I heard a story recently about a teacher who got her students to bring in potatoes. The task was to etch on each the name of the person or people who had wronged them and the hurt it had caused. Each student was then asked to put all their potatoes in a sack and carry it around for a week, it could sit beside them when they were eating or sleeping, but they had to carry it everywhere it went.
This was simply an exercise in demonstrating the sheer burden of carrying all those negative emotions. The act of forgiveness does not mean you condone the actions that took place; it is an act of kindness towards yourself, an act of self love.
Of course, many of us move beyond blaming others into the realm of blaming ourselves. Knowing we attract and create all our own experiences, who else can we blame? Blame is a fruitless emotion. There are only experiences to learn from, and you can only learn from experience, so let’s embrace the learning.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about some of the younger people in my life who are beginning to grow up. In human development terms, as we enter our twenties, we begin to see the bigger picture of our lives a lot more clearly. Before this we are progressively climbing the mountain, seeing a little further with each year.
Parents often wonder when they should stop parenting, it is then. In their early twenties your child has undergone their physical, emotional and intellectual development, each phase allowing them to climb the mountain a little further, to see more of life than purely their own needs. At this stage, they are atop the mountain.
However, all along that journey, they can always feel within. So as ‘grown ups’ it is our job to help our children recognise and embrace their inner voice, their inner knowing. Teach them how to fish and they will never go hungry, teach them to tune in to themselves and they will never falter.
Yet this is not the experience most of us have had. The default upbringing is to be treated as an empty vessel who must listen to those who know better. Parents, teachers, coaches, leaders, all fallible human beings with their own huge sack of potatoes that they are carrying like a ten ton weight.
Well, let’s recognise that, and forgive ourselves. There is no lesson here for our younger generations, other than our example.
Thinking about the younger people in my own life, there are a range of circumstances that they have had to deal with, some wonderful experiences and some outright horrific ones. This is called life, it’s the contrast that allows us to choose our preferences.
My own less-than-perfect etch on the fabric of time has led me to a place of simply accepting the misdeeds of others as actions from a place of pain or disempowerment. I’ve come to realise that the one desire we all have is to feel happy, and any act is in response to that desire and the empowerment we feel.
I see it when my kids come home from school, if one of them has had a hard time; they take it out on the other. That doesn’t make their action right, but knowing that anger feels better being ignored, at least they are moving in the right direction on the emotional scale.
Those who are repeatedly exposed to repugnant experiences as children, who are powerless, are the ones who have the more marked responses later in life. But for most of us, we still carry some form of hurt that subconsciously attracts more of the same until we stand back and see the pattern for what it is.
It is time to forgive ourselves, and others, for ourselves. To open up to the love that is our true nature, and to find that sense of who we are, which is always enough. It is from this vantage point we can start to live the best version of our lives.
Forgiveness need not be an outward act, but it is always an inward one. It’s a shift in our own feelings towards something or someone, an act of letting the clouds roll on and the sun begin to fill you with warmth and light. So who do you need to forgive?
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