Welcome to Sarey’s Practical Guide to Forgiveness, Part One of Eight, which in the grand scheme of things I think of as a prologue, or The Before, but realistically I could entitle: It’s All Theory And I’m Still Angry.
I decided to do this blog series because I’ve been engaged in a rather steady and intense practice of forgiveness for the past ten years and I’ve recently gotten some questions on it – what definition of forgiveness do I use? What does the practice entail? Who exactly are we meant to forgive? Theory aside, how does it work in everyday life? Is it a forgive and forget or a forgive and not forget kind of thing? What happens in situations of abuse, be it past or ongoing? Where did I get the practice from, and do I teach it anywhere?
Lots of questions, and some of them need some pretty in depth answers, hence… a blog series.
So, let me start at the beginning – where I started from well before I actually began to forgive in a systematic and all encompassing sort of way. (Which is still ongoing, to be clear.)
I don’t often think of the seven deadly sins, despite being a Christian Priest, but if I had to pick one favorite it would be Wrath. Which some people might be surprised to know, given how much I laugh, and how I skew towards happiness. But that’s an effort of will, folks. And there are plenty who are close to me who are quite aware that I work hard to manage my anger and sometimes the anger is greater than my management of it. But I’m in my mid-forties as of the writing of this blogpost, and so this is me having made quite a lot of progress. In my teens, I was a totally uncontrollable seething caldera of rage, moderated only slightly by strenuous exercise and a punching bag in the basement. In my twenties, I started to become more self-aware. And what I became aware of was a lot of rage I didn’t understand and a really gigantic desire not to have to deal with it.
Now, rage is what happens when something happens to you that is not okay, and you are utterly powerless to prevent it in anyway. Like traumatic events in the lives of children, for instance – and that is not a random example, though it is certainly another blogpost for another time.
So despite the fact that I didn’t understand the underlying reasons for the deep well of anger I had until I was in my forties, I was very aware of how angry I was and how hard it was for me to let go of hurts small and large well before that.
And during my mid-twenties, I was introduced to a book that would eventually change my life, though I hated it at first: A Course In Miracles. It was on the bookshelf of the woman who would become my life-long best friend, and she recommended it gently to me, and in a local Starbucks leave-a-book, take-a-book library, I saw a copy, and she encouraged me to grab it. So I did.
At home later, I picked it up and started reading randomly in the middle only to discover that it was written in the general style of the New King James Bible translation, which had a lot of baggage for me – I grew up in a conservative Christian household going to a conservative Christian church and the NKJV (red letter edition) was revered. And by my mid-twenties I hated it with the same level of hatred that I held at the time for pretty much all conservative Christianity. It was a symbol of hypocrisy for me and the fact that I refrained from tossing the book across the room in anger is a testament more to how I feel about books than how I felt about that book in particular.
So having been well and fully triggered, I did not pick up the book again for more than ten years.
In between, I finished that degree, went to seminary, got my head screwed on straight in a variety of ways, and met my husband. And on our honeymoon (taken six months after our wedding) we decided to study A Course In Miracles together. That was ten years ago, and we still haven’t stopped studying it.
It was in A Course In Miracles that I began to understand the theory and do the practice of forgiveness.
There was a moment of change in my life just before I picked up ACIM again that was tiny but so very important – like the smallness of a tiny pivot, moving a gigantic and heavy stone door – and it signaled my readiness for an intense practice of forgiveness, and that I’ll describe in the next blogpost in this series, The Turning Point.
And in the next posts in the series after that we’ll look at What It Isn’t, The Practice of Release, Using Forgiveness In Discernment, In Relationships, On The Go, and the final post of the series NonDualism, Baby! (Links to be added as the posts go live!)