Hard to Forgive

A Moment of Honesty about Forgiveness

As anyone in the spiritual work field will tell you-- whatever sermon we're about to preach will show up in our own personal battles.  Whatever lessons we're going to be called to teach will have to also continue being learned.  Whatever healing we're going to extend will have to first be received. And maturity is never zapped into us.  Praying for patience means that I'll be slowed down more today so I can build up that muscle; and asking for peace means knowing how to find our calm in the midst of the storm even if we thought we meant making the storm go away. Yes, I know all too well that to be a teacher means to first always be a student.

And last week was as blatant as it gets: "Shasta, you have more to keep learning and practicing!"

A Lesson in Forgiveness Presents Itself

All summer I planned for the launch of my author and book website: ShastaNelson.com. So it was with excitement last Tuesday that I woke up ready to show it to the world.

Except when I clicked on it, my videos weren't showing up the way I wanted them to.  And so I called the man who had been slaving for weeks on getting every design element coded, double-checking all my links, fixing typos I had missed, and sometimes changing one detail that the designer had requested only then to have me want to change it back.

With a stressful deadline, high hopes, and lots of exhaustion on both sides-- that Tuesday morning conversation ended with mutual frustration. Both sides feelings justified in their version of the story. But he interrupted what he was doing to make the change I requested and then we went live.

But instead of feeling happy, I felt kinda sick to my stomach at the misunderstanding. And while we like to think of ourselves as rationale human beings, research bears out that most of us make a decision based on a feeling and then go seek out the rational, logical, facts, and data that supports our feeling. So we both stewed over how the other person could have handled that scenario better.

I reached out once.  He didn't respond.  He reached out later.  I didn't respond. I had my feelings hurt.  And I also felt mad for how I had been treated.

The Irony Isn't Lost on Me

All the while-- my video on ShastaNelson.com is being shown to the world for the first time.  That video, "I Have a Theory That Friendship Can Change The World" is the core of my teaching-- basically that our relationships are the gymnasiums where we practice being the kind of people this world needs.  Building up muscles of compassion, encouragement, and yes, forgiveness.

Through out the day, whenever I felt frustrated, I'd shake my head in irony as I heard my own voice say, "Because if we can't forgive the people we've committed to loving... then what chance do we have of being able to extend that much-needed gift to people we don't yet know, people whose religious or political views are different from mine, or people who live on the other side of the world from us?"

I kept preaching to myself.  And I kept shaking it off.  I wasn't ready yet to forgive.

It is far too easy in those moments of hurt and anger to fall for the lie that to forgive the other person means to let them off the hook.  I've written on this subject (an entire chapter in my book), taught about it, coached people through it, done it countless times myself... but there I sulked.  Momentarily forgetting that I am the prisoner of my own frustration, my own unwillingness to forgive.

Now with it entirely behind me I look back and think it was the most ridiculous thing to have spent all that energy hurting, being frustrated, and feeling defensive about.  We've reconciled, both said sorry, and used the opportunity to share honest feelings and set up healthy expectations for the future.  We're fine.

But it hit me hard how little the things can be sometimes that end up holding so much more meaning for us.  The misunderstandings that turn into battles.  The hurt feelings that lead to separations.  The wounded egos that refuse to reconcile.  The meaning we attach to their words, letting them speak louder than was ever intended.

Fortunately most of our misunderstandings are with family, friends, and colleagues-- people we're committed to trying again with.  So we force ourselves up to the plate of saying sorry and offering forgiveness.

And every time I go there, I get a little more practiced at it.

I don't think it's a realistic goal that I can ever live without needing to forgive myself and others, but I do hope that I keep having the opportunities placed before me so that my suffering diminishes a little more each time as I learn to say sorry faster, offer forgiveness more thoroughly, and to extend reconciliation with more love.

Just know that every situation that calls you to forgive is a gift.  A place to practice growing up.  A place to step into the person we want to become.  A place where we practice the skills that the world needs.

I hope for you, today, the gift of someone to forgive. It's a gift.  Trust me.  :)


Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson


I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.