“Forgiveness is to let go of our hope for a different or better past.” Richard Rohr
The other day a dear friend texted me and welcomed me into a conversation that has been stirring within me ever since. The idea that forgiveness is not to let another person off the hook for what they have done. Or even to let myself off the hook for what I have done.
Forgiveness is to let go of the what ifs and the blame and recrimination and let the past rest.
It makes me wonder what I might do if I allowed hope and vision to be for the future rather than using them up on the past…?
For some time burs have been my physical image for the work of forgiveness. Removing burs from my shoe laces and fleece jacket sleeves requires attention and focus. I take off one bur at a time and put it carefully into the garbage so that I do not seed more burs.
So with the forgiveness conversation and the image of burs dancing inside, I headed out to my children’s summer camp for a fall retreat with some folks from our local faith community. We took along our fluffy, (formerly) white dog who snuffled around in the leaves and brush and found the most prickly burs I have yet touched. It was almost as though he was a magnet for these prickly seeds.
Trying to pull these burs from his fur was painful for the fingers, uncomfortable for the dog and a pretty constant reminder of the work that it is to let go my hope for a different past.
Yes, it is work. Yes, it is painful. Yes, I would rather be doing something — almost anything — else.
Yet, having removed the burs and contained them in the safety of the garbage, those same burs did not come back to hurt the dog or me again.
We managed to find new burs every time we went outside.
That might also speak to the truth that having let go of the hope for a different or better past in one part of our lives, we may have to let it go again, and again, and again. With the way that I have been living, it would not surprise me if I have let my un-forgiveness, blame and hurt seed many generations of plants with prickly seeds that have yet to be found, removed and let go.
Having conversation partners from spiritual companions, through to a Spiritual Director, and ultimately conversation with the Divine Family, makes this forgiveness process do-able.
What does it mean to you to forgive?
Where are you at in the process of forgiveness and healing? Where would you like to be?
Does Richard Rohr’s definition of forgiveness stir something inside you? Does it bring a feeling of release? Or does it ignite more questions?
What might it look like in your life to do the work of forgiveness in small, burr-sized pieces?
Who will you invite into a conversation about your ideas and feelings?