“Forgiveness is the act of giving up the hope for a better past”
Of all the emotional acts we undertake as human beings, forgiveness is perhaps one of the most challenging. We tend to resist engaging in forgiveness, as if it is somehow an act of self-harm as if somehow it invalidates the significance of the wounds we carry and process throughout our lives. We would much rather receive an apology from those who harmed us, and even then, this is often not enough to convince us to truly and genuinely forgive others.
Whenever I visit the temple at Burning Man, I read what others have written on the walls and I often pick just a few to sit and meditate on. I simply read them over and over to myself, allowing those words to nestle deeply into my heart. In 2023, this was the one that hit me the hardest: “Forgiveness is the act of giving up the hope for a better past.”
Holding on to hope
As I digested this phrase, it became a self-evident truth. What use is there in wishing for a different past, when we all recognize that the past is immutable? It will not change, and it certainly won’t improve, no matter how hard we wish for it. Why was I holding on to hope for something impossible, something that would never happen? When I finally began to unravel this, forgiveness suddenly became much easier.
As I understand it now, forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves. It is a relaxation, a letting go, of the tension we carry with us when we hope for what we know is impossible. Forgiving those who we feel have harmed us is not about them; it is about us. Forgiveness affords us a sense of inner peace, as we are no longer hanging on to an impossible hope. It allows us to move forward without the past weighing us down in every step. It gives us breath when we are gasping for air. Forgiveness does not have to be challenging when we understand it like this. Suddenly, it can become a liberating force.
What is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
In the words of the late, great Mary Oliver, ‘What is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ Will you hold on to the impossible hope for a better past, or will you forgive?