Forgiveness – Pillar 2 – Freedom September 5 & 12 – both Cohorts
All of us desire freedom. But what kind of freedom are we truly seeking? We all long to be free… Free of pain, free of sorrow, free of impediments, free of the stop situations that hold us back, but most of all, we desire the inner freedom that makes our life feel our own, whole, with the freedom to make our own way through our own choices, mistakes, learnings, and values. Even in the darkest and most difficult moments of life, our minds and hearts are designed and wired to seek the elevation needed, which is crucial for rebuilding our life and moving forward into the future, strengthening our resilience.
What is it in us that desires that freedom? And what is it about Forgiveness that could provide that freedom? What does that take and at what price?
“Freedom is to belong to things of one’s own choosing”
The Statue of Liberty in New York has been a symbol of the great possibilities and opportunities open to all human beings who arrive at its shores. Officially known as Liberty Enlightening the World, and in words of the sculptor – “The experience of the old is not a motor: it is only a lamppost, warning against dangers; the light that illuminates the long path ahead is you, the youth, who are holding its torch; it is you who are to illuminate the future and its obscurities.” — Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, July 30, 1898
Much of us is shaped by our life experiences and learnings. The way we meet and handle them, our reactions, by majority, are a result of inherited and learned behaviours, through social biases, judgments, and silent acceptance passed on from parent to child over generations, making it part of the fabric of our lives, never questioned, rarely self-chosen or consciously agreed to – making it extremely difficult to change.
difficult – yes
impossible – no
Difficult experiences etch their footprint on our mind, body, and soul, locking and imprisoning us in the past. Some traumas might go back to our birth and early childhood affecting much of our nervous system, our mind, including reactions, self-preservations, fears, decisions, choices, attachments, loyalties, and allegiances. Often, unaware, we end up adding more to the very thing we do not wish to propagate in the world, becoming its prisoner.
Many roadblocks prevent us from letting go of grudges, causing us to seek revenge, demand remorse, or an apology from others who have offended or slighted us. The desire for pity, blame, guilt, shame, punishment, tit for tat, and an eye for an eye, all are commonly evoked, and at times even expected reactions to any wrongs committed, replayed throughout history, enslaving the human species, keeping us chained to the past without hope for a different future… and it is easily seen in words such as: There is no one to talk to – You/they always do that – you/they will never change… you/they don’t understand any other way except violence or power… must fight fire with fire… why bother – nothing will ever change?
If this is the only thing we have observed and were exposed to in our early years and have never questioned it since then, this will be passed on to the next generation, holding both ourselves and the other locked in the past. It is very rare that forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding or a remedial path is reached for, allowing ourselves and others the freedom to select a different path…
In a turning moment of our life, we can hear something else speak to us, from the depth of our mind, as it suddenly recognizes that there might be a different way and desires to change what it sees the world has become, what we have become, wishing no longer to respond to the demands of history to replay itself, but to win our life and freedom to consciously choose the way forward. As we see what we wish to change, we also come to realise that it requires a different response. A responsibility to act from updated perceptions, values and reasons to be the person we want to be today, and in the future, as we are not yet finished.
For example, if an adult realizes that they are viewing and behaving with their parents from the same place of age 16 – the rebellious teenager, still in turmoil about their parents’ ways and views, causing a lot of tension and exhausting arguments, they might wish to change that by consciously seeking and listing all that they value about their parents, what they are grateful for, what kind of relationship they would want for the future into the next chapters of their life be? How would that affect the other family members – children and grandchildren? This can only be done from the high functioning of oneself – and by that change the pattern of this circumstance or behaviour.
We can choose to give ourselves and others the space to learn from our own mistakes and to accept the responsibility it takes to change, assisted by qualities such as patience, understanding, empathy… and belief that we, all people, can change.
We can choose to be compassionate instead of bitterly condemning all that wronged us, to be understanding in place of judgmental… we choose the values and qualities we want to uphold and belong to in our lives, and by that become what we wish to grow in the world.
So it is a wise idea to often ask ourselves – what do I want – today? What do I value most today, and why…?
In small group sessions, the participants shared life stories of such turning points, following unfortunate events, which were often guided by responsibility for something greater they valued and loved. For example the value for the people or children who needed to be cared for, raised into a brand new reality and future (following the passing of a parent); or the value and endearment for a friendship or relationship, even after an offence.
When the only way we think of the offender is in terms of the hurt, the offence, the act committed, we hold both, them and ourselves, prisoners to the offence and the poison it created. When we choose to think differently and make space by deciding to free both of us from anger and hatred, it allows the freedom to learn, to accept responsibility, to put remedies in place that could prevent future hurt. Most importantly, it frees both to change, to become wiser and stronger, and opens the door to a future possibility that wasn’t there before.
We were introduced to Eva Moses Kor’s extraordinary story. Forgiveness was not her goal, but she won her freedom from her difficult past as a child in the concentration camp of Auschwitz, where she and her twin sister, at age 9 were tortured in Dr. Mengele’s experiments. 50 years later, she met forgiveness in herself following a meeting with another German doctor (a former Nazi), who had carried the burden of knowing and being haunted by what had happened during the Holocaust and admitted it to Eva. She then decided to forgive the Nazis, in her own name, despite the great resistance and upset she had met in others about it. She had discovered that forgiveness, a “miracle medicine”, had empowered her life and her ability to let go, heal and free herself from the past. In her words: ”Not because they (the Nazis) deserved it, but I forgive because I deserve it”. It is a story of lifelong courage, fortitude, empowerment, and freedom.
Often it takes a mental decision to forgive and let go, carefully thinking through the reasons why and summoning the values that support these reasons. This allows us to eventually update the story in ourselves from where we are today, from our current age, experience, and understanding, until the rest of us is able to join in (our heart, our emotions). Not being defined by whatever event had happened to us in the past, but what and how we want to be from this time onwards. What new person phoenixes out and rebuilds themselves anew? Could it be that our inner freedom is found in building ourselves into what we long for in the world? What do we long for in ourselves? What do we wish to see changed?
We spent time in contemplation with the following questions, as we thought of a situation that is still not resolved or reconciled, and as we struggle to forgive or let go:
What do you long for in this world looking ahead?
What do you want for the future for yourself and others?
Consider that the next chapter of your life is yet to be written…
What can you do about it now?
Winning our freedom requires persistence to come back into that process many times. It is not a one-time leap, though the direction can be changed with one elevated thought or realization. Our own responsibility in this is the foundation to achieving what we seek.
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