"The human spirit is so great a thing that no man can express it; could we rightly comprehend the mind of man nothing would be impossible to us upon the earth."
Philipus A. Paracelsus
Of the many responses to last week's post How To Forgive - And Be Happy Now, this email from one reader was especially touching and inspiring to me.
Thank you so much for posting this article. After reading through the news of the day, I always check out the Living Section. Your article means so much to me. This year I have been working on being more forgiving. It was about two months ago that I heard for the first time that one can find love in forgiveness. Ever since then I have been trying to understand what exactly that means to me and how that could manifest in my life. When I heard this, I also had been struggling with some darkness from my past, that I had thought I had already gotten through.
As a child I was molested by my uncle. He is mildly retarded (sorry if that is not PC) and has not developed emotionally beyond that of a 12 year old. When I left home for college I realized what affect this must have had on me as a young woman, I least I think I did. At the time I felt like I dealt with it and wasn't angry with him. I tried to realize how my background translates to my young adulthood. I accepted this was a part of my past, but felt like it made me stronger in the long run. One of my sisters wasn't so lucky and still seems to struggle daily.
My grandfather had been put in jail for child molestation when I was young. So we would continue to go to my grandmothers house, where my uncle lived. When my grandfather got out of jail we as a family did not go visit my grandmother anymore, until her death years later. My mother now lives in her house taking care of my grandfather and my uncle. I haven't lived at home, or in the country in a couple of years. Now though, when I go home, that is where home is. I had to carry on acting like everything was normal and this wasn't the man who had abused me. It was very difficult, but manageable from a distance.
However, my recent trips home and the current situation made it not so ok anymore. I found that I could accept it as long as I didn't have to live in it. Recently I had to return home due to a family emergency and had to spend lengthy time in that house. I was confused by this mix of emotions, why had it been ok with me for the past ten years, was it ever really ok? I feel to a certain extent it was because of the distance. And because I had accepted what happened to me, but did not forgive him. Since I needed my love and energy to focus on the other situation, I knew I didn't have room in my heart for this fear, resentment, discomfort, and/or anger. Remembering what I had heard about forgiveness gave me the strength to approach my visit at a new level.
It felt so different coming from this angle. While it wasn't 100%, I tried as much as possible to find the forgiveness in my heart. It has made a big difference. This has been huge! Now I am looking at other aspects of my life where I could focus my energy on a forgiving one. It is difficult and cannot be done overnight, but through compassion, love, empathy, and positive energy, I feel I am more able to approach other things from my past.
Sorry this was so long, but I wanted to share with you. Just the other day, I heard myself saying, I finally accepted what my ex-boyfriend did, but was not willing to forgive him. Your words remind me again, that acceptance is the first step in forgiveness. Thank you so much for your reminder, your presence, your words, and love.
This person illustrates for me the beauty of the human spirit in its capacity for loving and letting go as an ongoing process.
"The spirit of man is more important than mere physical strength,
and the spiritual fiber of a nation more than its wealth"
Dwight David Eisenhower
It took me ten years of celebrating forgiving each 15th March to begin to realize the power of love through forgiving. I had questioned: What does it mean to forgive? How do you forgive - when it is really difficult? How is forgiving valuable? What happens when you forgive? Is it worth it? Why bother? I very much appreciated the many who responded so openly to the post.
From another reader:
I too agree the hardest thing to forgive is yourself. You learn sooooo many things about yourself when you forgive and it has taught me to try to be a better person.
As human beings, we are fallible and make mistakes. We also have a remarkable loving spirit within us. At this period of global turmoil, it warms my heart to read stories of how this spirit has risen above difficult conditions.
You do not have to be a Victor Frankl or the Dalai Lama to be living what I call a "forgiven life". I am sure there are many ordinary people now demonstrating the capacity to love and forgive. Are you one of them? Your story could offer hope and inspiration to others; light in what for many are dark days. We learn from, and are guided by, others' experiences.
This song by Josh Groban speaks to me of how we assist each other to raise our spirits.
"There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit.
In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit."
Have you found the spirit in you to forgive and claim a better life for yourself? What are the strengths of your human spirit? Who has inspired you by their example?