“Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened, didn’t.” -Byron Katie
It’s high-ho holiday time!
In psychiatry, this is our super-busy season. People struggle hard at this time of year.
Memories seem to pop up, unbidden, of difficult or wonderful holidays gone by. We think about who we miss. We get together with our families and it doesn’t feel like it looks in the movies. Or maybe we are estranged from our families and we feel alone and ashamed.
Even if we are graced with a connected and (mostly) functional family and friends, this time of year can have it’s challenges. Obligation and hyper-scheduling, I’m told, are at an all-time high. Expectations can soar through the roof.
The nostalgia of the season has its beauty but it can also conjure old hurts: sorrow, resentment, regret, loss.
We can choose differently this holiday season.
It begins with forgiveness.
Byron Katie’s teaches that we are all doing the best we can, 100% of the time. Here’s a passage from I Need Your Love-Is that True?:
“Every single human being is trying his best. We’re all doing the best we can. But when we believe what we think, we have to live out those thoughts. When there’s chaos in our heads, there’s chaos in our lives. When there’s hurt in our thinking, there’s hurt in our lives. Love thy neighbor as thyself? I always have. When I hated me, I hated you. That’s how it works. If I hate someone, I’m mistaking them for me, and solutions remain hidden.”
Gee whiz, Byron Katie! Do you see what she is saying there? It’s radical.
We always act on what we believe. Always. Our lives are a dynamic projection of our beliefs.
If we want to change our lives then, we have to change our minds.
Think back to that thing you did, that you feel most guilty about. Really let yourself go there for a moment, experience the you that you were at that time.
Can you see that, given the thoughts you were believing at that time, you had no other choice than to do/say/believe as you did?
This is not about getting to a place of feeling good la-la-la. This is about truth. This is about freedom. It takes some courage to have a good look.
I have not found a single place where I was not doing the best I could, given the story I believed at the time. Not a single place.
And when I see that for myself, truly, I know that it must be the same for you. And you.
This is enormously humbling and equally liberating.
“Whoa there”, you say “if I do all this forgiving of myself and everyone else, won’t I just justify my bad behavior? Am I supposed to just put up with other people’s baloney because they are doing the best they can?”
Au contraire. Forgiveness frees us to choose differently. Forgiveness frees us up to choose love.
Sometimes that means loving people from afar.
Personally, it wasn’t until I made an active practice of forgiveness (beginning with myself), that I quit feeling like I was fourteen again every year at the Christmas table.
Forgiveness has freed me up to make merry at the holidays, in a way that feels aligned with my values and desires. That means not a lot of stuff or parties or hype.
All of that holiday stuff we think is mandatory? Optional.
It begins with forgiveness.