- Linda Flanders
Forgiveness is For Ourselves
I wrote Hollywood Endings and How to Get One because I realized I HAD used movies to learn from. Today, I still use the workbook because life is full of ups and downs, joys and disappointments, and harm done to us, and by us.
To forgive means to stop feeling resentment. The act of forgiving someone else for an act they have committed against us is necessary more for us than it is for them; letting go of our own resentment allows us to move on towards a Hollywood Ending. Resentment is never going to deliver a happy or inspirational movie scene much less a Hollywood ending to our personal life. However, just the thought of forgiving someone can often cause an angry outburst. “Why the hell should I forgive them?” They did this, or that, or the other, and because they did... something else happened!”
Maybe we believe they have done something so serious it has “ruined” our life. But it would be better if we could see forgiveness as coming to terms with something or someone that “changed the course of life forever, in some way”, because if we really believe that our life is “ruined,” through our own errors or someone else’s, then it is. And, ours won’t be the first movie that was shelved before viewing. Hollywood history is filled with movies that were scrapped or started over.
Once again allow me to use one of my own experiences, though admittedly a microscopic one. We have a small shade garden with weak sand and gravel soil surrounding our house. It has taken several years, lots of money, and a lot of hard work to make this garden look lovely with shrubs and ground cover.
Some natural ground cover (weeds with flowers) we’ve nurtured along in artistic clumps because they offer natural color. This year we purchased a lawn contract to have a company come out monthly and spray for weeds. Up to now there was no problem, the technician recognized garden design from chaos and sprayed accordingly. Yesterday a new technician from iwillkillyourplants.com (actual name changed) was spraying the entire decorative garden with poison when my sister came screaming out of the house and stopped him. Both decorative natural ground cover and perennial plants had been sprayed. My sister immediately washed all the plants with water, hoping to dilute the weed killer. By the time I got home two hours later, all the plants were lying smashed on the ground. I was so angry I was almost numb…almost. I was glad the guy from iwillkillyourplants.com wasn’t there. I would have had to literally remove myself. I was so angry I wanted to scream at his incompetence and strike out. I really had to think through why I was so angry. These were plants, not family or beloved pets. I went back and re-read my own book chapter on Forgiveness. I realized part of my feelings were driven by heartache. All those years of creating this garden, ruined in an instant. It was seeing a beautiful healthy garden, destroyed in an instant of carelessness, callousness, or lack of awareness. It was the disillusionment of all the time and money put into this garden, gone in one minute of time. I was heartsick and at that moment, feeling a bit hopeless. Yes, I know, I am still talking just about plants, but the feelings were real and not pleasant to feel. I did a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lesson and I did feel physically better. I decided I could continue to feel angry and resentful (which was not feeling very good) and make an angry call to the company, or write a scathing letter, or sue them for stupidity. All angry options. Or I could try feeling a bit more empowered. My main objective was to do what I could for these little plants and to let go of the feelings of resentment. Those feelings were not doing me or the plants any good at all.
In the movie The Color Purple, Whoopi Goldberg lives a life of abuse, suffering, and loneliness. She feels hopeless and resentful, and for a while she is filled with the drive for revenge. But as Whoopi assesses and comes to terms with her life, she reconciles with her past. She realizes she’s been sold a bill of goods: she’d been taught that she deserved what happened to her in the past. Eventually she meets someone who teaches her how to love and how to believe in herself. She changes her life. She leaves the insane situation she is living in. She takes charge of her life and is willing to allow resentment to fade away. As the hurt, anger, and pain dissolve because she has been able to forgive, she finds she has more room for joy and laughter to enter her life.
To forgive is to stop feeling resentment; that means for every bit of resentment that we are willing to give up, we now have room for something else that is more positive and fulfilling. Common sense dictates that if we give up or release something that is consuming our time and energy, we open up an empty spot in its place. Life does not like a void. Some new idea or feeling can now move into the space. We can choose what we want it to be. It could be joy and laughter, a new understanding, increased compassion, or the desire for change so that we don’t have to go through the same experience again.
So, I decided to do a few things:
First, I did call iwillkillyourplants.com and said I wanted to terminate my contract. Don’t come again.
I continued to flush the plants with water.
I thought about what would I want if I was sick from poisoning? I’d want comfort and kind words.
I sat with my little plants and asked them to use what strength they had to fight the poison.
I apologized for the experience they were going through; I know it is painful (I have certainly experienced food poisoning!)
And finally, I asked the Universe to send them light and love and help them survive the ordeal.
Silly, perhaps. But I physically did what I could to help (water), I apologized for my part in the trauma, and I asked for help (from the Universe since at this point it was beyond my control).
Whether this did anything for the plants or not, I didn’t know. I did know I felt better. I felt less resentment and more hope. I went to bed. The next morning, the plants had sprung back to life and I acknowledged my gratitude.
My example is very silly in the scheme of things, and in reflection, almost funny (almost). The feelings I felt, however, were not: anger, heartache, shock at the destruction of life destroyed in an instant of carelessness, callousness, or lack of awareness, heartsick, and at that moment, feeling a bit hopeless.
My simple experience took only 24 hours for me to process, others may take years. These are heavy, deep feelings and they will not develop into a Hollywood ending. It may take a lifetime to process a traumatic experience. It’s a very personal process.
Forgiveness is not for others, forgiveness is for ourselves, so we are able to release resentment.