From my upcoming book Soul of the Seasons…
“Following the sumptuous season of Harvest comes Fall; the time for gathering up what is of value, and the letting go of that which no longer serves. There is much to be done in this brief season. Fall is the time to take stock of all that we have received, to recognize the value of our talents and, to fully appreciate the results of all our hard work. It is also the season to deftly assess that which is no longer of value in order to make more room for what is most precious to us in our lives and our hearts.
“Fall is the season where we learn to fully grieve. It is represented by the sound of weeping, the sound one makes during times of deep loss. Grief, the natural emotion in Fall, represents a great letting go. For what brings about our grief more than having to let go of something or someone we deeply valued?”
Forgiveness: The Ultimate Expression of Letting Go
“Forgiveness is the ultimate, platinum-grade experience of letting go. It is an act of grace that unties me from the belief that my experience is me. I am not my pain and loss. I am not my shame or inadequacy, my anger or my resentment. I am not a victim. I am not irretrievably broken. I am not what I have lost. Forgiveness doesn’t make everything all A-OK again. It does not require that I admit that what happened to me was right or that it made sense or that it was divinely orchestrated. Instead, forgiveness turns my heart of stone into one that is once again open to love.” –Melody
Encoded within the season of Fall is another precious gift that can only be described as an act of divine grace: the experience of forgiveness. While not traditionally thought of as an aspect of Fall in Five Element medicine, I have included forgiveness here because, much the same as the emotion of grief, forgiveness doesn’t require that we forget our pain or the event that led us to it in order to benefit from its gifts.
The practice of forgiveness has long been entangled with confusing and conflicting familial, cultural, and religious myths. Maybe we were taught to say “sorry” quickly, before we had enough time to express our feelings or figure out the infraction for which we were truly regretful. Maybe we have been told that withholding forgiveness is a “sin.” Perhaps we were goaded to rush past our pain and admonished to “leave the past in the past.” Others may have reminded us that it is spiritually and morally superior to “forgive and forget.”
Standing as uncomfortable witnesses to our pain, others may chastise us for a reluctance to sweep away the evidence of our wounds. A rush to “forgive and forget,” however, can serve to bypass and suppress the grief, pain, and anger that often accompanies loss and betrayal. The one asking for (or manipulating or demanding) our forgiveness may have their own unspoken agenda. Perhaps they are really seeking some sort of absolution or mercy or a deliverance from the consequences of their hurtful actions. They may even drag spiritual righteousness into the mix. . .“Well, at least God forgives me!” But if the act of forgiving were so easy it would be meaningless to both the forgiver and the forgiven. . .
“Oh, geez. Sorry I verbally eviscerated you in front of your family. My bad. All better? Off we go then.”
It is never easy to forgive those who have wronged us. It is even harder to ask for it. For in the asking, we must enter into the land of vulnerability, humility, and accountability. Asking another to forgive us requires that we to admit to God, and to another human being; “I was wrong. I hurt you. I’m sorry.” and then to ask, “How can I make this right again?” A determined effort to correct the behaviors that led to the destructive actions must also be a part of the equation of reparation. We must also be willing to give those we have wounded the necessary time to fully comprehend their loss. HINT: The more severe the infraction, the longer it will likely take.
Though forgiveness is not meant to be easy, neither are we meant to cling to our unforgiveness. One of the single most toxic and self-destructive things we can ever do is to stubbornly refuse to let go of whom or what we believe is the source of our pain and suffering. While understandable, these actions are ultimately self-destructive. On the physical level, vigorously defending or protecting our hurt, anger, and pain releases an array of hormones and brain chemicals that poison both body and thoughts. We may stew in the toxicity of our hurt for literally decades, hating those we believe are at fault.
“Our job now (following the death of their son at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting) is to make our hearts bigger than the loss.” -David and Francine Wheeler, parents of Ben, age 6, on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday
To be true, some deep wounds may be nigh impossible for our hearts to fathom. It is hard to wrap our minds around the level of cruelty or betrayal or violence that has been perpetrated upon us, or upon our loved ones, or too often, by our loved ones. We may be stupefied at the level of hate and indifference that is all too evident in this world. We cannot imagine of how anyone with even the remotest sense of decency or compassion or brain cells could be so cruelly destructive to another being.
Enmeshed in the pain of our wounds we may wonder. . . What kind of person would harm a child or torture an animal or slowly and methodically chip away at our innate sense of worthiness? Who would want to poison our water and soil, to desecrate the very Earth that gives us life? Who would willingly end the lives of innocents out of religious fanaticism or greed or the need for power? But the daily evidence of these atrocities lies at our feet, bruised and bleeding, or worse. How, we may wonder, can we possibly forgive that?
It’s true, in and of ourselves, we cannot grasp the possibility of forgiveness for such heinous acts. Forgiving requires that we let go of the judgment we have placed upon the situation, our self, or upon others who might have been involved in the experience that wounded us, and that can only be accomplished through the divine alchemy of grace. Only through authentic, grace-filled forgiveness can the sharp manacles of our wounds drop from our wrists, freeing us from the guilt, shame, hopelessness, depression, and despair that binds us to our trauma. The only thing required from us in order to forgive is to surrender–everything we are experiencing. Simple? Yes. Easy? Not on your life.
As we entertain the idea of forgiveness we can begin to soften to the warmth of Divine Love. Instead of continuing to marinate in our bitterness or maintain a desire for righteous revenge, our hearts gradually open. Our healing may allow us to summon the courage to confess the depth of our loss and pain. In the aftermath of trauma, our brittle spirits remain raw and tender. During this period we must tend to our fragile hearts as we would a tender seedling before the harshness of winter has passed. We will never forget our loss or its aftermath–nor should we–but we can still find forgiveness to both strengthen and soften the most deeply scarred of hearts.
The transformation that comes about as a result of forgiveness is a wonderment to behold. Anyone who has been through this experience can tell you the magical quality of forgiveness or from having been completely forgiven. We feel somehow lighter, freer. We can breathe. We see daylight again. We might lose our desire to suffer, to hate, to exact our personal “pound of flesh.” Our desire for justice will begin to broaden beyond our individual loss and supplants the need for personal revenge.
Often, it is only on the other side of the difficult passage of forgiveness that we are able offer respect and compassion to those going through their own loss. If we choose to let it, our loss can teach us a deep and abiding respect for the fragility of life, a respect that values our strengths, as well as our frailties.
Forgiveness, like the mystical moments of death and birth, is a process in which we can face, both the end of how we once believed ourselves to be, and the beginning of who were meant to be. As a result of this unshackling we become freed from the heavy cloak of our guilt, hurt, and shame. And, though we may be reminded by the sages to love our enemies, they say nothing about having to like our offenders, or their deeds. We do not have to lay our hearts at the feet of those who have wounded us. We can say to our transgressors, “I forgive you, but I cannot trust you. ” We do not have to loan them money or invite them over for dinner or introduce them to our friends to prove we have really done a proper job of letting go. After all, to ignore another’s unloving proclivities would not be making good use of the wisdom our experience offers—that would be a failure to value and honor our loss. Through the grace of forgiveness, we can forget just enough to get on with life and to begin to love again, but not so much that we repeat the errors of the past.
The act of forgiveness is ultimately an exercise in divine alchemy. It is a sacred act of grace that changes the way our brain and heart functions; a correction at the highest spiritual level that cleanses our very soul. Through a complete and utter surrender to divine transformation, our wounds and spirits can be cleansed. By washing our newly cleansed wounds in the holy waters of forgiveness, we are able to bind them up with love and compassion, so they may begin to properly heal.” — From Soul of the Seasons, (c) 2017, Melody A Scout
Melody A Scout is an author and Intuitive Spiritual Advisor. Her deep connection to the natural world has influenced her work as a Sacred Landscape Consultant and Plant Spirit Medicine practitioner. She is currently writing a book called Soul of the Seasons which explores the wisdom embedded within the seasonal cycles of the natural world and how to find balance and joy in both our inner and outer landscapes.