“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher
Walking with an old friend that I have been recently reunited with through the woods today, we were sharing stories of the times when we did not live up to the best of ourselves as mothers. The truth is that the business of raising children is a mixed bag because all families are reflections of both the best and worst parts of who we are. Our children inherit both and the art of it, if there is one, is to strive always to be our best and forgive ourselves for our worst.
Seems easy enough to say, but self forgiveness is a life work and many people grow up so familiar with some kind of shame that it is easy to hang onto our worst mistakes and spin long term consequences out of every weakness. Overcoming the story line that keeps us from finding peace in ourselves is the result of trying to forgive ourselves.
Louis B. Smedes wrote
“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”
This is the transformational process of forgiving. This is the human alchemy of turning our worst mistakes into fertilizer for the future. We choose another way of seeing the situation and before long it alters how we remember it and ourselves.
Forgiveness though is also elusive. You can’t make yourself or anyone else forgive and it is not in our immediate human nature to let go. You could say the same exact words about the experience of orgasmic pleasure. No one can force themselves or anyone else into the deep and transformative pleasure of orgasm. In both cases, all you can do is offer yourself up to the process by being open, curious and vulnerable. It also helps to stop the thinking, analyzing and questioning which only keeps the mind preoccupied and distracted from the present moment business of release. You literally cannot orgasm and create a mental shopping list at the same time. You cannot forgive someone if you are cataloging their offenses in your mind.
In the end, that maybe what is so powerfully similar about process of forgiveness and orgasm. They are both a kind of grace that takes over and releases us completely into the present moment. In the most visceral of ways, for moments not measurable by our classic sense of time, we are free of our mind and at peace in our body. Although I have never seen a study, I would bet that there is a proportional similarity between the percentage of people who don’t easily find pleasure and who have never forgiven themselves the shame of not finding pleasure.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask for release and mean it.