Stepping Stones to Forgiveness

Gazing back at where I’ve been I see a path dotted with stones. They form an impeccable passageway through jungles and deserts, darkness and light. When I think back, I remember how precarious each step seemed. Some stones swayed, others seemed just out of reach. I stalled on some, staying so long by body grew weary. Others came and went without so much as a nod. But, each stride compelled me forward in a direction I could never have foreseen.

Forgiveness is a Journey and a Destination

On the path, the stepping stones that lead to absolute forgiveness (the realization there is nothing to forgive) are our feelings and the relationship we have to the events and people in our lives. Other stones are rendered from love for the self and empathy for others. All are needed to find our way to the other side.

The destination is a type of freedom too few comprehend. It is abiding gratitude for each and every cobblestone and the space in between them, knowing through the chaos harmony reigns. It is seeing the path for what it truly is: perfect for all its quirks and interludes.

What lies beyond forgiveness is freedom from the illusion of past and future. It is a beacon shining brilliantly on this moment.

The Stepping Stones: Our Feelings

 Pain

The journey is filled with pebbles of sadness for the mother you wished you’d had. Anger variegated with intrusions of contempt for the injustice of violence. The sands of grieving for the child lost or love squandered. Regret for not being the person you thought you should be. More anger. More sadness. The sharp edges of humiliation and shame.

There is no way out but through. It may seem like you’re about to dive headfirst into quicksand but that is only fear. Stand on the stones of your pain, and you will not sink. You will heal, and the next step will appear underfoot.

Self-love

As we pause on each stone and allow the pain to come and go, we learn to respond with love for the self. Rather than an analysis of whether or not we should feel the way we do or defending ourselves with indignation and self-righteousness, we simply express the same compassion we would to a loved one or a child. This isn’t difficult to do, but it takes practice. Most of us have been taught to be relentlessly critical of ourselves, but our true nature is one of love. With a little rehearsal, tenderness will become one of your greatest assets.

Empathy

Balancing on the steppingstone of connection and understanding for those who have hurt us isn’t easy. These stones are especially shaky because we want to defend, to distance. But, empathy is an important part of healing. It doesn’t mean we have to trust or reconcile; it just means seeing our common humanity and recognizing that what others do is not about us.

The path to forgiveness must be walked through all of the feelings we have. This is one of the few demands healing decrees. Freedom cannot be won by simply saying, “I forgive you.” The gratitude and joy that live beyond forgiveness are only accessed by walking on the stones, honoring how we feel without judgment or opinion, responding with tenderness, and moving on when the chaos that runs between each rock retreats long enough for us to rise up on tippy-toe, take a deep breath, and leap.

May your journey lead you back to you.