Forgiveness is letting go of the hope for a better or different past. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? Let it sink in.
Forgiveness is powerful. I was not completely aware of its power until I attended a seven-day silent retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California a couple of years ago as a part of my mindfulness practice and training.
Meditation teacher and spiritual leader Brian Lesage led a metta meditation, and in it, he offered us a powerful definition of forgiveness. Let me repeat it again: Forgiveness is letting go of the hope for a better or different past.
During those seven days, I watched my life, or the story I had created about my life, play out on the video projector of my mind. Flashes of my story began to appear, scrolling visually, as if I was watching a ticker tape with pictures on my own internal TV screen.
I began to feel pieces of my story work their way through my body. An awareness hit me hard: The story I was watching and feeling was chock full of instances—small, insignificant moments as well as big, monumental moments—with me holding onto a hope for a better or a different past. If only something that had already happened would be different, then “X” wouldn’t be happening today. My hopes for a different or a better past were woven tightly into the fabric of my present-day life.
As much or more for the forgiver than for the forgiven, I learned that when we forgive, there is a powerful release of emotions. Anger, shame, disappointment, disgust, hurt. Sometimes relief. And then, a softening.
The release seems to open up a space. The space offers freedom and then more space, for compassion and even love. In so many instances, I was holding onto a hope that something in my present would be different, as a result of a different past. When I practiced Brian’s definition of forgiveness, letting go of the hope for a better or a different past, I experienced a softening that filled my being with compassion and love, directed towards me and towards others in my life for whom I care deeply.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean that we condone or approve of the behavior, thought, or reality of the past, but it does mean that we acknowledge its existence in our stories, and we release the energy surrounding the longing for it to be different. By doing this, we release suffering. We release suffering that we didn’t even realize we were clinging to. This released energy can then be redirected into something else—something you can affect, something in the present, something in the now. Something that better serves.
Forgiveness is powerful. Letting go of the hope for a better or a different past.
Try it. Let me know how it goes.
Love & Peace,