How To Forgive In Order To Heal

submitted by Nicole Jaquis,  a New York native, now living in India     

In order to move forward, we have to look at the past without judgment, and with much less anger.

The only way I could forgive Marty and move on, was to actually discuss everything that went down…

On our third day of his visit, after I made him take a dip in the Ganga River in Rishikesh (where the Beatles used to hang), we sat on the rocks, warming up in the sun. I could sense he was still nervous about whether it was a good idea or not, to visit with me, and whether I was still angry with him and if we could get beyond the past and start again.

Up until this point in our conversations, we had yet to break the surface of our individual careers, various projects, etc. To ease the tension, I told him this: “You can relax and realize I’m not angry with you anymore. Not only is that baggage too heavy for me to carry through this journey (I’m tired of carrying all that weight), I have also learned some things. I’m not sure when or how I learned this, but I understand that just as the molecules in our body are changing every second, our entire being is changing. You are not the same person you were back then, when you left, dropped off the face of the earth, blew us off for eleven years or more, and made loads of unfulfilled promises that made me not have faith enough to count on anything or anyone. I can’t continue to be angry with you now, as the person who did those things no longer exists; you are not that person anymore. You are not even the same person you were moments before I said this.”

 Only from this point of view, was I able to listen without judgment, much less without any more residue of anger (usually that is what inhibits us from actually listening to others in the first place) to all his stories of who he was, what he was going through, what he was thinking, what pressures he felt, and all the how’s and whys of all the decisions he made. His decisions, from our side, looked like an irresponsible young man defaulting on his commitments.

At this point, all I could do was listen and try to understand what he was going through then, and accept what he has learned from that experience.  I recognize he is a changed person, even as subtly as on a molecular level. Furthermore, only from this point of view could he relax enough to forgive himself… and truly listen to what I had to say. He heard where I was coming from, how his decisions affected us growing up, and how they affected my own navigating relationships as an adult.

Only from this point of view, could we openly discuss every truth and no longer feel like we had to defend ourselves, much less hide anything.

 I had to go beyond the ego of the young girl, hurt by her abandoning father. He had to go beyond the ego of his own shame, ignoring or trying to bury his past mistakes. Without the letting go, we would not have been able to actually discuss all the important things we needed to discuss in order to move beyond the past (his mistakes, my hurt) and into the here and now of the present moment.  That is the only place in which we could actually begin to develop an actual relationship.

I’m not saying, all of the sudden I love him like a father, or that I even consider him a good friend, yet. I’m just saying I was able to let go of the past, not by ignoring and pretending things didn’t happen, not by keeping it buried or hidden inside me, but by facing it straight on and dealing with it. At that point, we could move forward. 

When faced with ongoing anger and resentment over past issues, my suggestion is to open the conversation with that sentiment. Acknowledge that letting by gones be by gones, and what is in the past is over and done, is it possible to move forward with a clean slate. The old stuff has to be dug up, sifted through, and cleaned out, before it can truly be let go.

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