Like everyone else, sometimes I get angry, hold grudges, find it tempting to feel resentful, and have to pull out the F word – forgiveness.
This isn’t so easy when it comes to forgiving my abusive ex-husband or the surgery professor who threw a bloody scalpel at me.
But then I think of what other people have forgiven, and I feel pretty dang petty.
Forgiveness in Rwanda
As she writes about in her bestselling memoir Left To Tell, in 1994, during the Rwandan genocide, Immaculée Ilibagiza – a Tutsi – escaped to the broom closet-sized bathroom of a sympathetic Hutu, where she lived for 91 days with seven other women while her family was systematically exterminated by the Hutu neighbors who had only days earlier been friends. Only she and one of her brothers survived the rape, torture, dismemberment, and murder committed by the angry Hutus in her village.
While hiding in the bathroom, Immaculée survived through prayer, which she believes kept her alive through her time in a refugee camp and protected her against Hutus who almost killed her just as she was almost free.
Years later, working for the United Nations, protected by diplomatic immunity, Immaculée returned for the first time to her village, where the Hutu man believed to have killed her family was imprisoned. The prison guards ushered Immaculée into the jail and forced the killer to stand in front of her. Immaculée was invited to spit on him, hit him, yell at him – to inflict whatever revenge she needed in order to put her past to rest.
But in that jail cell, Immaculée said only, “I forgive you.” And the man began to weep.
Immaculée is now devoting her life to teaching forgiveness, especially to the children orphaned by violence during the genocide. Her goal is to stop the cycle of vengeance and vendettas, replacing all that hatred with love, peace, and faith.
Claire was molested by her father throughout most of her childhood. She ran away from home when she was 15 and turned to drugs, prostitution, and other criminal behaviors, until she landed in a hospital, almost died, and hit rock bottom. The woman she calls her “angel” nursed her back to health, and in the process, she taught her that the medicine that would help her reclaim her health was forgiveness; that holding onto the pain her father inflicted upon her would only hurt her.
Just recently, Claire’s father fell ill, and after years of forgiveness practice, meditation, and personal growth work, Claire decided she was strong enough in her own sense of self to move back home to care for her father while he died. His final words to her were, “I don’t deserve you, but I’m so grateful you’re here.”
An Exercise In Forgiveness
In their brilliance and radiance, Immaculée and Claire knew that holding onto the poison of hatred against those who hurt you will only toxify the soul. While you may not be ready to go face to face with the person who hurt you, you can always make peace in your soul.
Try sitting quietly in meditation and allowing yourself to dissolve into pure spirit, that highest self within you that I call your Inner Pilot Light. Then invite the Inner Pilot Light of the person who hurt you to have a conversation with you. Even when we make terrible mistakes, at our essence, we are all part of Divine light and love. Our human selves may have screwed up big time, but our spirits are whole and perfect and tapped into a universal consciousness that is pure, radiant love. That’s the part of this person you want to communicate with, from that equally sparkly, whole part of yourself – soul to soul.
We all hold within us sparks of divinity, so go there. From that place of peace and wholeness, let yourself share whatever comes up. Unload anything you need to vent. Allow the other person’s spirit to explain anything that spirit wants you to know. Spend as much time as you need in order to see past the masks we all wear to cover up our Inner Pilot Lights. Dissolve your bodies and commune as pure spirits.
From that place, with enough practice, you will be able to forgive. And when you do, you will be free. Only from that place of freedom can true, lasting healing happen, not just in the body, but in the mind and spirit.
Who Do You Need To Forgive?
The path to peace, love, and life, full of what I like to call “mojo” (MOre JOy), requires releasing the anger, resentment, and other toxic emotions we carry in our bodies, emotions which, left unchecked, manifest as physical and mental illness.
Once we heal those emotions through acts of forgiveness, we can tap into unbridled bliss, knowing we are no longer slaves to those feelings. Instead, we are liberated to dance our way through life, sprinkling in cartwheels and fairy dust and the occasional piece of raw chocolate.
Are you brave enough to forgive?
Inspired by those who can,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Creator of the health and wellness communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com,author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013), TEDx speaker, and Health Care Evolutionary.