The Threshold: Forgiveness

Our ability to forgive allows us to make space for our ability to meet suffering—our suffering as well as the suffering of others—with a kind heart.

Gina Sharpe, “The Power of Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.”

Oprah Winfrey

When I am not forgiving you for something it means that I am holding something against you, and that holding something against you creates a barrier.  The question of forgiveness toward anyone for anything creates a threshold before which we stand.  Often, the door of that threshold is closed and locked.  We stand there wondering if we can unlock it.  And if we unlocked it whether or not we dare open it.  And if we open it whether we have it in us to step over the threshold.

Stepping over any threshold is a movement forward, and the movement forward means leaving what is behind us farther in the past.  I think so often that is the crux, the real pain that makes forgiveness so unapproachable for us.  If I move forward, then this thing that is so painful to me but which is so near and dear recedes farther into the past.  If I forgive, I may actually begin to forget, and to forget means letting go of the thing, the one, the situation that was so dear to me.

Forgiveness, then, means confronting our own grief.  Forgiveness, as Oprah Winfrey has powerfully reminded us, really means letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different.  When I ponder that in myself over some past offense not forgiven, I see myself collapsing into my own grief for how it might have been.  I collapse forward, too, and that makes movement over the threshold of forgiveness possible.

It really is all the same movement.  Forgiving “the other” who has wounded me means allowing myself to grieve what in the past cannot be.  When I let go of that, I let go of holding the other who cannot give me the past that I have just released.  It doesn’t mean saying that what the other did was okay.  It means that my step forward is no longer hindered by a hoped-for-past.  The step across the threshold called forgiveness is truly the next step into my own best future.  Because that future only happens one step forward at a time, to step across this threshold powerfully creates a brand new now.

Bob Patrick

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