“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”–Mark Twain

Years ago, I was hired by the Fetzer Institute to research the meaning of spiritual freedom. While I learned the various methods of encountering freedom from the voices of world-renowned professors, philosophers, and gurus, the exploration continued well beyond my term of employment. The big questions such as “how does one achieve true freedom” are a life-long journey. No other teacher was more revealing than Forgiveness.

As someone who can’t sit still and watch life happen, I have experienced what my dad would call “the school of hard knocks” from time to time. I have had moments where anger has gotten the better of me. In the space of fear, despair and deep woundedness, my pain and frustration have sometimes caused me to lash out at those who caused the injury, those I love, and most commonly, at myself. If you are going to be in the dance of life, no matter how much you plan and try to protect yourself, no matter how much wealth or wisdom you have, no one escapes the lessons that pain and suffering bring.

We cannot know what it means to love deeply if we haven’t experienced indifference. We cannot understand the power of generosity unless we have been without. Music would have no ability to stir our souls if it weren’t for silence, and we would never be able to wonder at the majesty of the stars if it weren’t for darkness. In the universal dichotomy, all are presently shaping and expanding us for something more significant than where we started. When anger, pain, and fear appear, Forgiveness is the gift that leads us back to the land of the living.

The English poet Alexander Pope eloquently wrote, “to err is human, to forgive, divine.” Indeed here is the answer to achieving the ultimate freedom of spirit. For even when the arrows that fly no longer can control you, your being has expanded to the level of the divine. Forgiveness is not about forgetting or excusing. It is about taking away the ability of anyone or anything to hold you captive and loosens the power of anger and fear to keep you trapped in a web. It is as Wayne Dyer related, “giving up the idea of drinking the poison with the hope it will affect the other person.”

Forgiveness is one of the Civil Graces because it is the key that unlocks the door to a limitless life and that which creates the space for healing among nations, between people, and most important in understanding ourselves. We need Forgiveness to continue the dance where life allows all to be meaningful and beautiful. The tyrant leader awakens my heart to take action and do what I can to make a better world. A hurtful word that stings invites me to explore the depths of my soul and what is looking to take flight. A tragedy begs me to give of myself for another and to expand so that killing and devastation don’t have the final word. In the end, Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love. We lift our spirits up so they can freely live and discover the adventures we were meant to take. It allows what I call the “manure moments” to fertilize the seeds of something new to sprout.

Before we enter a new year (which is just around the corner), it is an opportune time to let go of some baggage. Where are we each being called to forgive? Where may we need to offer an apology for missing the mark? The new year is bringing new energy, and the time for business, as usual, is over. Take the first step on the path to Forgiveness and welcome freedom and expansion of your spirit.

photo credit: Vince Moro

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