By Mary Dieter

August 11, 2004

I will/can never forgive them! The "them" can be the person who slighted me, the boss who didn't promote me, the father who abused me, the brother who stole my inheritance, the criminal who murdered my daughter, the nation that killed my son during war.

Our refusal to forgive the ones who hurt us also involves a refusal to forgive ourselves for not being smart enough, strong enough, present enough to avert the injury. "I should have been there... I shouldn't have let them go... I should have seen it coming...." These thoughts of our own inadequacy become the background to our obsessive thoughts and feelings about the ones who have become "the enemy."

Why should we forgive them when forgiving them feels like a betrayal of our loved ones and ourselves? By forgiving the ones who hurt us, do we condone what they have done? Do we even have the right to forgive them? How can we forgive them when we feel like we have an iron band around our heart, when our pain feels immense and endless?

We need to forgive them, not for their sakes, but for our own. The iron band we feel around our heart is our refusal to forgive. The anger, hatred and vengeance that we feel keep us stuck in our pain, keep us from healing and growth.

Even when we grow weary of our pain, we don't really want to forgive. At this point, it's enough to just want to, want to forgive. It only takes a very tiny opening to set the process of forgiveness in motion. This process takes place mainly at a soul level, but begins to manifest in our everyday lives. Pretty soon every movie that we see, every book that we read, every conversation that we overhear seems to be about forgiveness. We examine our relationships, we explore our heart, we ponder our dreams, we walk through our pain, we reflect on the symbols and messages that seem to be popping up everywhere we look. We accept what happened as real and unchangable, and let go of "I should have..." and "If only...."

In a quiet moment, we feel a slight movement within us and suddenly everything changes. Our perspective has shifted. We begin to see our life with new eyes. We realize that we have forgiven the ones who hurt us, and that we have forgiven ourselves as well. We feel like a burden has been lifted and Spring has finally come!

We may never tell the ones who hurt us that we forgive them. Our heart will know whether it is necessary to tell them. Our path through pain and forgiveness becomes the source of our compassion. Our relationships to anyone we consider an enemy may open up in new and surprising ways. We feel deep gratitude for the miracle of being healed.

Although the path to forgiveness may be long and difficult, the freedom and growth that result make this journey one of the most important of our lives.