Finding Forgiveness During Times of Change

We often feel anxious in times of change. This natural response creates a paradox. We recognize that, without change, a deepening of our Christ consciousness cannot occur, yet we want to avoid disruptive feelings. We have a choice to make at such times: be willing to explore the unknown with curiosity and excitement, or resist our own growth.

We usually think of forgiveness as a response to someone purposely doing something to harm us, but this is a misunderstanding. The need for forgiveness arises when we experience feeling hurt by the actions of another, not when something goes wrong. To explore this admittedly challenging idea, let’s offer a couple parables.

Tracy is walking down the street one sunny afternoon in September during her lunch break. The beautiful day elicits feelings of gratitude and joy. Suddenly, as she turns the corner near the bakery, a young man hurtles out from behind a dumpster, points a gun at Tracy, and demands her wallet and jewelry. Tracy calmly obliges, but the young man proceeds to attack her, leaving her helpless on the sidewalk.

Does Tracy need to forgive the young man to heal from the attack? Not necessarily. If she understands that what the man did was not about her—if she doesn’t take it personally—then the need for forgiveness would not even occur to her. In fact, she might instead feel deep compassion for the suffering that caused her perpetrator to attack her.

Jamie is a friendly, laid-back eighth grader who gets along with everyone. He is walking down a bustling hallway at school between classes. As he passes a classroom, he becomes distracted by a noise in the other room and stumbles over Sarah’s backpack resting on the ground. Jamie flies through the air and tumbles to the floor. As the other students in the hallway stop and laugh, Jamie peels himself off the floor and strolls off as if nothing happened. As he turns the corner, tears begin to roll down his cheeks. Humiliated, he decides Sarah is a mean person—and the drill team, which she leads, sucks. Jamie decides he is nothing like “them.”

Is this an opportunity for forgiveness? Yes! We see that no harm was intended, but Jamie feels hurt by Sarah’s actions. He allowed his mind to create meaning that defended his hurt feelings. He validated his embarrassment by making someone wrong. Forgiving Sarah will be integral to his healing.

Creating a judgment of good and bad serves important functions (for example, what to do and not do, and what demands our action to seek justice), but in matters of finding peace with what is, they trap us.

During this time of transition at UCOH, we each have a great opportunity, both as members and congregants of a beautiful spiritual community and as individuals, to deepen our connection with each other and with our Christ consciousness. How do we do that? By forgiving what we perceive to be other than it “should be.” By finding perfection in what is.

The loss of a spiritual leader can be painful, regardless of the circumstances. As we consider our willingness to find the perfection in what is, we need to honor how we feel. This is the first step in forgiveness. How you feel is never erroneous, but rather, an instrument to direct you to understanding.

Disruptive emotions don’t mean something went wrong. It is human nature to create a story to defend our feelings. We feel sad or fearful or angry, and our minds search for a narrative to justify our emotions. “If we had done this or that…,” “If they had done x or y…,” “If only, if only…”

The problem with creating a story is twofold. First, it takes us out of our feeling capacity, which is where healing takes place. We can allow our feelings to move through us without getting stuck, or we can hold onto them with judgment and story.

The second challenge is that, to forgive, we usually need to let go of the story we have about what happened. The adage “Do you want to be right or happy?” comes to mind here. Letting go of being right becomes more and more difficult the longer we hold onto the story. Healing the distant past—that narrative we’ve been crafting since we tripped in the hallway in eighth grade—is much harder than choosing forgiveness as life unfolds. In real time, we recognize the story for what it is: a fluid mental construct we are crafting to alleviate our emotional pain.

In this mindful and supportive community, we are blessed to have the prospect of healing quickly and openly, and to release our attachment to the stories we create. How can we each find that divine harmony? Here are some simple recommendations.

Claim your power in the situation. This has two aspects. First, we claim our power when we acknowledge how we feel. Perhaps a new hesitancy to come to church has emerged, or you’re just feeling indifferent. Behind that apathy is a feeling. Vulnerability, abandonment, frustration, fear. Claiming your power asks you to greet yourself where you are. Whatever the feeling, honor it and simply let it be.

The second component of claiming your power is recognizing that we create our reality. We can relate to our life as something happening to us, something we have no say in or power to impact, or we can choose to see it as a call from the Universe—from Spirit itself—to evolve. It is a gentle nudge toward a fuller expression of our divinity. By choosing to feel the perfection in what is, we become masters of our lives.

Let go of the story and create space for meaning to emerge. The story isn’t real. You created it. That doesn’t mean you don’t have ample evidence to back it up, but it’s still just a story. So, ask yourself this question: Does the story (or any aspect of it) create suffering for me? If it does, then let it go. Something magical happens when we do this: Meaning that brings peace begins to form. It might take a little time, but eventually, the perfect harmony of life arises from the twists and turns. Don’t force the meaning; just allow for an experience of not knowing. We don’t need to know anything to have peace. In fact, the more you realize you don’t know, the easier life becomes.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a choice. There is no “should” to it. You choose it, or you don’t. We just need to be aware that one choice leads to healing and wholeness, and the other leaves you right where you are. It is simply doing the work we need to do to find true acceptance and personal power.

Change is scary. It’s also the essence of life. What better place than a loving community of like-hearted spiritual beings to learn to embrace change, to forgive ourselves and others, and to heal?