You talk a lot about forgiveness. I’d like to forgive, but I feel so much rage, I can’t get past it. How do I learn to forgive?
Aaron: Forgiveness comes from a space within you where you have moved past your rage, so let us first talk about anger. Anger is a feeling and it is never wrong to feel, but you recognize that your anger does create pain for yourself and others. What is anger? Have you ever stopped to look closely at it? Sometimes rage feels like a solid wall that cannot ever be gotten past. Is it really as enduring as it appears?
Anger is a protection. It is your way of striking back when you’ve been hurt, or seen harm come to another. Within anger is fear-both the fear of being out of control, of not knowing how to change a painful situation, and the fear of acknowledging your own part in the situation because with that acknowledgment you must assume responsibility for your acts. There is also often grasping or aversion, both part of this sense of wanting things to be different than they are. It is all these ingredients that make your anger so painful.
When you only see anger, it does seem a solid wall. So much rage; what do you do with it? Can you break it into its parts, see the aversion or the fear separate from the rage? Next time you feel rage take a deep breath, dive back in and see what’s really there. Fear; where is it coming from? What, exactly are you afraid of? Grasping; are you angry because another has what you want and it doesn’t seem quite fair? Aversion; this relates to fear as well. What frightens you that you must push it away so strongly?
Do you begin to see that your anger is not solid but is made up of many components and all of them are workable? Don’t feel you must take them all on at once. Just open up a bit and begin to be aware of what’s there. You do not need to stone these emotions to death, just to allow them into your merciful awareness. Compassionately, nonjudgmentally, gently!
What is missing in anger is acceptance, on so many levels. You cannot accept the situation and you cannot accept yourself. Anger is filled with blame. There’s no room in it for accepting one’s own responsibility. That’s too frightening. If you are responsible, then you have the ability to make changes. Are the changes more frightening than the anger-causing situation? It is like the prisoner who, being set free, heads back into his cell. There’s too much space; he’s not ready to handle it. Be honest with yourself and look to see if this is part of it.
Let’s stop a moment here. We started with forgiveness. Can you see how impossible that is while there’s still so much rage, so much fear? So you blame yourself for not being forgiving-just another place to judge yourself inadequate, something else unacceptable that enhances the fragmentation, separating you further from yourself.
So where do we begin? What is the way out of this trap of self blame and rage? The answer is love, and you must bring it first to yourself. Let yourself back in to your heart. Sit down with yourself and your fears. I ask you again, what are you afraid of? Let it in. It is not so terrible as it seems. Just notice where it’s coming from. What is it that you want and can’t have? What is it that’s been done to you and isn’t fair? What is it that you are afraid of doing to another, in the passion of your rage. Take all of this emotion that you’ve labeled unacceptable and had to bury and let it out, let the sun and air get to it.
Do you see how you get caught in the story to avoid looking closer at the emotions? “But it’s his fault …” “She started it …” Yes, that’s fine. But now what do YOU do about it? You can blame and rage forever and perhaps the other being will acknowledge his/her responsibility and perhaps not. This is irrelevant. The question is not who is to blame but where is healing to be found.
Healing can only come from within you, and you can only heal yourself and not another. Do you want to continue on in rage? Are you enjoying the suffering? It’s your choice. Nothing ever happens to you without your agreement at some level. Why are you in this situation? What did you come to learn here? Are you finally ready to learn, or do you choose to go on with the blaming and the anger for awhile longer? It is always your choice.
When someone has wronged you and you feel hurt because of their unskillful acts, let your pain be a reminder to love. Allow another’s anger to be an invitation to return with compassionate understanding for their pain. Look at your fear and anger and hurt and make a decision that you can move beyond it, that you can choose love, first for yourself and then for another.
Here’s where forgiveness starts. First you must forgive yourself. Accept that you are not perfect. If you have made mistakes, have acted in an unskillful way, that is part of your learning. Let it teach you, not about hate and blaming but about acceptance, forgiveness and love. We are not talking here about suppressing the anger, the feelings of unfairness or hurt, but of finally acknowledging that, real as those feelings may be, they are simply causing more pain.
You must first accept the pain and love yourself enough to move beyond it. You can not transcend what you do not accept, and you can not accept what you’ve buried and feared to acknowledge. No! We are talking of honesty here, of opening to yourself, not of closing down.
You are all so afraid of all that you’ve found unacceptable in yourselves, all that you’ve had to bury. The fragmentation has torn you apart. You are at war with yourself. Now it is time to skillfully see through this and decide to end the war, to create peace, to allow room for love and forgiveness.
Having reached this point, sit down with yourself and, saying your own name, tell yourself, “I love you; I accept you; I forgive you; I welcome you back into my heart; I am now whole and am a being of love, a being of light. All the emotions and fears that have made me put myself out of my heart I acknowledge and accept and forgive. There is nothing that is unforgivable, if it is reached for with love.”
Now reach out and repeat this with the being who has hurt you. Feel the space in that forgiveness. No matter who was to blame; that is beside the point. Feel all the space that surrounds your forgiving. There is no wrong or right here. That is not the issue. The only real issue is whether you choose anger and fear or love. That choice is always yours. But know that where there is love, there is healing, and this is what you came for.