On forgiveness

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.

— Ernest Hemingway

We are all broken down by trauma and loss, by disappointment, by life’s daily chores and challenges.  How do we become “strong at the broken places,” as Hemingway says?

We know the answer if the broken thing is a bone or a dish: take time to repair it, protect it, treat it with care, allow it time to reset.

But what about a broken heart, broken trust, or a broken dream?  For those we do not always take the time to heal.  We don’t always know how to soothe our aching selves.  We think we should be able to get over it or tough it out.

So we get right back out there, still broken and bruised, and get hurt again — often in the same places where we’re already injured. These can become our weak spots.

Becoming stronger isn’t about covering over and armoring up the weak and injured spots. It’s about healing them.  To do that, our wounds have to be treated with gentleness and whatever remedies strengthen us. Meditation. Sleep. Exercise. Water. Prayer. Music. Dancing. Nature. Friendship. Generosity. Kindness. Forgiveness.

Nothing else heals quite like forgiveness does. It takes practice, though. The hardest things and people to forgive take some working up to.  Getting ready to let go of the burdens that weigh most heavily upon us is like preparing jump off a high dive. Sometimes you’ve got to look at it for a long time, from many different angles, before you take it on. Sometimes you’ve got to make smaller jumps first, with less risk.

Having trouble forgiving someone, or yourself? Practice with a smaller thing of less significance to you. It can be a silly thing. In fact, if it makes you laugh, so much the better. “I forgive my dryer for eating all those single socks, and I forgive myself for the ever-growing mountain in the ‘sock basket’ that I never seem to find time to sort and match.”  Reinforce the memory that forgiveness can be fun and lighthearted, and you’ll remember it will make your heart will feel lighter.

Here’s another way to practice forgiveness: try it out for a set amount of time.  Say to yourself, “For this weekend only, I am going to forgive X (person’s name),  just to see what it feels like.” On Monday you can pick up the grudge again. Think of it as an experiment, like eliminating a piece of furniture from your living room and looking at the remaining pieces. What does it look like?

What would your life be like if you weren’t carrying that hurt and anger?  What space might be freed up, and what new possibilities would you see in its place and beyond?

Practicing forgiveness on trial basis, for a limited time only…who knows what you might discover? Try it. I dare you. You might like it.



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