Forgiveness and Pain
In the book I am reading called "the power of kindness" there is a section on Forgiveness as one of the 16 elements of kindness. There was an example of a victim of the Holocaust who thought that the ability to forgive was the most important human trait.
Last Friday, I met with Kristin. And we talked about forgiveness. I told her that for me, forgiveness is something that I don't have trouble with. No matter what is happening to me today, I don't have to forgive because there is nothing to forgive. Whatever is happening is happening and not forgiving doesn't make it stop.
I do not hold grudges. Because if I don't forgive, I cannot move forward. And moving forward is usually away from some sort of pain that I am feeling. And the inability to forgive, if you want to call it a "grudge," which I feel doesn't adequately describe what forgiveness really is, means that I am allowing someone else to control how I feel and allowing someone else to determine whether I move forward. And that means I am being held place, holding onto the whatever is happening, and as I am clinging to that suffering and pain, it is holding onto me harder and harder. It's a deep spiral and the deeper you go, the harder it is to get out. The inability to forgive feeds on itself.
I told her that I never really forget. Remembering something does not mean that I cannot forgive. Remembering provides me with the hope that I won't repeat the same mistakes. With anything, practice makes perfect. Mindfulness, remembering, and forgiving is something that allows me to live and you do it over and over and hopefully you get better at it.
There was a pause. She leaned over from the edge of her chair and she asked me when I discovered this about forgiving. I told her that I learned it in my 20's when all I did was suffer. And then I decided to forgive and the suffering went away. She said that people work their entire lives to understand what I am talking about. I thought this was rather funny. That I, of all people, discovered something in my 20's, that people spend their lives looking for.
Then we talked about Pain. I told her that I feel pain and I think I am suffering at some level. She said that suffering = pain x resistance.
The removal of resistance - the act of giving in or the act of forgiving
doesn't make you weak. The book I am reading also talks about this. It's that moment when you throw up your hands and say, "Ok. I give." That doesn't mean that you are giving up or giving in. It means that you are no longer resisting and trying to control something you have no control over, or trying to shape and outcome that you cannot shape. And in that moment, suffering diminishes. Yes, you still have to deal with the pain of whatever it is that you are doing or having to deal with, but it is just pain without the suffering. And you see more clearly what you have to do, what you can control, without distractions from the things that you have no control over.
This release from resistance means you recognize what you can change and what you cannot. So acceptance - like the serenity pray (God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change) means less resistance which means less suffering.
So, when you are left with just the raw pain, without judgement, without resistence, then you can acknowledge and deal with it. You don't have to suffer. Suffering and pain are two different things.
She said my ability to forgive means that I can deal with my pain. And I can do so without the cloud of suffering, without caving into outside forces that are trying to control me. It means that I can deal with my pain in a step by step focused mindfulness, and control only that which I can and ignore all the rest.
All the years of studying and contemplation, all the years of advising people in this similar way, has engrained themselves in my cells and I am actually trying to practice what I have spoken. I never thought that day would ever come. All those years of inward thought have converged to this point in my life.
I used to ask why I searched so much, why my spirit was so restless.
Now I know.