If I had a dollar for every time in my life I have been told that “forgiveness will set you free” I’d be at least a thousandaire. Being a yogi I’ve heard people talk about forgiveness like they were ordering it off of a menu. “I’ll take forgiveness for that guy that broke my heart and side of bliss and rainbow unicorn poo please?” In the program it’s talked about, with much more earnestness and sincerity. Don’t get me wrong, there are yogis who take it seriously and people in recovery who I’m sure touch the surface of the idea of forgiveness. People are the same everywhere, just trying to figure shit out, move through their pain, and live life. I’m not judging anyone, I just know that this is NOT how forgiveness works for me.
I grew up in a single parent home. My mom and dad separated when I was 23 months old. It wasn’t pretty. I never thought about it growing up, that I didn’t have a dad. The only life I knew was the trinity that is myself, my sister and my mother. Consciously it never really bothered me that I didn’t have a dad. I never thought about it.
In 2012 I was in a car accident and was afraid to leave my house and drive. I started therapy. My therapist and I started talking about fear and it lead to abandonment. But it never bothered me that I didn’t have a dad. I said. Yes, and there is something biologically ingrained, a primitive and natural desire to have two parents. She replied. I was still drinking and also had my hands on a prescription for percocet. My first thought was well fuck that noise, I didn’t need him then, I don’t need him now.
I didn’t get it that day but a door was opened, a seed was planted, as to why I never felt good enough, had trust issues, and felt like I didn’t belong.
Fast forward to 2014 when I got sober. I started doing a 4th step with my sponsor. Now I’ve had many people in my life fuck me over and treat me poorly. But when I sat down with a legal pad to begin, my dad was the name that was written first. I stopped. I couldn’t believe it. Once again, fuck this noise. My sponsor was patient and told me to take my time. I did.
I kept feeling like if I could forgive him then I would be free from the anger and betrayal in my heart, that then love could grow there.
I just couldn’t do it. I could not forgive him. My sponsor told me that only God forgives, it’s our job to do what we can in the present to access serenity. I could live with that. I tried that. I worked my steps. I made amends. I showed up and held myself accountable. I learned what causes me pain (unrealistic expectations and demands) and how my reactions and actions could change the experience of life I was having. I began to overtime access peace and serenity. It just showed up one day, like it had been there all along waiting for me to tilt my head back into the sunshine and announce “I am here.”
Something happened over time. The blackness in my heart around my dad got lighter and lighter. In fact, the anger, resentment and fear in my heart began to subside all together. Without any action or intentionality on my part forgiveness had taken place. “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps” (Big Book of AA) am I right? Me doing my work created space for love to grow in my heart and in my life.
I’ve put a lot of thought into forgiveness and what it really means to me. The absence of anger, the absence of blame, the absence of resentment. That’s how I would define it today.
Fast forward to 2017. I am having a conversation with my Ayurvedic consultant, talking about healing from trauma and he said Kim, my dear the answer is forgiveness. In my mind I hear for fuck’s sake, come on, fuck that noise! I trust this man and was able to express how I don’t believe that I am capable of forgiveness, that I think God handles that. Who am I to judge another person in such a way that would require my forgiveness of them? It seems very self serving and ego identified.
Surprisingly enough he said that’s good Kim, that’s right. You cannot forgive another person, that is God’s job. But you can forgive yourself.
Cue the waterworks. I heard Spirit speak to me from inside me and all around me saying Yes, this is it, forgive yourself, love yourself.
That same week I had a two conversations about free will with two very different people. The first a reverend in her sixties who teaches Tai-Chi stating that in the church many people ignore free will completely, stating “the devil made me do it” as a rationalization and excuse for all actions. The second with a friend of mine who is 26 and new in sobriety stating, “I’m over it, it’s just too hard, if I start using again it’s God’s will for me to be a heroin addict.”
God was talking to me through both of these women, asking me to get curious. These conversations happened two days apart, one day after my talk with my Ayurvedic Doctor.
When God talks to me, I don’t always listen. That week I did. Here are my thoughts.
Humans are the only species on the planet that have free will. God gave us free will. We have choice. Choice is what separates us from every living creature. Free will is divine.
If free will is divine, then all choices made are divine and sacred. That being said, there is no good and bad, right and wrong, there is only humanity acting out their divine right to choose. And if this is true, it is impossible for me to determine the merits of another person’s actions. My judgements are a result of my ego identified needs and wanting to be right.
Judgement precedes forgiveness. I was wronged by, and now I must forgive them. Or I wronged, and now I must be forgiven. If you consider that free will and choice are divine then one could question, are we humans saying that it is our responsibility to forgive someone from the results of their choices, their implementation of divine free will?
I know that doesn’t work for me. When I really think about it it blows my mind to think that at one point I thought I had that kind of power, it is a real ego feeding frenzy,
Doing my work has set me free. In the presence of belonging there is the absence of fear. In the presence of seeing my actions produce fruitful results and change in my life their is the absence of blame. In the presence of accountability there is the absence of resentment. With the guidance of my higher power and the program there is a “new freedom and happiness” (AA Big Book)
My dad passed away a year ago. I wasn’t overwhelmed with grief. How do you grieve something you never knew? What came to mind for me was a conversation I had with my mom when I was in my teens about changing my last name to her last name. She told me Kimmy, you were born in love and you were conceived in love, that’s what your name means. That’s what I think of now when I think of my dad. Love. That I can handle. That is the gift of my recovery.
Forgiveness is too big, too colossal, too heavy for me to carry. But faith? I can take baby steps towards faith with faith every day.
Kim is on Instagram and Facebook as Recovery Yogini.