Each week in The Wisdom of Change blog series, I share the original artwork and unpack the insights and meaning behind one of the 44 cards in The Wisdom of Change oracle deck.
This week’s card is 33 Forgiveness
I must confess, I had a bit of an issue with the idea of forgiveness.
I struggled to forgive others because I was so punitive towards myself. I wasn’t consciously aware of this and it unwittingly set up all sorts of hidden problems for me. I valued my competence above pretty much anything else and placed a lot of importance on ‘getting things right’. I left myself no room for error and I was extremely harsh on myself. This meant that I only embarked upon projects that I was sure I’d achieve. It stifled my propensity to try something new or take a risk, which meant my creativity was blocked as well. I was raised with the mantra if a job’s worth doing its worth doing properly, which in certain circumstances served me well. I was a perfectionist, but I wasn’t happy.
Perfection is for poor people I once heard someone say and it struck a chord. I think it was said in the context of procrastinating over business decisions, but it struck me as relevant in other areas of life too. My ‘emotional perfectionism’ had left me scarred and stunted in ways I had not fully understood until I was invited to explore the power and purpose of forgiving self and others.
I used to think that forgiving someone was weak. Forgiveness felt like condoning bad behaviour. It felt too vulnerable and un-boundaried to ‘let go’ of something that had been ‘done to me’. I thought that if I forgave someone, I was somehow saying it was OK to treat me badly and that I’d be inviting more of it my way. My mechanism in the absence of forgiveness was to build a protective wall around myself and shut the wrong doer out of my life. In so doing, I was denying myself uncomfortable feelings such as hurt and vulnerability and I thought this was a strength.
But what we resist persists and all this ‘stuffed down’ pain would surface from time to time in a most explosive outburst that far outweighed the nature of the issue that had triggered it. When this happened, my rage was volcanic and disproportionate. I certainly didn’t feel in control of my emotions at times and I began to worry that I was slightly unhinged. It threatened relationships, career advancement, new adventures and my mental wellbeing. I didn’t feel I could trust myself; how could I when I didn’t understand my own outbursts.
So, first things first. I had to learn to be ok with raw and vulnerable; to sit with feelings such as betrayal and envy, shame and fear, righteousness and entitlement. Ouch! Being ok with ‘all the things I feared I was’ and ‘everything I hoped I was not’ is no easy task, but it’s the first step to forgiveness of self. We’ve just got to let ourselves off the hook here; to realise that like everyone else, we are doing the best we can with the tools we’ve got. I actually felt a huge wave of compassion for myself when I realised that half my toolkit was missing! To be honest I hadn’t a clue what job I was working on, let alone what tools were needed.
Strengthening our ‘self-forgiveness’ muscle, softens us up for the linked task of forgiving others. Once we are able to accept our ‘perfect imperfection’ and cut ourselves some slack for trying so hard to get things right, years of pent up tension starts to release itself. Once I acknowledged my valiant efforts with unconditional love, even when I fell short and found myself unable to deliver on the outcomes, I was ready for the next step.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful ways to manifest what you desire.
One of my early coaches told me this and it got my attention because nothing I was trying was getting me any closer to the goals I had set myself. When our back is against the wall its surprising how leveraged we are to try something previously unthinkable! I began my forgiveness of others from a place of self-pity. I was the ‘easy victim’ in the backdrop of my partner’s infidelity and my newfound status as a cash strapped single mother. I was busily recounting an aspect of my plight with a coach who stopped me in my tracks; ‘nothing happened to you, Wendy you just didn’t agree with their choices’.
Looking back, my failed relationship with my ex offered me the perfect opportunity to do the work that would stop me from endlessly repeating my unresourceful patterns. Taking 100% responsibility for my side of the situation and no less, steered me gently away from blame mentality. The groundwork of self-forgiveness helped me to recognise where I had ‘chosen’ my plight on some level. Seeing my ‘failed relationship’ as the perfect backdrop for personal growth alchemised ‘what had been done to me’ into a life changing opportunity; a more honest and resourceful place from which to forgive others.
So go easy on yourself today and see where it leads!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s connection to your inner wisdom.
As always, I’d love to hear your comments below.