By Deb Avery
Nelson Mandela made the following comment upon his release from prison after almost 30 years: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
These words, and the heartfelt meaning in their message, are just as real and meaningful to us in our daily lives, as they were for Mr. Mandela as he was finally being released from prison. He had so much to forgive, yet he knew he would not have a moments peace unless he did just that.
People are going to hurt us. That is a fact of life. We will, unintentionally or otherwise, hurt others. This too is something we cannot avoid. For no matter how hard we try, at some point even the truth of a situation for us will hurt someone else.
First of all, in being hurt, we can get angry, wail loudly, seek retaliation and spend the rest of our lives miserable in our hatred and mistrust; or we can learn to realize that the actions of others are not personal, no matter how much they may seem to be. The actions of others is always more about themselves and how they perceive the world around them.
By understanding this deeply through meditation, sitting in silence with our emotions, or simply understanding human nature, we can learn to quietly, gently, let it go.
Now, I’m not saying that we should stay in a situation where someone is doing us harm, whether it be emotional or physical. No, we need to get out of the situation first and foremost. Only then can we deal with what has been done and learn how to heal, forgive and let go.
Letting go does not mean being a doormat or staying in a bad situation. What it does means is, after we are removed from the situation, we simply must learn to forgive because it is what’s best for us, and those around us.
Before we can heal we must forgive.
Before we forgive we must learn to separate the actions from the person(s). Only then can we understand that the ones causing our pain are actually in pain and suffering as well.
When we have intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone else. We must learn to apply all the above to ourselves. To love and forgive ourselves we must know our worth and our own divine nature. We can only find this by searching inward. No one can do this for us. We must walk the path to self-love alone. It can be a difficult journey, but the rewards are more than worth the time and patience.
Meditation, or communion with all that is, has long been a way to find peace, love and happiness with ourselves and those around us. There are as many pathways and I can only speak for what is true to me.
Through meditation I learned to love the humaness of myself. But first, I had to find the divine in myself that connects us with all living beings. When I came to realize we all shared that divinity—or sameness—it became easier to see the connection all around me. It became easier and easier to forgive others—and myself.
That is how I learned to let go.
In a poem “Call Me By My True Names,” by Thich Nhat Hahn, he teaches that we must learn to see beyond the evil actions that we as humans do, and realize that had we been born in the same situation, with the same upbringing, and the same life circumstances as the one doing harm.
We too could have been capable of perpetuating their actions. This is also stated in the Christian faith with this quote, “There but by the grace of God, go I.” In the Native American religion it is said as, “Walk a mile in my moccasins.”
I think Nelson Mandela had an exceptional concept of this when he made the statement on forgiveness upon his release from prison after 27 long, and painful years.
We must learn to forgive others for the harm that they do to us, and others. If we want to heal completely and live our lives in happiness, love and peace, we must learn to let go of our anger, hate and resentment.
Only then will we too be able to walk out of our own self-made prisons—and let go.
Editor: Dana Gornall