Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Forgiveness, me and Eugene de Kock

Every activity first starts with a thought. This blog started with a thought that was provoked by a few comments about forgiveness on the Free Eugene de Kock Group on Facebook. 

I have struggled with the concept of forgiveness for years. From philosophers to psychologists, from religious leaders to scientists … I have spoken to them all and discussed the concept of forgiving and forgetting and moving on from the past. 

I adamantly believed that it was impossible to forgive without the abuser apologising for his or her behaviour. How can you forgive someone for doing a bad deed to you if they think they were justified in what they did? That was my dilemma. And I fought all these people about it. I just would not listen to their reasoning. I suppose, it is a case of “Die wat wil nie hoor nie, moet voel”. I ’voeled’ and I learned. 

Of course, I always knew that we cannot forget the hurts done to us, no matter how saintly we are, no matter how many times we turn the other cheek, no matter how forgiving we are … only a fool will forget what has hurt him. Surely you will not pet the dog that bit you a second and a third time, just to be bitten again. Surely you would remember not to go near him again? 

Now that I have spent the good part of 30 years thinking about forgiveness, I change my mind about the concept. While I thought that forgiveness could only happen when the trespasser asked forgiveness, I now know differently. I have learned this through having to deal with the issue of forgiving others, over and over again, ’voeling’ the lesson time and time again. 

I have learned that it is possible to forgive another even if they continue to believe that their behaviour was right and justified. 

Without going into personal details, this is how I have learned to forgive. Forgiving someone else is very difficult, especially if you have been deeply betrayed, abandoned and hurt (and no, I am not talking just about a partner doing this to you). We find that we are shocked by the other person’s or people’s behaviour because you think to yourself, “How could you do that to me? I would never do that to you”. Most of us live by the rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. So we are shocked when someone treats us badly. And that shock forms part of the negative emotion that you carry with you … part of the anger at the person/people who have wronged or betrayed you. 

I have learned that a negative emotion is far stronger than a positive one. A negative emotion about a person ties you to that person more strongly than love. Far better to have no feeling at all about a person than to have a negative emotion. Having no emotional attachment to someone frees you of that person. 

If we feel nothing, that person has absolutely no power over us. But if we carry negative emotions, then we lose our power and give it all away to the one who hurt us. 

The resentment that we hold over another binds us to them with ties far stronger than steel ropes. Not only are we caught in the web of negativity but the other person is free! They will most likely not even realize what they have done and if they do, they will find ways of justifying their bad behaviour towards us. So, while we feel resentful, angry and hurt, we are the only ones who are being affected, because the abuser/trespasser is not affected at all. He has moved on with his life and we are stuck to him in the past. 

Whether the situation happened 6 years ago or 6 million years ago, or six months ago, that event is no further away from you today, than yesterday. We live our emotions in the moment. That includes all the accumulated hurt and anger from long ago. We remain prisoners of the very people who have hurt us because we can’t let go of the negative emotion. 

Forgiveness has never been about the other person or persons. It has been all about me. I am the one who is freed by forgiving those people. 

The fastest way I have found to forgive someone is to realize that they do not know that they are doing wrong, (they know not what they do). If someone does not know that they are doing something wrong, then how can we be angry with them. They are merely fools. And since we are all at different levels of spiritual awareness, we need to see that others are behind us and there will always be others that are ahead of us. So why be bogged down by those people who are not as spiritually advanced as you? My grandmother used to tell never to lower myself to someone else’s level, but to lift them up to mine. That is kind of what this is about … looking at those who are spiritually more advanced than us and trying to emulate them and not lowering ourselves to the level of revenge, anger, resentment, bitterness, and negativity. 

Now I know this is frivolous, but this helps me to move past hurtful people. I have a few sayings that I repeat quietly to myself when confronted with a fool who knows no better. These are a few of them: 

You can expect nothing from a pig but a grunt.

A baboon cannot see it’s own backside.

If you mix with dogs you will pick up fleas.

Your spirit will soar like an eagle only if you don’t try to fly with turkeys. 

You are a prisoner when you do not forgive. You are locked by the chains of the past. Forgiveness is the most important gift you can give yourself. Forgiveness dissolves the links of the chain that bind you and sets you free. There is no future in the past. 

Forgiveness is a creative act. It changes us. It is a commitment to a process of change and growth for ourselves. To have the courage to forgive (for it takes courage) is to expand your life, to open it up to endless possibilities which are only possible if you are freed from the past. Ghandi said that “the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attitude of the strong.” 

Forgiveness is the recognition of the humanness in your enemy, even while understanding that we may be poles apart on a spiritual and emotional level. 

No walls can imprison a spirit - our bodies can be imprisoned in jails, or imprisoned by ill health, but our spirits can soar on the wings of freedom. Forgiveness is the single most important process that brings peace and harmony to your own heart and soul. It forces you to grow beyond that which you were. 

I am free at last. I am free of my past because I have forgiven them all. My enemies have no power over me.