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. Thinking back, I reminisce on just how precarious countless steps seemed. Some stones swayed, and others were just out of reach. I stalled on a few, staying so long my body grew weary. Others came and went without so much as a nod. Yet, 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) include an authentic expression of the pain we feel and the metamorphosis of the relationship we have to the past. These 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 between, knowing through 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

 Pain: The journey is filled with pebbles of sadness for the mother you wished you’d had or the lover who failed you. Finding our way home demands we embrace the anger variegated with intrusions of contempt for the injustice of violence at our hands or others. 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 the river. It may seem like you’re about to step blindly into quicksand but that is only the illusion of 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. Rather than getting caught in an eddy of should and should not or defending ourselves with indignation, we simply express the same compassion we would for a loved one or an innocent child. This isn’t difficult to do, but it takes practice. Most of us have been taught to relentlessly condemn, but our true nature is love. With a little rehearsal, tenderness will become a boulder on which to stand.

Empathy: Balancing upon the stepping stone of energetic connection and understanding for those who have hurt us isn’t easy. These stones are especially shaky because we want to defend, to deny it matters. But, empathy is an integral piece of the path plaited underfoot. It doesn’t mean we have to trust or reconcile; only to see our common humanity and recognize 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, respecting how we feel without judgment or opinion, responding with tenderness, and moving on when the turbulence 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.