When I study our culture, I have always found that I have an unusual tendency to look at what is not being spoken of, or taught, what is not being openly discussed. Subjects such as respect, trust, inner beauty, and especially forgiveness. Today I want to address forgiveness.
Because no matter how many caturangas we do, no matter how much wheat grass juice we drink, no matter how many kirtans we attend, we will not have a happy life if we are carrying resentment and hate inside of us. (It’s not what you eat, but what’s eating you.) Anger and resentment destroy our lives, whereas, forgiveness is perhaps the most powerful tool we have for healing the damaged, shadow aspects of ourselves. To forgive another, heals oneself, just as anger toward another poisons oneself. Even for the body to heal, often times what is most vital is to heal the broken heart or spirit.
This is no academic or theoretical premise; it is grit and blood real. Failure to forgive affects our stress level, power to heal the body, discernment, and all of our relationships. Our yoga will take us quite far down the road, healing past wounds, purging us of ghosts of traumas past, but at some point down the road we have to do some earnest self-enquiry, and in that work we arrive at forgiveness.
I am not suggesting that you should suppress your anger and immediately forgive. There are very few with that ability and they are usually called saints. Anger must be appropriately expressed and felt, but at some point- six months later – six years later, sixty years later, forgiveness is your last best hope for a happy life.
What is forgiveness exactly?
Let us define forgiveness first by what is isn’t:
- To forgive does not mean forget. Sometimes to forget will cause us to be harmed again by a repeat offender.
- To forgive does not mean denial. There is a word for that – it’s called denial. You pretend no wrong was committed. Once again, this will likely cause you to be harmed again by a repeat offender who experiences no repercussions for harmful behavior.
- To forgive does not mean you have no boundaries and never say “no.” Do you let a two-year old play with sharp scissors or gently take them away? Taking them away is an act of love and care, but to the two-year old it is an act of betrayal and theft. Same thing with adults with other kinds of scissors.
- To forgive does not mean, most importantly, that you condone or approve of the harmful action committed. This is why so many of us will not forgive. There are many of us that could tell our story of unbelievable tragedy, wrongs done to us or our loved ones that we will never approve of or condone. Ever.
So what is forgiveness?
Forgiveness simply means;
“I let the anger go. I let the pain and anger and infectious poison of resentment leave my body. I pull the splinter from my heart. I spit out the red-hot coal I have swallowed. I release it all.”
To stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake
To say I will never forgive you is also saying, I am committed to be angry for the rest of my life.
But aren’t some things unforgivable?
We had better hope not, or we are doomed to an unhappy life, and we will pass on that unhappiness to our children. If some things unforgivable, then you have condemned yourself to a lifetime of seething resentment, and having your anger affect/infect all of our relationships. And it means reliving the past painful event over and over.
The first key to understand is that you can forgive a person without forgiving the action. “What you did was wrong, but I forgive you. Now don’t do it again.” That doesn’t mean that you must then be friends again, or married again, or business partners again, or even speak to each other again. It just means that you are releasing the anger.
Forgiveness is a practice – just like any yoga practice, you don’t do it once. Forgiveness is not a one-time event – it is an everyday practice. You may forgive someone and then find yourself one or two weeks later, angry again. Forgiveness is daily work, you will likely need to do it again even after you think it is finished.
Mark Twain once exclaimed, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
The choice is hard yet simple, to forgive or to resent. Forgiveness brings peace, while resentment fosters pain in us and cultivates anger, and anger usually leads to harmful behavior. When we suffer, we become self-centered. When we heal we become more selfless. It is our choice. When we grant mercy to others – we may find, quite surprisingly, that we grant mercy to ourselves.
join Max Strom in camden…
inner axis: releasing stress – a weekend of workshops
01 – 10 september 2017
Max is a teacher, speaker, author and teacher trainer, and is known for profoundly inspiring and impacting the lives of his students for nearly two decades. His Inner Axis system includes a philosophy for real world living, self-enquiry, breath-work, yoga postures, and meditation. His teachings are a culmination of his life experience and decades of study and application. Find out more at www.maxstrom.com