“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute for the strong,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Guess what, I totally concur. A series of happenings in the recent past have brought this to the light. Making me question my loyalties and my dissolve to always forgive and let go. I have gotten to test my ideology on grace too. I mean, I have received a series of calls from long lost friends and foes, the most profound being one who called after seven years of silence. Not to forget a long-lost love who just disappeared into thin air way back, then makes his debut in the middle of the night.
What is forgiveness, I will ask? The dictionary refers to the letting go of negative emotions against another for wrongs done to you. It entails pardon, absolution, clemency et al. It is the art of loving yourself enough to let go of hurts that are eating you inside. Forgiveness in Greek means ‘to let go.’ It is not an occasional act, but an attitude. Maya Angelou once said that forgiveness is the greatest gift one can give themselves.
Age is just but a number, it is said. So, what are you, 20, 32, 44, 56…? There is always a chance to start all over again. It is never too late to do or try something new, not unless you are dead or bed-ridden. You need to exonerate yourself from whatsoever is holding back. Cut yourself from the yoke of anger, pain, hurt, vengeance or even hatred. According to Buddha, holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Before you can forgive another, healing starts from within. Accepting the past as just that and taking the courage to move on.
Whether it is relationships or family, somehow every once in a while, there will be a scratch leaving a mark that will last to eternity. A sister, aunt, parent may give you a blow from which you think you may never recover. But if you still have strength in you, always reel back and continue fighting. It is when you are worst hit, that you should in the shadows plan your come back. And do you know what I love most about such a time? You are ever so alone. No disturbance or interruptions. No limits or tie backs. No fear or what else you are due to lose, because, look here; at this point, you are at your worst. People have lost all hope in you. They let you drown in your abyss.
What if a friend who stabs you in the back and keeps kissing your cheek when you meet? Wait until the bubble blows and reality hits home. Emotions flood your mind and feelings of betrayal creep in; leaving you hoping the ground could open and swallow you whole. And as if the world is in agreement, humiliation faces you in whatever direction you turn to and giving up is your only option. You hit the bottom so hard, tomorrow seems like a faraway land. There is nowhere to turn too and nothing to hold on too. Sit back, acknowledge what life has to offer, then start again.
One such friend, among the many returnees, narrated of how his life came to a standstill. He hit rock bottom as debts continued to pile up on him. People in business at least have an idea of where he is coming from. Details of this will not be narrated but when a man has to run from his family and go hiding in foreign territories then you know it is that bad. He laughs today, telling of how his creditors would come to auction his stuff, from the dawn, into the afternoon and in the evening. All in a strive to amalgamate the little that had remained. During this time, coming from an affluent family, his relatives gave him a cold shoulder and none wanted to relate. He felt alone, lost and without a clue to his future.
Then there is the one who made conclusions out of a conversation and decided to mind his business. When given a cold shoulder, however, he wakes up only to realize the train had already left the station and it is time for him to move on. He felt entitled then and would barely understand that to each their own. Nothing is cast on stone and that no matter what happens, the world keeps revolving. Now, keeping to my business is a strength I delight in until someone crosses the line. Tell, me how to extend an olive leaf to this one who only thinks since now you are on an uphill trek, then it is time to touch base. Letting go is my style, but forgiveness is never my cup of tea.
Nevertheless, every morning when I say the Lord’s prayer, I ask for forgiveness. Men, oh men, I ask God to forgive my trespasses as I forgive those who trespass against me. Eeehhh, do I deserve this grace? It is not like I am any better than they that I have not forgiven. How about a stepmother who piles lies upon lies on you, only so that you cannot connect with your father? Or a father who is such a coward, that he forgets his own blood for the bosom of his dearly beloved? Ladies, tell me how you forgive that hair stylist who burns you scalp or trims your hair real short even after giving all the guidelines as to your desired hairstyle and length. Ohhh, not to forget the fundi who does wonders on the piece of kitenge material that you leave them to cut you a dress for the upcoming function?
Oscar Wilde once said, “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them as much.” When these same words resonated from my mentor, tears ran down my cheeks. There was that big chunk of rock somewhere down my throat and I didn’t want him to continue. But he insisted. He said “Wanji, there is no other way on this one. You have to forgive and let go. Only then will you experience open heavens. Forgiving will set you free and there will be no limits to what you can achieve. It is hard and painful, but girl, you’ve gotta do this.”
Then he made me promise to make calls, meet some people in person and even write up emails to those far away. At this moment, I still cannot tell why I held so long to the grudges. It is like I was let free from the prison of life. My body, soul, and mind all got to experience the freedom. I could laugh and smile, and hug, then do that little victory dance, all without a care. When I look back, I am proud that he pushed me to this point. I want you also to let go. To experience the joys of freedom.
It is not going to be an easy journey. As a matter of fact, it is lonelier and you get to even doubt your strengths. You have no one to talk too and all seems like a slippery ground. But psychology says that the process of forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment and vengeance. You just have to choose to do this. At this point, do not worry about whom you trust. Nope. Trust takes time to build, but forgiveness is instant. You will have plenty of time to start on the journey of trusting again once the air is settled.
As Lewis B. Smedes is known to have concluded that, ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free only to discover that the prisoner was you.’ It is after giving the gift of forgiveness that you actually realize that you were forgiving yourself instead. Come to think of it. Your wrongdoer always seems to be happy and moving on with their life when you are deepest in the murk of anger and pain and hurt. Worse is they seem to not hold a care to what they have caused you. You know why?
It is you with the problem and not them. For them, life goes on as normal. For you, on the other hand, the world rotates around thoughts and plans or vengeance that eat you up and crush the little strength left inside of you. I will tell you this, let us for just a moment there, try forgiveness. I didn’t day forget, that takes time. But it will be wise to give it a shot. Karma has a way of paying back even for the deepest of wounds accosted to us.
Just forgive and let go, let’s watch the rainbow form at the horizon.