Forgiveness: Changing our Relationship to the Past

by Deborah Grassman

OpusPeace.org

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The process that precipitates pervasive inner peace is forgiveness. I have to forgive every disappointment and interruption that interferes with my experience of the moment. Every time I am told, “No” by God, another person, or life itself, I have to actively forgive the world for things not going the way I had hoped. Then I can reencounter the ever-present now; I reestablish peace in my world. I call this my journey from “Oh no!” to “Oh well…”.

One time, I asked my mother, “Who is your best friend?” She replied, “Whomever I’m with at the moment.” I liked that answer. I hope I can live out that wisdom. Similarly, I hope that I can answer the question, “What’s your favorite thing to do?” with “Whatever I’m doing right now.” Then, I’ll know that I’m living in the now, and the key for doing so is forgiveness; I will be able to forgive the world for everything that is not “now.”

Forgiveness can have very practical applications. I jog along a two-mile rural road. Trash litters the edge of the road, corrupting its beauty. I frequently complained about the litter with a tightness in my jaw and neck as I did so. Then I realized that I had a choice: I could forgive the litter for being there and enjoy the landscape anyway, or I could pick up the litter. I decided on the latter. My garbage bag in hand, I picked up each can and wrapper. Initially, I was thinking mean thoughts about the litterers. Then, I realized that I was littering my mind with resentment, robbing me of “now-ness.” I switched to blessing each litterer, and actually had great fun on the rest of my clean-up adventure. Forgiveness is like that; it transforms moments so I can live in the vitality of the now.

Desmond is a Vietnam veteran who knew how to maintain peace in the now. During a Quality of Life meeting with him, our team acknowledged his military service, which he appreciated. “’Nam vets never got their due,” he told us. We offered an apology for the way he had been treated when he returned from the war. When asked how he was doing spiritually, he told us, “I’m good in that department because I always keep my feet wiped.” He explained that some people don’t keep their “feet wiped” on a daily basis. Instead, dirt accumulates, surfacing as they approach death, which was the case with Jim.

Jim was a World War II vet. He was weak with a cancer that would take his life in a few days. After I introduced myself and we spoke quietly for several minutes about hospice care, I asked him if there was anything from the war that might still be troubling him. He said there was, but he was too ashamed to say it out loud. Motioning me to come down close to him, he whispered, “Do you have any idea how many men I’ve killed?”
I shook my head, remaining silent, steadily meeting his gaze with my own. He continued.

“Do you have any idea how many throats I’ve slit?”

Again I shook my head. The image was grim, and I felt my eyes begin to tear. Jim was tearful too. We sat silently together, sharing his suffering. No words needed to be said. This was a sacred moment that words would only corrupt.

After several minutes, I asked, “Would it be meaningful if I said a prayer asking for forgiveness?”

He nodded. I placed my hand on Jim’s chest, anchoring his flighty, anxious energy with the security of my relaxed palm. My prayer, like any praying I do with patients, reflected no particular religion. “Dear God: This man comes before you acknowledging the pain he has caused others. He has killed; he has maimed. He hurts with the pain of knowing what he did. He hurts with the pain of humanity. He comes before you now asking for forgiveness. He needs your mercy to restore his integrity. He comes before you saying, ‘Forgive me for the wrongs I have committed.’ Dear God, help him feel your saving grace. Restore this man to wholeness so he can come home to you soon. Amen.”

Jim kept his eyes closed for a moment, tears streaming down from unopened lids. Then he opened his eyes and smiled gratefully; his new sense of peace was almost palpable. It was a reminder to me of just how heavy guilt weighs.

The reason I prayed for Jim with my hand on his chest is because anxious energy usually rises. Think about when you get excited. Your voice usually gets higher; energy gets flighty. You might place your hand on your chest or near your throat, unconsciously anchoring yourself. A calm, centered person’s energy usually resides lower and deeper. If a calm person places his or her hand on an un-calm person’s sternum, it can often help this person feel secure, more weighted, less anxious. I often sit with my dying patients with my hand on their chest. I teach their loved ones to do the same. (See “Hand-Heart Connection” under tools.)

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1-Day Workshop: Forgiveness & Healing

Would you like to recover the energy of pieces of self you may have knowingly or unknowingly lost through: self-disregard, heartache, neglect, abuse, trauma, death, or war so you can inhabit yourself more completely? Deborah Grassman joins forces with Dr. Abi Katz to provide an unforgettable day. E-mail Pat@OpusPeace.org to schedule them to come to your event.

Education. Compelling workshops presented in unusual and engaging ways on intriguing topics: Soul Injury, Soul Restoration, Aging, Personal Healing, Veteran issues, Self-Care, Chronic Illness, End-of-Life care, Spiritual Growth, PTSD, Forgiveness, Good Grief.

Low-cost Retreats. 1, 2, or 3-day retreats in your city or ours (Tampa). Topics include: Soul Injury, Soul Restoration, Personal Growth and Healing, Forgiveness, Aging.

Soul Restoration Ceremonial Workshops. Caregiving, whether personal or professional, takes a toll! Understandably, we often disconnect from the pain. Disconnecting from the part of self carrying the pain contributes to loss of energy, emptiness, and compassion fatigue. This 4-8 hour ceremonial workshop will provide a restorative experience for your staff or your patients’ families.

Soul Injury Ceremonial Workshops. We will help your community organize, plan, and implement a ceremony for combat veterans which helps them lay down any burdens of unmourned grief or unforgiven guilt they may still be carrying. The gaping hole in our society from the aftermath of war can be healed!

Book Circles for Personal Growth.Utilizing the book, The Hero Within: Redeeming the Destiny We Were Born to Fulfill, we will help you grow small communities of people who want to cultivate pervasive personal peace.

Book Circles for Veterans. Utilizing the book, Peace at Last: Stories of Hope and Healing for Veterans and Their Families, you can become an agent of healing for our nation’s heroes by hosting a book circle for veterans and their families.

Free web-based Materials, Tools, Resources, and Blogs.

We offer these services with our Opus Peace prayer: Cultivate in me, oh God, the willingness to re-own and re-home scattered pieces of myself so that I might be restored to Your wholeness. Grow in me the honesty, humility, and courage to release my fears of who I am and who I am not. Fuel me with your Grace. Amen