Fear that someone would see it.
I spent much of my life like this up into my early 30s writing in my journal here and there. Sometimes daily and sometimes admitting to myself the things that I felt. Many times ignoring and pretending and not wanting to write or think about what I was dealing with or who I was or why I was doing the things that I did.
I feared my own true self I didn’t want to know who I was. I didn’t want to share who I was.
I was afraid of being authentic. I was afraid of showing the truth that if I did I would be rejected.
I had the story: this big, deep, long story a projection that had haunted me all the way through my past from my childhood.
Every time I got in a new relationship or was around something new I would tear out those pages of that journal and I would burn them. I would throw them away. What if somebody knew something of my past AND could understand who I was or even have an idea of what I thought. What I thought about other people or other things. I told stories from my side from no one else’s. I would show how I was the victim in my life. I would see how I had created these issues and really I never showed that I was a maker in all of the stories. That I would never show that I was just hurt and wanted to be heard. I would pretend that I was powerful and strong and that I can overcome anything but really I felt weak and tired and misunderstood.
Then I discovered a secret that lied nowhere but within and it began with forgiveness.
I instantly buried my head in my hands. It was if someone had finally put the right sequence of numbers into a giant combination lock that I had been carrying around for years. The tumblers started turning and falling into place. Everything was clicking. That was the piece that was missing. Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves death and grief. I had been looking for patterns in people extending generosity and love, but not in people feeling grief. At that moment it struck me: Given the dark fears we feel when we experience loss, nothing is more generous and loving than the willingness to embrace grief in order to forgive. To be forgiven is to be loved.
The death or ending that forgiveness necessitates comes in many shapes and forms. We may need to bury our expectations or dreams. We may need to relinquish the power that comes with “being right” or put to rest the idea that we can do what’s in our hearts and still retain the support or approval of others. Joe explained, “Whatever it is, it all has to go. It isn’t good enough to box it up and set it aside. It has to die. It has to be grieved. That is a high price indeed. Sometimes it’s just too much.”
She goes on to quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu…
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form if self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: The depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.
However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person, too.”
So, forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live. What the Tutus found in their work on forgiveness validates not just the importance of naming our experiences and owning our stories but also how rumbling with a process can lead to clarity, wisdom and self-love. So often we want easy and quick answers to complex struggles. We question our own bravery, and in the face of fear, we back down too early.
I’ve never met anyone – personally or professionally – who didn’t have to rumble with forgiveness. That includes self-forgiveness too. Within families and in other close relationships, we love each other and we hurt each other. The question becomes, What has to end or die so we can experience a rebirth in our relationships?