It was a beautiful and sunny day yesterday. My daughter B, who is 4, was running like the wind, climbing, laughing, playing and then, she was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “my friend won’t play with me.” This friend was another girl that she had just met at the playground who was 6. The girl who heard her replied “she told me she didn’t want to be my friend anymore.” When I asked B about it she replied, “I didn’t mean it.” My daughter was overwhelmed with emotion. She couldn’t even go and say sorry without me. I helped her apologize but the little girl wouldn’t accept it. She was simply not interested and would no longer play with her.
My daughter was so hysterical we had to leave the park. She cried for a full 20 minutes. Once she calmed down we talked about it. I tried to explain that even though she apologized, she had hurt her friend’s feelings and she wasn’t accepting her apology. B just couldn’t comprehend why sorry wasn’t enough.
Why isn’t sorry enough?
I have heard many teachings about the power of forgiveness, I deeply believe them but I didn’t really understand until yesterday. My daughter was so wounded over something that an older child or adult would consider trivial and yet there was nothing we could do to calm her down, she just needed time to process it. If the girl had simply accepted B’s apology and moved on, the scenario would have been different. The girl likely didn’t feel like accepting the apology simply because she wasn’t invested but it led to suffering. Incredible suffering.
It got me thinking about adult scenarios. We can argue that the things that happen when we are adults or for years as we are children that are simply unforgivable. That this child’s scenario has nothing to do with the deeper traumas that can occur in life however, I believe there is a parallel. If we say sorry and someone rejects us, we don’t forgive ourselves. We feel unloved and unworthy. Feeling unloved is arguably, the deepest wounding of all. If we don’t say sorry and we don’t forgive, the only person that anger is hurting is ourselves. The third scenario is that you don’t forgive yourself.
How do we learn to forgive ourselves and others?
If we truly believe that all living things are connected, that we are all one, then we must forgive one another and ourselves because what we do unto others we do to ourselves. It also requires the belief and understanding that everyone is doing their best in that moment with what they have. This is hard for people to accept. It is challenging to understand that people who are capable of doing horrific things were ‘doing their best in the moment.’ However, we are all products of our genes and environment. We can’t ever really walk in another person’s shoes. Often people who are violent have learned violence, who are abusive have been abused.
So why forgive at all?
Because it sets you free. If you have hurt someone, it helps you let go of what’s happened in the past and move forward. You cannot live in the past, you cannot undo things but forgiveness allows you to move into the now, the present, where life is happening. It allows where you have contracted in your body and in your heart to expand, for we cannot fully love until we forgive. If someone has hurt you, forgiveness helps you take your power back. Rather than leading your life as a wounded animal, you get to step past this wounding, no longer being angry or hurt at what someone has ‘done to you.’ You move forward, reclaim all your energy and are more fully able to be in charge. Rather than being a product of what someone has done to you, you get to be a product of what you grow for yourself.
How do you forgive?
It depends on the amount of energy you need to get back. Something small may require a conversation, so forgiveness then requires practice. Something bigger may require help, therapy, reading, movement, self-care. I’m a big believer in therapy. I think everyone could use a good therapist. It helps to have a second voice, get perspective and be given new choices. Perhaps though forgiveness just begins with a softening, a tenderness and a willingness to open your heart. Forgiveness is powerful medicine. By opening your heart, you are able to engage more fully with life and yourself.