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forgiveness — easier said than done!

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Ever so often a person’s name comes up … someone I worked for and who rejected me. At least that’s how I remember the situation: he didn’t value my contribution and eventually nudged me out the door. It’s been two years and still there’s this sting in my heart. In Buddhist parlance we talk about two daggers: one that pierces our soft belly when something bad happens and another we insert ourselves to keep the wound from healing. First injury, then suffering.

It occurs to me this morning that one way I might get over the continuing hurt is by practice forgiveness. Zen teacher Ezra Bayda, who I often turn to when it comes to tackling difficult emotions, writes that “forgiveness is about loosening our hold on the one thing we most want to hold onto — the suffering of resentment.”

In forgiveness practice, we work to see through our own emotional reactions. We practice noticing what stands in the way of real forgiveness. Genuine forgiveness entails experiencing our own pain and then the pain of the person to be forgiven.

His pain!? What about mine, which he caused?! And there I am, stuck in resentment and righteousness, unable to let go, however much I want to. “Letting go is not the real practice,” Bayda suggests, “it’s a fantasy practice based on an ideal of how we’d like things to be.”

Instead, he writes, we need to simply acknowledge our unwillingness to forgive and our holding on to the ideal that I shouldn’t be resentful in the first place. That’s radical (“going to the root”), to admit that I’m holding on to pain and — there goes there’s that second dagger — that I’m a flawed person in feeling resentful. As I pay attention to the physical experience of all this, I notice stiffness across my shoulders, into my neck, and forward around my upper chest like strips of iron encircling a wooden barrel. I feel confined and compressed. Breathing near the edges of the tension, and gently into it, I notice restrictions around throat and lower jaw. Widening my breath, slowly and gradually, the load softens, leaving traces of the iron bands.

We can’t move on to the [next] stages of forgiveness until we’ve entered into and experienced–in your bodies and minds–the depth of our unwillingness to forgive.

May this story be of benefit to you.

source: Bayda, E. (2003). At home in muddy waters: a guide to finding peace within everyday chaos. Boston: Shambhala, p. 92. image:


3 responses »

  1. that inability to forgive causes so much pain in itself. i had a similar situation with a work experience, that i never thought i’d be able to forgive the person, my resentment was so strong. i eventually (a long time after) wrote to the person speaking of these feelings and the unfairness i felt. the issue itself wasnt resolved but he pain was. and we are now in touch occasionally, and it feels good not to feel that resentment anymore.

    at this time, i’m going through similar feelings with someone who was close.. i cant find it in me to forgive.. so thats exactly where i am at the moment.. ‘acknowledging my unwillingness to forgive’.

    great post! i gain a lot of insight from reading your blog.

  2. Willingness is the doorway to forgiveness, no doubt. Once you reach this stage I make this recommendation:

    Read Colin Tipping’s “Radical Forgiveness”. He looks at the process of forgiving situations and people in a very different way from anything I ever knew before working with him twelve years ago. He offers the spiritual perspective that everything that happens TO us, happens FOR us –that is, there’s a gift in what makes us feel victimized if we’re willing to seek it out.

    As a certified Radical Forgiveness coach, I have witnessed hundreds of people (myself included) shift their negative feelings of anger, guilt, shame, resentment, & judgment, to feelings of peace and joy by shifting their perspective and working through some processes which ultimately lead to forgiveness of self as well as the inflictor of the wound.

    Read his book and take a look at his web site (I gain nothing from this referral except the satisfaction of sharing the light) to judge for yourself. Let me know what you think.

  3. That’s a good point. I think for any emotion is good to deeply experience it. Pain, grief, anger, etc. Simply hiding it isn’t healthy.


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