The Power of Forgiveness

If you’re familiar at all with the mystic poetry of the Sufi tradition then you’ll know the name, Rumi, who is celebrated as perhaps the best of all mystic Sufi poets.

And while all of his poetry is worthy to be read and contemplated, perhaps my favorite of his reads simply:

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

At first confounding, this wisdom is suggested to a man who asks how he should handle his pain and sorrow:

We westerners have a tendency to patch our wounds – put a band-aid over them and hope for the best.

Everything is fine. Just great!

When, in truth, we may be torn up, but for having “patched up” our wound, it festers. A cut, as it were, needs air to breathe.

Though a common nicety, when a someone asks, “how are you doing,” we expect to hear “great,” “good,” “awesome,” or any similar positive response regardless of whether or not that response is truthful. We expect people to lie if they aren’t “good” so we can go on about our day free of the stain of their pain.

How selfish of us.

And what’s worse is that if they do chance to honestly express their pain they become a pariah to us – a “Negative Nancy”:

Oh, she just doesn’t want to be happy.

He always has something to be upset over.

I say, if you don’t want to know the truth, don’t ask the question.

And God, am I guilty of this myself. It’s a western convention after all, deeply ingrained in our automatic “call and response” of greeting.

But I digress.

“The wound is the place where the light enters you.”

Just as our physical wounds remind us of our mortality and frailty, our emotional pain reminds us that we’re vulnerable, feeling creatures who need warmth, reassurance and affection. Both our physical and emotional pain give us the contrast necessary to know when we’re healed of it. But most importantly, our pain is our teacher as it shows us how to appreciate the miracles of life and the wonders of the universe.

When all we can see is our pain, we must look deeper and as I’ve said here before, we must curl up with it, talk to it and indeed, love on it. Our pain needs our love more than anything.

But where we’re really good at curling up with our pain we tend to let it dominate the conversation and because of that, we continue to dwell within our pain. This isn’t a bad thing because our pain must be acknowledged; however, in order for it to heal, we must have the courage to take control of that conversation.

And that conversation begins and ends with forgiveness:

  • Forgiveness of others who’ve done us harm while acknowledging that the only harm done to us (with the exception of physical violence) is the harm that we’ve allowed to be done to us.
  • Forgiveness of ourselves for harming others and striving to never be harmful again.
  • Forgiveness of ourselves for needing others to be more, or better, or different than they are and striving to accept all as they are, and exactly where they are.
  • Forgiveness of others for not meeting our needs or being what/who we believe we need.
  • Forgiveness of ourselves for not recognizing that we already have everything we need within yourself.
    Forgiveness of ourselves for desiring for or attaching ourselves to anything different than what is before us.
  • Forgiveness of ourselves for holding on when know we should let go.

In truth, our heartbreaks are always the result of our desire for something other than what is before us. And as the Buddha said, “desire is the root of all suffering.”

While Jesus didn’t say the same explicitly, he did advocate for letting go all of the things that we are so attached to in exchange for a singular focus on unconditional love, compassion, and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the light that shines into the wound but first we have to unbind it. Forgiveness the healing balm for the soul in pain.

In forgiveness, we find compassionate allowing. In compassionate allowing, we find peace. And in peace, we don’t need anything or anyone to be other than what it is or who they are. This is the key that opens all our locks. Are we courageous enough then to turn the key?

That, in my opinion my friends, is the greatest test of life.

I’ll close with another great Middle Eastern poet, Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese America Christian:

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.”

from “The Prophet” by Khalil Gibran

Om, Baby. Om,

Joshua Taylor

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