This holiday season we greet strangers with softness and compassion, “Happy holidays!” we say. “May your holiday season be filled with love, happiness, and peace!” we bestow upon friends and family.
Love, we know what loves is. We know how love feels. Happiness, we know what happiness is. We know how happiness feels. Peace. Peace feels calm, content. But what is peace? When we wish loved ones peace, what are we really hoping for them?
I think it’s hoping they find forgiveness and acceptance. Forgiving is about letting go of the hope you have for a better past, for a different past. It’s about letting go of the hope for a different ending. Peace lives in the space where you accept your past for what it is, and the space where you stop trying to rewrite your history, your truth.
Peace is about forgiving someone for not being the person you wanted or expected him to be. Peace lives in the space where you let go of your expectations for someone to change. Peace lives in the acceptance of this person, as-is–lumps, bumps, crack and bruises. Peace acknowledges life isn’t fair, and it’s not a matter of fairness anyway.
Peace and forgiveness does not mean agreeing that someone’s wrongs were in fact right or justified or acceptable. It does not mean you need to continue to accept the same behaviors from the person. But it does mean looking at all the transgressions, holding them ,examining them, and nodding your head “yes.” Here they are. Here is the cheating, the abandonment, the temper, the neglect, the lying, the abuse. Yes. Acknowledge these wrongs you’re holding.
And then put them down. Put them down and nod again, “Yes.” And then walk away. There is the wise saying of “Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” This is Truth too.
Forgiving someone does not negate or minimize your pain, your losses. It does not mitigate the betrayal, the abandonment. It does however take good care of yourself; forgiving someone is compassionate self-care, and is selfish in this way. In that it provides peace. It allows you to move forward and live a full life, instead of drinking your own poison and dying slowly.
But see, it’s hard for people to forgive. We hold on to the anger, we think if only…If only the person apologized, made amends, acknowledged the wrong. Perhaps even offered an explanation. We hold on to that anger hoping to leverage it for a more deserving ending–the person to offer restitution or begging for forgiveness. We want them to make things right.
Interestingly, a secondary definition of forgiveness is to stop requiring payment of money that is owed. Making someone pay–that’s part of holding on to anger. But see, the transgressor is not issuing a replay of a life that was wronged with different behaviors. He can never change the past. He can never pay you back. He can never give you want you want. Because what has transpired is gone. Done. Peace lives in accepting you will never be paid back.
And you didn’t deserve to be wronged. And we cannot determine if the transgressor deserves your forgiveness. Because it’s not about anyone deserving things, it’s not about worthiness. It’s about accepting these horrible things happened. I’m so sorry. But it’s happened.
That anger and resentment and bitterness, it doesn’t do a damned thing to the transgressor. It does however keep you in the past. As we step into a new year, I implore you not to stay in the past. I wish you peace today. I wish you peace in the new year. I wish you peace always.
Another excellent essay. And very true. I am experienced at forgiving the unforgivable, not for the transgressor, but for me. I not only have found peace, but I have found understanding.
Great reminders and reflections on the connection between peace and acceptance, which often requires a layover in forgiveness. 🙂 May we be wise and loving enough to accept, put it down/ let it go, forgive and move on in peace.
Peace to you and yours, Brad
Wow! So many reminders I needed to hear, and so poignantly captured in your words. What a gift this holiday season. Thank you.