Guest blog: Kathi Holzschuher
One of my many focus words for 2020 is forgiveness, and the one word that keeps surfacing when I sit down to journal. 2019 was unkind to me and I had a really negative career experience come to an end. Not in an amicable way. I ended the trauma by simply walking away. I blocked the offender on all means of communication, along with any mutual friends and ended it. Walking away was freeing, liberating, joyous, wonderful. For a few weeks. Then, the anger surfaced. The injustices flooded my memory. The hurt reappeared. I was pissed. I hated her. She mistreated me and she should pay for that.
I stayed there in that negative state for a few months. My closest friends knew the ground rules. Do not speak her name in my presence. Do not tell me you saw her. Do not tell me the state of her company. BUT, when I felt like venting, it was ok for me to do all the above. Usually over a margarita.
I’m not one for New Year’s goals and resolutions, but I am one for new beginnings. 2019 was particularly bad for me on many levels, and I was anxious for it to go. As that coincided with a new year, it seemed a good time to make some changes and send up some new prayers. For me, that meant a return to journaling. Thank goodness for the new journal I got for Christmas! I made a list of the things I needed to surrender…anger, resentment, frustration, anxiety, exhaustion, failures, confusion. Then I made a list of the things I need…rest, love, joy, success, clarity and forgiveness. Forgiveness. That word just kept popping up-in my journaling, in my conversations, in my prayers. I decided to take a closer look at that word, what it means, how to achieve it. It shouldn’t be that hard, right?
I began by making a list of those who needed my forgiveness. There were eight. Eight people had upset me so badly in 2019 that they made my list. That’s a lot of people. I then made a sub-list under each person’s name, outlining all their transgressions. Two of those sub-lists were so long, they glared at me from the pages. Makes sense to tackle those first, I thought. So, how do I go about the process of forgiving? Where do I even start? I think I’ll put this idea on pause.
A few days later, after ignoring the forgiveness thing because I wasn’t feeling it, I inexplicably turned on my tv at about 10am on a weekday. Weird. I was flipping channels when I came across Joyce Meyer preaching. Now, normally, I would surf right past, (no offense Joyce-LOVE ya!) but for whatever reason, I paused. Guess what she was preaching about? In the course of her message, she pulled the Jesus quote; “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do”. BOOM!
OKAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY! That’s pretty simple. My offenders are stupid and don’t know it, so I need to forgive them. Ok. Done. Whew!
I journaled on that philosophy as it pertained to the negative career experience, I had in 2019. Jesus was so right! She was clueless! If you asked her why the relationship failed, she would say she had tried everything to make me happy and she just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t. It was helpful for me to look at it through that lens. I don’t deny there was some comfort in knowing she wasn’t able to see what she had done. But still, forgive her? Just because she’s clueless? She’s an adult, acting as a spoiled child. Do I forgive immaturity, too? It just didn’t feel right. I just didn’t feel like forgiving her. So, I just left it there in my journal. Not ready to do this yet.
A few days later, as I’m again pondering this word, forgiveness, I had an ah-ha moment! Jesus didn’t ask God to help HIM forgive them for what they had done, he asked GOD to forgive them. That’s entirely different. God has the capacity, I don’t. That made me think, maybe the word isn’t forgiveness. Maybe it’s really RELEASE. It seems that forgiveness is a divine thing, implying a sin has been committed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel worthy of judgment on those issues.
Why do we need to forgive? I think it’s because we need to heal the wounds of our hearts. When we have been wronged, our hearts ache-even in business. I think healing begins when we are sick of replaying the hurt over and over and experiencing the anger and resentment constantly. So, we choose to release all that instead. I think forgiveness is really about letting go of the negative experience so that it doesn’t bother us anymore. It doesn’t occupy every thought anymore. It does absolutely nothing for the other person. Unless we tell them we forgive or release them, they won’t even know.
What forgiveness ISN’T, in my opinion, is an excuse for bad behavior. It doesn’t let the perpetrator “off the hook” by any means. But, that’s where God’s role comes in. He CAN excuse – He has that power – we don’t. What we CAN do, is forget them-in essence, RELEASE them from our consciousness and our subconsciousness.
Forgetting takes time and pain is enduring until it’s released. The choice of when to release and when to forget is ours. And, it takes some work. First, we need to look at where the pain comes from – what specific actions by the other has caused this feeling? Then, we work on those specifics. We look at them – examine them closely – then release them, or keep them (another choice we have!) and use them as fuel for something good. OR, we can keep feeling the pain and look at it again another day (our choice may be entirely different then). No matter the choice, when we look really close at what caused the pain, we create an awareness for ourselves of what we do not want. When we see that, we can guard ourselves in the future from falling into the same experience-we see it and walk away before it begins. There is power in knowing.
What happens if we DON’T look closely at the negative experience? What happens if we DON’T do the work? Then the pain, anger, resentment, just sits inside our hearts and ferments. Since our hearts are not the ideal environment for making wine, we are more likely to create some foul-smelling vinegar.
This forgiveness thing, it’s really for us. It’s empowering to release negative experiences and people. It’s peaceful, too.
When you are ready. Release them.