“I’ll never forget the day I saw him coming toward me in the street. The man who had murdered my father right in front of me. The instant I saw him, I could hardly breathe. I felt nauseous. I wanted to run but my legs were dead weight like my feet were stuck in cement blocks. And the trembling of rage boiled inside me, oozing out as sweat from every pore, and tears stinging my eyes. I didn’t try to hide it or stop the fury – I couldn’t. And suddenly a wail that frightened me with its own volition and intensity escaped my being. I didn’t know if I was cussing or crying or both, looking him directly in the eyes as he stopped several feet from me wide-eyed with fear. I could see him thinking to run as his eyes darted to and fro for an escape route on the crowded street, now tense with everyone gazing, frozen, waiting as if the entire world was holding its breath. But he didn’t run. And as I cursed him and began charging toward him with clenched fists, his eyes fell to the ground along with his limp body to his knees. And quickly his voice rose in wails as his screams entwined with my curses, “Forgive me, forgive me, please forgive me!” I hadn’t expected this. It shocked me to silence. And there we were in the street. The man who killed my father on his knees at my feet trembling, crying, begging. And me, being held up now by strangers who were crying with us both. And I could feel my heart expand, as it broke into forgiveness, and we wept there together for all that we both lost. Me for my father; this young man for his innocence.”
It was real stories like this that I learned from the survivors of what’s called one of the most heinous civil wars in modern history. It was this unfathomable display of strength, character, self-preservation, resilience and sheer humanity at its best, in the midst of its worst, that lured me away from a comfortable life in the US to move to this post war nation. For fifteen years families and friends became enemies, and targets of death squads, often at the hands of child soldiers – children they had known playing in the streets before the civil war began. This is Liberia, Africa. When the US Special Forces intervened, the soldiers reported that the war in “Liberia made Iraq look like Disneyland.” I began working there to support post war peace building initiatives in 2008, five years after the war ended. There were still UN peace-keeping tanks in the streets then. When I moved there in 2013, I entered a rebuilding and peaceful nation, where people had learned to forgive and move on, and more – where they inspired ME with their stories of forgiveness, hope and actions for a better tomorrow. They had literally been thru the worst – and would do anything for peace. There is something so thick and real and palpable about that – and their stories and courage to love, blossom like a flower in my heart, any time I am tempted to hold onto a wrong or a hurt – no matter the reason or depth.
I had a conversation recently with a woman who was holding pain in her heart about the actions of someone she knew. Feeling this inner battle within her otherwise loving nature, made me appreciate my own journey around forgiveness even more. And it helped me to be more clear about the many layers of forgiveness that are often required in order to affect a new outcome, a true healing – and not just for yourself, but for the person you need to forgive. When someone does you wrong, whether intentional or unintentional, that person needs a healing as much as you do. If they realize their transgression, they need to forgive themselves in order to heal, and change their course of action in the future. If they are unconscious to being in the wrong, there is always the possibility for them to be awakened to a new perspective, a new way of “seeing” and behaving that isn’t causing others pain. This is ultimately what enlightenment means – to see others and oneself in the light (or loving Truth). This is the greatest doorway for healing we can create for another – and it’s usually created through holding up a non-judgmental mirror.
I’ve had my fair share of traumatic transgressions against me to forgive. Starting very early in life, growing up in an alcoholic abusive household, then a broken home, where my single mom with six children struggled to raise us out of poverty. From parent to sibling confrontations, years of therapy and ten years in 12 step programs, all helped me find forgiveness. That seemed altogether easy compared to when I discovered the man I gave my heart and soul to had cheated numerous times in our long term relationship! At the time, I thought it was unforgiveable because the pain was too great. I thought, if I can’t stop feeling this pain, I can’t truly forgive. I discovered forgiveness by diving into my pain instead of trying to let it go. When I dove into it and “owned” how I had allowed myself to deny my own senses and intuition in order to be loved because I deemed myself unlovable, I found freedom from the pain. And more importantly, I discovered compassion first for myself, and then for him. There was a depth of compassion I found through the ability to walk in another person’s shoes, which I didn’t realize was possible.
Over the years, as much as I have learned to forgive, and the peace it gave me each time I practiced forgiveness, I still wondered about the strength or resolve or whatever that IS that allows a person to forgive for something even more horrible – like murder of a being you love. I would toss aside that thought as it crossed my awareness occasionally and hoped that I wouldn’t have to experience that kind of forgiveness – ever. But recently I did.
I have a friend, truly like my brother, the depth of our connection and understanding of each other deeper than with most in my life. He had also served with me in Liberia and carried its lessons in his heart and on his sleeve. Rafael Bejarano was murdered on September 13, 2015 by the Egyptian military who mistook his touring caravan for terrorists and opened fire for a three hour barrage in effort to make sure everyone was dead! My anger and pain felt unrelenting. His “presence” or Spirit had come to me immediately from beyond the veils, tickling me, trying to make me laugh (which was his way in physical and there is NO difference in the non-physical by the way), but I would have none of it. “I’m not ready Rafael,” I would say, and I could feel him there loving me and waiting patiently. It was this patience and compassion that I felt from him, from the other side, which permeated my being, and supported me in forgiveness. Had I not forgiven those who took his life, neither he nor I would be truly free – and I knew this in the moment it came to me clearly. You can Google and do more research if you’re inspired to on String Theory or Connected Consciousness, but I will just say this: Energy never dies, it changes form only, and for every living entity you ever encounter – in any way – you are connected; and you can affect and be affected by, simply through thought. Just because you are unaware of this phenomenon or unconscious of it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And knowing this, makes it critically obvious to get clear – get forgiving – immediately.
I have another friend, Jack Rose, whose definition of forgiveness makes it way simpler than the years of therapy I went through in the past.
Forgiveness = giving up the right to hold a grudge.
I’ve come to discover that forgiveness, even of that which feels unforgivable is the sweet elixir of Life. I learned this actually more, and surprisingly to me, not by forgiving, but by being forgiven!
There came a time, when I was the one who was the perpetrator. I lied to the one person I love the most out of terror that if he knew the truth he would leave me. (What’s crazy about our psyches is that this wasn’t even a lie about something I did, but something someone else did to me! But I was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell the truth at the time.) Within hours of my lie, I knew I couldn’t have anything untrue between us, and had to face what felt like the gauntlet. And he forgave me. And instantly with his forgiveness I felt incredible love and freedom. If you’ve ever seen, Les Miserables, you may remember the most powerful scene, when the Priest forgave Jean Val Jean for stealing his silver, and then let him keep the silver! It is so powerful for this reason: The moment one is truly forgiven – meaning there is no harboring of anger, judgment or withholding of Love– and one releases shame and accepts the forgiveness, is the moment Heaven on Earth becomes real – it is the freedom of the Soul.
This freedom is what allows healing, renewal, rebirth, changes in any behavior, and changes in consciousness to occur. So please remember this on your journey, bumping into each other and therefore constantly into your mirrored Self … there but for the grace of God go I.
Dance, Love, Smile… Spryte