I was thinking about forgiveness recently, imagining it like a bird sitting perched on the railing of my third floor patio. It rests there quietly, contemplating, not quite sure whether it’s ready to release itself from the security of the rusty green metal. Whether it’s ready to spread its delicate wings to fly off into an unknown sky, bright and inviting, but unknown all the same. And so it’s remains, on the brink of release, but tenaciously grasping on.
I am convinced that forgiveness is a choice. Time, the purported “healer of all”, dilutes the bright red burning, makes it a paler pink. But the pink is there: tender, raw, sore to the touch. Forgiveness does not come with time; it comes with practice.
But before the practice of forgiveness starts, the practice of anger and guilt and jealousy and fear must ensue. We feel the burning. We see the throbbing. We run cold water and apply pressure and shed tears and look desperately for compassionate eyes. We feel our feelings, without trying to stop feeling them, even for one second. We don’t tell ourselves to stop feeling the pain, to stop being such a crybaby. We just feel. And it hurts.
And then, once the throbbing has subsided and our feelings have been felt, we can start to contemplate forgiveness. And the questions flood. Am I ready for this? Can I give myself over to this new feeling – the feeling of release and freedom? If I forgive, do I have to give up my pain? If I don’t have my pain, who am I?
The tiny bird doesn’t feel ready. His wings don’t feel strong enough, not yet. A little more time to heal, he thinks. A little more time. He doesn’t see know the feeling yet – he doesn’t know the warmth that he will feel as he rises to the rays of the sun, the lightness of letting go of the railing. The peace.
Forgiveness does not equal approval. We do not have to endorse, or sanction, or support. We do not have to like. We just have to (well, we have the option to) allow the pain to disperse. Release it into the unknown. It’s simpler than we think. We breathe out fear and pain and we breathe in serenity. Breathe out. Breathe in. And again. And again. Until forever.
Forgiveness is a choice, a choice with every breath to release not the perpetrator, but yourself. Release yourself from the role of victim. Fly away.