I’ve been thinking a lot about my New Year’s intention. Last year it was confidence. This year, it’s all about forgiveness.
Forgiveness is this funny thing. You can say you forgive someone, but then some times goes by, something happens and you realize you are still holding on to the hurt thought you released. You can tell yourself you’ve moved on, but all it takes is one simple word or action and you’re back in the place you started. Forgiveness is, by definition, the action of stopping or cancelling an emotion and thereby the act of letting go. As I examine what this intention will mean to me in 2016, I understand that in order to forgive I must learn to truly surrender.
Swami Sivananda Radha writes in Time to Be Holy: Reflecting on Daily Life, “the fire of knowledge lets you see what is done in ignorance. Ponder that point very carefully because it is the key to your ability to forgive others…whether they acted in ignorance or not, remember that you will be forgiven in the proportion in which you are able to forgive.”
Our actions, shrouded in ignorance (avidya), lead us to make choices which may or may not cause suffering to others and ourselves. Let’s be clear that intelligence is not the same thing as knowledge. Intelligence is our capacity to learn and apply skills. Knowledge is a deep understanding gained through experience. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge or information. As we dive deeper in our spiritual practice, we aim to wipe a way the veil of ignorance in order to come closer to our true nature, our Supreme Self. This is, in reality, the goal of the yoga practice—the quest for Self-Realization. But this quest is not achieved without self-inquiry and reflection. In fact, Swami Sivananda Radha asserts in the same passage “discrimination is leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to liberation.”
So as I reflect on what it means to forgive, I consider greatly what it means to let go. In order to lessen my suffering in this lifetime I must be able to move past all of the feelings of hurt, loss, betrayal, anger, judgement, frustration, etc. I suppose I could try to act as if nothing ever happened, but that really is just sweeping it all under the rug and those things always come back. No, if I truly wish to be free from the negative energy that is bound up in these emotions, I must be ready to forgive.
In this I consider what it means to not only forgive others, but to forgive myself as well. I am most definitely my own worst critic and enemy. Isn’t it time to forgive myself for being hurt and to release the shame I feel for situations well out of my control? I believe in the power of radical self-care, but how can I teach others if I am not able to love myself? I thought I was doing a good job, but in reflecting on forgiveness I find areas where I could do with more self-love. How can I truly be confident, if I’m so busy beating up myself up for being human? How can I let go, if I’m not willing to let myself of the hook? The answer is simple—I can’t. So in that, this intention of forgiveness is not just about letting go of past hurts, it’s also about learning to love myself too.
Whoa. Okay…that right there is where I screech to a stop. The “loving myself” part has been the piece I’ve been chewing on for the past few weeks and has kept me mulling this point over. As I sit, as I reflect, as I aim to be receptive, I see that it’s true. I can only forgive others as much as I’m willing to forgive myself and in that sense, I can only love others as much as I’m willing to love myself. To be in touch with Source, the all pervading Love, I must experience (have knowledge) of love for myself.
I will revisit this topic many times this year and share new insights and tools for forgiveness, but for now, let’s just consider letting go and loving ourselves—true surrender and understanding.
What are your intentions for the new year? How has working with forgiveness impacted your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let’s support one another.