauma… it just was. For many of us always. There was no beginning. No place to go back to.
So be patient with yourself. Forgiveness is for you!
Again, how you show up and react is your measure of where you stand in the forgiveness department. I would step back in with my toes and test the waters. Often, with the slightest interaction, sparks would fly, step back out. Evaluate my reaction. Evaluate how long it took me to get back on my feet. Evaluate if it was worth it. Ask all of my “why’s”. And made strategies on what should be different were there a next time. I always left myself a loophole, because you may not want to step back in and that’s okay. Every player in the game is making choices too. They have responsibilities in this big game. You don’t have to shoulder the weight of everyone’s actions.
In my studies, I was taught forgiveness as detachment, which was a very disturbing rub for me. Like many whom have endured childhood trauma, we’ve spent most of our lives detached. A safety mechanism… dissociation. We are trying to learn to stay here and be grounded. Instead, I like to think of ultimate forgiveness like Dumbledore’s pensieve in Harry Potter. Here, after the end of a long day, he stands before his pensive and drains his brain of his important, heavy memories. These are memories he needed to keep and have access to but weren’t necessary to have up front and interfering with daily activities. He walked away unburdened.
Here there is no judgment. Here there is no emotional charge. Here you can dip back in when necessary and interact with them without getting bowled over by the emotion.
Close your eyes and let’s imagine you creating your container.
Open your eyes and write down everything that you can remember. If you can draw… sketch it out because this is your homework for the week. I want you to create your own version of a pensieve. A container for your circumstances waiting for forgiveness.
Place your container somewhere in your sacred space of honor. As we sit this week, we sit receptive to the rise of these old memories. I like to keep a stack of colorful cards near by with a fancy pen. (Remember in your sacred space everything is intended to make you smile. Each item is chosen with intent and purpose to elevate you.) We carefully write out every detail of the circumstance in its current state with the intent that the emotion you feel will be deposited into your pensive along with your rendition. I like to place a crystal that draws me on top of the memory. Take a bow and give thanks for being relieved of that burden.
It is important to place responsibility where it belongs all of the way around in this process. Remember, we have this bucket of choices, so in the end forgiveness gets turned back to you. Can you forgive yourself for allowing yourself to continue to be beaten up in the kickball game? That, in the end, is the final piece. Our self worth is also reflective of our level of forgiveness. You can love someone, care deeply about what happens to them, and send them blessings. You can want their life to move forward with ease and grace, without wanting to have their thoughts and words and actions influence your life or the lives of your children, if applicable. These are your choices. In elevating the game and declaring how it’s played, you can invite them to play but from here the choice is theirs with no judgment. They still may have things to accomplish and learn in the kickball game and that’s okay.
Remember we are all riding the same bus. We have just gotten on at different times.