"When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our own feelings. We become our own liberators. We don't forgive to help the other person. We forgive for ourselves."
As this year nears its end, I find myself reflecting on a lot of the events, and people, that passed through my life. Especially those that were particularly challenging to my values and my sense of self, or what I thought I knew about who I was. I have let time do a great deal of my healing, but my current reflections are causing me to question my own thoughts on forgiveness, what it means, and whether I should crack open old wounds that have healed with scars, to make sure I have done all I needed to do to forgive and allow myself proper closure.
Is forgiveness, specifically of another person who has caused emotional harm, wholly fruitful and complete without a conclusive conversation with that person addressing wrongdoings and attempting mutual understanding? Can I move on from pain the perpetrator is unaware of causing? Is an apology necessary? Would it even help anything? Does internal peace have anything at all to do with peace in my connections with others?
I come back, as questions like these emerge, to the Three Poisons of Buddhism. This teaching offers that there are three core causes of all suffering: attachment, aversion, and delusion, and letting go of these will allow for internal peace. I have found that in most cases, this path to peace and resolution can provide a more abundant healing process which reveals self-honesty, self-compassion, and self-trust. Finding these things and arriving at forgiveness both end up being paths we walk alone, and while conclusive conversations can provide a sense of satisfaction, I think the biggest take-away for me this year is that you do not need anyone else to help you arrive at your own satisfaction in this life. Below is a poem that I wrote addressing one particular struggle with forgiveness and the arrival at this liberating realization.
Spring 6 years ago
My heart sits, a protected target
in the web of spiders
You, broom in hand, come forward
I see in your eyes
at how vulnerable I have made myself
by allowing little creatures to take away a piece of me
Your wince more for the mangled mess of web,
the question of proper removal from broom bristles
Spring 5 Years Ago
The Spanish Sky has warmed me
and I have exhaled the last of the smoke of you
Brimming with light I send forgiveness
and gratitude across the sky
to you and you
send something back
And we are both holding new pieces of yesterday
Summer 5 years ago
I see you suddenly
feet away from me in the square
And I am struck
by the urge to vomit or faint or cry
but instead I say hello to a dear
4 and 3 years ago
We ping each other's inboxes frequently
but you are far away again
We both have new lovers but I can't help finding
correlations in the ebb and flow of the pings
Winter 3 years ago
I sit in your car and hold your hand
as you tell me about not loving someone else
and we both wonder how spiders can live so long
Spring 2 years ago
You are here again and I have been here all this while
Together we lift up our shirts and let water run cold
to show each other how time has changed our structures
Fall this year
You left and came back again
and we are both down here again
this time unsure of the way out
I bring you to the mountains to share my
trust for you with each creature dearest to me
and we bead together under cold rainfall
You bring me back to the square where my heart stopped before
to tell me in front of the dear creatures that you have found your broom,
the mangled web,
that same unconsumed target that had been
carried off once again
My hands accept these gifts and I order another drink
Matted web and hair I pull from
bristles remind me of Boston and new pieces of yesterday
And the dear creatures look on
As you say you must be going
And the cold water is in my glass and on the street and in the sky and everywhere else
as I beg myself to go back and leave before fall.
We are both still here and the spiders are too and your broom leans against my wall.
I only use it sometimes to bang angrily on the ceiling at upstairs lovers.
You won't know when the last of the smoke of you has been exhaled or
maybe even when I shoot my forgiveness across the Spanish sky once more
But the dear creatures will
find me and we will celebrate arriving again,
at the pre-forgiveness of you.