The 360 of Forgiveness

10 May

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It took a dream for me to understand forgiveness.  I didn’t find it in a song or an audio recording or one of Wayne Dyer’s books or an Oprah Super Soul Sunday segment.  Like many of my important spiritual downloads, it happened at night.  And this one was a big one.

While the location in my dream was not totally clear, I was in an interior of a public place walking from one side of the room to the other.  In doing so, I passed two middle-aged women talking quietly.  As I was passing, I glanced over and one of them, in an attempt to describe someone to her friend, said, “You know, he’s a little — like him.”  At which point, she holds out her hand effeminately and the two of them laugh.  I reach the end of the room.  I stop, I turn around.  My blood began to boil.  I was angry and I felt confrontational.  I take a step towards them.

“You know, it’s not nice to talk about people like that,” I shouted to them.  They stopped their hushed chatting and turned to me, surprised.  “Do you talk about gay people like that all the time or just today?”

Their mouths dropped open.  Minutes pass and I proceed to lecture them, speaking sternly, powerfully, angrily.  I raise my voice, I use my hands to emphasize my points.  I was standing up for myself, calling out bigotry and was relentless.  I don’t remember everything I said, but it felt like a long time, raising my voice more and more to prove my point.  Eventually, the women’s faces turned from shocked to sad.  One of them began to the cry; soon after, the other began to cry, too.  Tears were streaming down their faces and once I took notice of this, I quit my yelling.  I stared at them and they stared at me.  We were quiet.  Suddenly, an overwhelming amount of empathy flooded over me and I immediately felt terrible for my outburst.

“I don’t mean to yell at you,” I told them.  “I know you all are good people.  I can see that.  I’m just angry.  But I see that you didn’t mean to hurt me.”  They continued crying and as they did so, my perception of these women changed.  At first, I had seen only one side of them, a side that was petty, ignorant, and offensive.  Then, as the tears progressed along with the dream, I saw these women in a totally new way.  While flawed, I saw that the root of their comment about me was not meant to be offensive; they were just simply unaware.  I saw, in a new light, that they were actually good, deeply-feeling people whose intent it was not to hurt anyone.

I woke up, puzzled about the dream.  It felt important, it felt powerful, but I wasn’t sure why.  I wrote it down in a notebook by my bed and several hours later upon reading it over a cup of coffee, I determined the power of the dream had to do with me standing up for myself and that, perhaps, this was a message from Spirit.  Maybe they were trying to tell me that I needed to stand up for myself more on a regular basis or that I would have to very soon?  Later that day, upon reviewing the sequence of events in my head, it became glaringly obvious that the power of the dream was actually not in my tirade at these two women.  The power was found in the fact that before my very eyes, my perception of them as wrong and evil altered to empathetic and kind.  Yes, these two ladies in my dream were really teaching me about forgiveness.

When someone wrongs us or we feel betrayed by them, we are looking at the person through a 180-degree perspective.  We only see the wrongdoing and are blinded by our rage and hurt.  Yet, when we get to a place where we choose to forgive someone for what they have done to us, we are adopting a more 360-degree angle; a greater picture that’s truly three-dimensional, choosing to see the person in a fuller, enlightened way, not merely for the wrongdoing they may have done to us, but as a complete person.

I spent the next day thinking about this, about the ironic timing of my dream since I had recently been flooded with YouTube videos, books, quotes and reading material on the topic of forgiveness.  Forgiveness seemed to be taking a spotlight in my life and I wondered why.  So I set out to explore it for myself.  I wrote down the names of three people who I have felt wronged by in the last few years and I set the intent to truly forgive them and view them in the 360.

Marianne Williamson’s advice on forgiveness is to think of the person you must forgive and wake up each morning and pray for their happiness for 30 days.  Realizing I felt stilted in several ways by not truly forgiving these three people, I woke up the next morning and said out loud each of their names, taking several minutes to focus and pray for their happiness.  God, it wasn’t easy.  It kind of made me wanna throw up in my mouth at first.  And doing it the next morning wasn’t easy, either.  And the next one after that wasn’t so hot, come to think of it.  But by the fourth and fifth morning, I began to feel a cellular shift in the way I thought about these three people.  They no longer stirred negative emotions in me and the feeling of wishing them true happiness, wanting that for them on a profound level, gave me a peace I’d never had before.

Well on my way in this advanced spiritual practice, here are three things I realized about this powerful practice:

Forgiveness brings clarity.  Since following Marianne Williamson’s advice, and since having made several other lists of people I now realize I need to forgive on one level or another, I now see more clearly the soul contracts behind these complicated relationships and the purposes behind them.  I see more lucidly why things happened the way they happened and saw the good that came out of it as opposed to being clouded by the negative aftermath.

Forgiveness is a process.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  I’d be lying if I said that while I wish these three people true happiness and joy, there is definitely 15% of me that still would consider throwing a pie in their face mid-sentence a la Anita Bryant.  But several weeks ago that percentage was more like 25% and I’m hoping next week it will be down to 10%.  For some people, it might take years to fully forgive.  But if we are truly honest with ourselves, people in our lives fail us in greater and smaller ways all the time and the practice of forgiveness is a constant one.

Forgiveness opens doorways.  Through forgiving, you make yourself available to better things that can come into your life.  Carrying around excess bitterness and resentment closes you off to opportunities; yet, when your heart is open, you are truly able to receive.  You’re spiritually available for the amazing people, events and chances meant for you in this lifetime.

I wasn’t ready for this lesson a few years ago.  It seemed too daunting, too difficult.  And let me tell you, it’s definitely not easy, forgiving someone on that cellular level, particularly in the beginning.  But I realize I’m now ready because I really strive to view people in the 360, there’s a genuine want there.  And while I’m sure there’s a longer road ahead, I know I have those two ladies playing limp wrist in my dream to thank.  ‘Cause even though I yelled at them a little, they got me off and running.  And let me tell you, you’re not really off and running until you learn to forgive.

 

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