on the road to spiritual eldering we may encounter a few obstacles. (did i say “a few”?) one of those roadblocks might be forgiveness. in a life of many decades there certainly have been moments of rash behaviour that have caused injury. surely words that have cause hurt escaped our mouths without thought. and no doubt, there were many moments when we caused harm to ourselves.
Forgiveness is a journey, it is not just an event. ~~ Jean Vanier, Encountering the Other
how do we undertake this journey, this step into the past and into the ongoing present? as with all journeys, preparation is essential.
a check list:
* take a breath, or two, or three; * gather together the map of significant events/the memories that arise; * a water bottle/refreshment for the body; * sturdy shoes/the deep willingness to be authentic; * and possibly an umbrella/a box of tissues; *make sure your vehicle is in good order/that you feel well enough to look with love and tenderness at some uncomfortable moments; * grab your keys/a way back to safety; * and go.
this exploration into forgiveness is a vital process in claiming our elderhood. to look at and to feel honestly into the errors in judgement, the hurtful patterns of behaviour, the attachment to being right, and the stubbornness that prevented reconciliation takes great courage…the courage of a spiritual warrior.
we gather our courage to take the first small step. we know every journey begins at a threshold. we become willing to move out of comfort into the unknown. we step into the place marked on ancient maps with the words, “here be dragons”.
not knowing and yet being willing asks us to trust in something beyond our limited self. to begin we have trust that there will be benefit in this journey. otherwise, why bother?
one of my most recent forgiveness journeys was undertaken in the context of my brother’s dying. nine years ago he received a diagnosis of terminal multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. he lived eight years after that diagnosis. he did remarkable things during those years, including being kind to me. historically, we had a relationship fraught with control, meanness, and lack of empathy. his dying allowed him to open.
i knew, deep inside, i had to forgive him if i were to let him go with grace. i did not want unresolved issues to follow him into his grave in jerusalem. i did not want to live with this particular heartache until i died. i forgave him as much for my internal well-being as well as for whatever meaningful time we had left before he died.
so i found the willingness to accept his human failings and frailty. while acknowledging that some of his actions were difficult to forgive, i could forgive the human he was.
and, at his death, i was able to grieve without holding back, to honour him in ways that were meaningful to us both, and to support his children in all their feelings about their father.
was it worth the painful journeying process? without question.
because now i am free to experience love unhindered by regret.