As soon as he arrived, I poured the tea and served breakfast. "Dharma," I said to him rather timidly, "I'm feeling angry and resentful. One of my friends has hurt me and I'm having trouble getting past it. Can we please work on this today?" The Wise One looked surprised. I very rarely ever get angry and I almost never asked him to specifically work with me on a problem I'm having. He was, of course, delighted to help.
"Son," he said, "Are you really angry at your friend, or are you angry at yourself? Do even know what the true cause of your anger is?" I thought about and I was pretty sure that my friend had said some hurtful words to me and that was the cause of anger and resentment, but, of course, I've been known to be wrong. Dharma reminded me that forgiveness is never easy and forgiveness is NOT about the person person who wronged us. Really, it has more to do with us and ability to see past the imperfections in others. Forgiveness is, in its truest form, love. "Irwin," the wise one spoke softly,"Forgiveness doesn't justify what happened and it isn't about forgetting. Rather, it's about achieving peace. And it can take time, and effort." I liked the sound of that; I have been feeling out of balance these past few days. Dharma explained to me that there's no clear road map that will show us how to get from hurt to forgiveness, it'll be a different path for everyone, but he gave me a few simple steps that can help get me, and maybe you, started on a journey towards peace. Along the way, we might even find that the anger isn't just about the hurt. We may be angry at ourselves for allowing it to happen or even our inability to move on from it. We all want to be perfect, but we never are. And we need to learn to forgive ourselves, first.
1. Express the emotion. It's never good to hold it inside. Let it out, but do so in a non-violent/gentle way. perhaps tell the frog/person who hurt you, how you feel. If you can't do that, tell a friend. Cry, if that'll help. Just let the emotion out...safely!
2. Understand why. If you can, find out why the incident occurred; was it a misunderstanding or was something said in the heat of the moment? We all want answers, so it's OK to ask.
3. Rebuild safety. Before we can forgive, we need to be reasonably assured that the incident won't happen again. Perhaps it will, there are no guarantees in life, just feel comfortable that the offense isn't likely to occur again. That might mean an apology on their part, some distance between you, or stronger boundaries put into place. And, finally,
4. Let it go. This is probably the hardest part, but make a conscious decision to not hold onto a grudge. Forgiveness brings peace and balance. Non-forgiveness brings discontent and unrest. Forgiveness is necessary in order to enjoy life. Without it, we constantly live in the past and that limits our ability to enjoy the present...whether you're frog or human!
As Dharma finished his tea, he smiled and said, "Tadpole, so what will you do about your anger and resentment towards your friend?" I pondered the question for a moment and replied, "I will hop over to see my friend later this morning, Sir, and offer to take him to lunch. Maybe in a neutral place, we'll find it easier to talk about what happened. I will forgive myself for the anger I feel and then. I will forgive him. I miss my friend and hope he misses me, too."
"I knew you'd do the right thing, Irwin," sighed the wise old frog, "You always do. Sometimes it just takes you a little longer...but what's important is that you know in your heart what you need to heal the wound."
I feel better already.