Brave Compassion: This is What Forgiveness Looks Like
I like what Marin Luther King Jr. says: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Forgiveness is one of the most authentic forms of empathy; a constancy of compassion allows for forgiveness. You need compassion in order to forgive, because you need to be able to understand where that person is coming from, even if you yourself would never make that choice. When you forgive someone, you make an active choice to look at that person and acknowledge that you see that person for what they are, another imperfect human being. You choose to look at that entirety of a person with kind eyes and a warm heart as you tell them:
I understand why you did what you did. I accept that you are exactly where you are in life, which is exactly where you are supposed to be in your own personal journey. I can see that what you did was a reflection of where you were, which is not always an indication of who you are. I am meeting you with love and choosing not to let this experience define neither you nor me.
Forgiving someone else does not diminish the sharpness nor the magnitude of your pain; it does not erase the hurtful memories or experiences. Imagine that you are on a hike on the path of life, trying to figure out who you are as you make sense of this big and beautiful world. Along the way, someone places a large and heavy rock inside of the backpack you are carrying. At first, you might wonder why life has presented you with this giant rock as you puzzle over its meaning. But, as you continue to hike, you start to feel more tired and move more slowly.
Forgiveness is the process of being able to recognize and feel the weight of that rock and realize that you need to remove it from your backpack; you need to let go so you can move forward into the world at full force.
Indira Gandhi calls forgiveness “a virtue of the brave,” and indeed, how brave we must be to confront the people and the experiences in our past that have devastated us, betrayed us, broken us so cruelly and say, “it’s okay, I forgive you.” We are brave for meeting our pain halfway, actively touching it, and then, by choice, letting go.
If you live a life filled with love for yourself and for all other living beings around you, I promise you, it will be easier to forgive. It will be easier to tell that friend, that parent, that ex-lover, that teacher, that co-worker, whoever that person is that it's okay and there's a better way to move forward.
Lastly, all compassion and love starts from within. You have to love and accept yourself first before you can extend that to others. Be kind to yourself every day in little ways so that you may be kind to others in even larger ways. Remember, when you forgive, you are choosing to be very, very brave.
- I wrote this for me and I also wrote this for you. I forgive you.