By Laura D’Ambrosio
Recently I watched the movie Invictus for the second time. It’s the story of how Nelson Mandela actively supported the South African Springboks rugby team in the early years of his presidency. He knew the power a winning team to bring people together. That winning the world cup could help to bind the wounds of a bleeding nation.
More importantly, Mandela knew that forgiveness was more powerful than any vindictive action or long carried resentment.
The last post I wrote was about the complexity of loss. It was about commitment and the anchors that ground us in life and what happens when we lose those. What you don’t know is that I deleted much of the original writing, stripping out words I decided were best suited for my eyes only.
It’s a writer’s dilemma. The need to be truthful, to describe experiences and events and feelings that many of us have but few put into words. That is the power of prose, of story. But there is a definite difference between journaling for private healing and writing for others, between writing to share and writing to purge.
Writing because I have not yet forgiven is for my journal, something to get out of me and then burn. Words I will not share even with those I am venting about.
Nelson Mendela refused to convict others of the same wrong-minded acts that convicted him and so many other South Africans. He forgave. He set an example. If he can not only forgive, but also reconcile with those who imprisoned him for 27 years, can’t I forgive those in my life, friends, loved ones, former loved ones?
Maybe you think forgiveness condones what happened. It doesn’t. I hear my forgiveness teacher, Mary Hayes Grieco say, “forgive and leave a bad situation, forgive and set boundaries, forgive and hold others accountable, forgive and adjust your expectations”.
And that is what forgiveness is really, releasing expectations of what I wanted to happen in the past, what I think should happen now, and what I desperately want to happen in the future.
Mary taught me the eight steps to forgiving another. It’s a simple process that is the most freeing spiritual practice I know.
Eight Steps to Forgive Another
- State your will to make a change in attitude
- Express your emotions about what happened
- Cancel the expectation(s) you are holding in your mind
- Open to receive exactly what you need from the Universe
- Sort out the boundaries: give them responsibility for their actions and take yours.
- Allow unconditional love to flow into you.
- Send unconditional love to the person
- See the good in them or in the situation
I spend a weekend with Mary last month. Letting go of what I expected for my relationship, my life, my future. I will continue forgiving until the time comes that when I think of these past months, there is no emotional charge. Only a matter of fact acknowledgement that yes, that happened.
The poem Invictus that inspired Nelson Mandela ends with these lines,
“…I am the captain of my soul; I am the master of my fate.”
Dogs don’t need to learn how to forgive. They just do. Something else that Keesha taught me. So I choose to be the captain of my soul and forgive. Keesha would want me to.
To learn more about the process of forgiveness, you can contact me or go to Mary’s Website