The thorny issue of forgiveness


Many years ago there was an acrimonious split with my co-director. Acrimonious in that she just left, suddenly, and wanted to sever the friendship as well as the business relationship. I had no idea why the business partnership wasn’t working and absolutely no idea why the friendship had to go too. As the families were very close (she had 3 girls, I had 2) that meant that a lot of our social life was wrecked as the 2 families used to spend weekends, Christmas, holidays together.

I was angry for a long time (about 18 months) and would daily go over and over conversations in my head – what I did say, what I should have said – all usually ending with the wail “how could she?”.

As it was a small town and we both used to travel on the early train to London I would arrive on the station and look round nervously – if she is there will I speak to her? will I ignore her? will I tell her I’m not speaking to her? will I shout at her? Then I would see that she wasn’t there and I would breathe a sigh of relief.

I read books on forgiveness so I could forgive her. All of them began “first you have to forgive yourself”. I would throw the book down in exasperation – it wasn’t ME who did it!

About 18 months later I was on a workshop and the facilitator said in passing ‘of course if you remain angry at someone it is YOU the anger eats away at – they are carrying on with their life. It is YOUR life that is affected’. Finally I saw the light. I went home and sat on my own and said “For whatever I did to help to create the pattern of relationship between us such that the only thing she felt she could do was to leave like she did.. I truly forgive myself”. My anger stopped that day and during the next week I saw her twice on that train to London.

Now I realise what had been wrong – two things in fact. Firstly, it took me a long time to accept my responsibility in creating the relationship between us that ultimately led to her needing to break free of it in a dramatic fashion. Secondly, while we continue to try and forgive someone, our emphasis will be on the other person – what they said or what they did. And coming from the position of “I’m right and you’re wrong but I am magnanimous enough to overlook it” isn’t the way forward.

We have to change the emphasis and look at what we need to do to regain our state of peace. Who knows why people say and do things. And of course we initially react from an emotional level and we can be upset, hurt, angry, furious, distraught. And these feelings need to be expressed. And sometimes they can take hold of me in a flash with one thought. But my job is to keep open the connection to my soul and the soul is not concerned with such emotions.

Whenever I get drawn to that level what draws me out of it is realising that I cannot allow someone else to have control over my soul connection and my peace of mind and heart. So my focus comes back to my soul and the need for forgiveness has no hook to hang on. We can replace forgiveness with the understanding that people do the only thing they can do in that moment, and the acceptance that it takes two people to create a dynamic in the relationship but then it only takes one person to change it. (Of course bringing the idea of understanding into it leads into the role of the mind as the mediator between the emotions and the soul…but that’s another post!)

And my friend? I realised that I really missed her friendship – I missed just how comfortable it is to be around someone who knows you almost as well as you know yourself – I missed the fun of creating business together but I also realised that I had no energy to rehash everything before we could be friends again just to make myself right so – ten years after the break up we began again – and the friendship is as strong as ever. Result!