The dusk deepened and the moon rose higher, arcing across the darkening sky. We sat together staring into the fire, two men, friends, brothers. The wind kicked up and the air suddenly grew cold. I fed more wood to the fire, the expanding firelight illuminating our minds.
“Look at me,” I said gently, tears in my eyes. “What story have you made up about love, about your love? I’m listening–tell me.”
We begin a long slow slide into the depths of self inquiry. A profound excavation, to expose the story, the meaning it holds, and the cost of holding it. Gently we bring to light what is true and what isn’t, and put into the fire what no longer serves, a symbolic gesture of surrender and the willingness to open, to allow the presence of love to be felt, even in a world where it doesn’t feel safe to love.
At the heart of every story of suffering there is the matter of love, self love, and how it seems to have been lost, taken, given away, or not returned. Love, self love, that becomes protected within a heart armored against the pain of feeling too much. A love that cannot be given freely nor received wholly because the heart is closed. Like a citadel, the walls built over time–a last stronghold against the pain of being in the world. A personal pain hidden, then forgotten, waiting for healing and release.
“Is there something you haven’t forgiven yourself for?” I ask. The question seems unrelated, irrelevant.
“I don’t know what you mean.” he says with some confusion.
I ask again, “Is there something you haven’t forgiven yourself for?
“What have you not forgiven yourself for?” The question is direct now.
The story unfolds haltingly. We follow a tenuous thread, moving slowly, to understand what happened, where the break in belonging led to isolation. Even in the midst of other people. Even in the midst of family.
Forgive Yourself: It’s the Only Answer
The story connects to another story and another, as stories do, a montage of memory and emotion. Suddenly it becomes clear that forgiveness is the one answer that makes any sense at all, the only way out. Its very absence is an obstacle that blocks the way. In fact, without forgiveness the way is lost.
And now to understand what forgiveness means, to find the meaning deep within a heart that is beginning to open. Not an easy task, to forgive what we believe we have done and what has been done to us.
Self forgiveness is a doorway to wholeness. It is a threshold we cross to remember our innocence, to remember our love. Forgiveness can free us from the burden of guilt–the judgment that we did something wrong. And shame–that we are flawed and unworthy of love, belonging and connection.
Forgiveness is the way we remember who we are. It’s the way we remember our connection to others. It’s the way we take back what is sacred–our essential goodness and our relationship with God. Through the eyes of forgiveness we can see ourselves and others without judgment. This paves the way for true healing and for love to enter into our lives, so that life and work take on a quality of grace, of richer meaning.
Forgiveness helps us to be authentically self-expressed and our true potential becomes more available to us. We realize we are here for a purpose greater than anything we can conceive of alone. We are not alone.
Relinquish the Old Story
To relinquish the old story, we give it up. It’s the story we were born into, that we accepted when we were young, vulnerable, and didn’t have strong boundaries. It’s the story we were given without question. The one that got in under the wire and told us we were not good enough. It’s the story of what we did wrong, and of our own judgment. And by the same ruthless standard that we’ve judged ourselves, we’ve judged the world.
The story that drove us to success, to failure, to reach for something better, even to the brink of self annihilation, breakdown, and disaster…it’s the same story that has saved us, became our lifeline, and helped us to survive.
But it’s also the one we’ve stood in the way of being fully who we are, without fear or inhibition.
That story must be laid to rest now, and rewritten.
The old story got us this far, but it won’t get us to where we want to go. Because where we’re going, we can’t take the old story with us. That’s all.
Offer your gratitude to the old story, for everything it has taught you about yourself, for everything it has helped you to understand. Then bless it, and let it go.
The next step in the evolutionary journey of being human requires a new story—for a peacemaker, a way shower, a spiritual leader, a force for healing–for those who carry the light.
The new story becomes the journey of fierce commitment to a path with heart, a path with meaning, and to give it all the meaning we can. This path is not for the faint of heart. To be who we are takes courage. It takes discipline. It takes vigilance. It takes everything we have to give. We need keen awareness, the willingness to surrender, and an open heart.
To author a powerful new story, it is essential to know who we are, why we are here, and Who sent us. This is the deep work of remembering, to reclaim our true identity, our reason for being, and to forgive all that has gone before.
The journey continues and the answers to our deepest questions are revealed in all their simplicity and truth. To forgive everything that isn’t true—to forgive everything—and to give the love that is ours to give: this is the path to freedom. Love is for giving.