When did you stop dancing?
“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls.”—Malala Yousafzai.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”—Lewis B. Smedes
Is there someone you need forgive?
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafza forgave the men in the Taliban who shot her in the head.
Let me rephrase and repeat that: She was shot in the head and forgave the shooters.
Now think about who you need to forgive, and what those people did to you. I’m not saying that it is less impactful to your life than what happened to Malala. Everything is relative. What I’m saying is, anyone can forgive anything.
I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it again with a different emphasis. I had a best friend all throughout elementary school, we’ll call her Jenny. Mostly we danced for hours to the same Madonna tunes over and over again. We were inseparable. I watched Jenny’s mom go from a brilliant charming professor to a bitter alcoholic. Eventually when we got to sixth grade, Jenny’s mother died. It turns out her father was having an affair and he married another woman very quickly after his wife’s death. Jenny and her stepmother did not get along at all.
In the meantime I moved away and our friendship kind of faded. However we would see each other occasionally. She lived sort of in the fast lane with boys and booze. I was a good girl. To make a long story short Jenny called me one day when I was a senior in high school. I remember I took the phone and hid away in my parents bathroom, I remember staring at the white tiles. Her stepmother kicked her out of the house. Could she stay with us for a little while? There were serious things going on in my home at that time so I had to tell her, no. It was a bad time. I wasn’t lying. I will never forget the words she said to me, “I guess this is one of those times when you know who your real friends are.”
She always said what was on her mind, but this time she said what was on my mind. Was I being a good friend by putting my family first? They would have said no anyways, it was a really complicated situation. I’m being vague on purpose. To protect my family’s privacy. Anyways the thing is, was I being a good person, did I do the right thing? I did the only thing. I had no choice.
However it haunted me forever. She eventually made up with her stepmom, but she didn’t come to my graduation party. Her dad and her brother and her stepmom came, but they said she had a stomach ache. A good old stomach ache. I made her sick. I couldn’t think about it. I basically stopped thinking about her really, we never spoke again. However I didn’t forget, forget that she felt betrayed.
Fast forward to around five years ago, I tried to find Jenny on Facebook. I tried to find her on People searching websites. I stayed up all night, trying to search the Internet to find her. I didn’t understand how she had absolutely no online presence. And then I found it, an article in a newspaper. Jenny was dead.
I have no idea how she died. It only talked about her funeral.
I didn’t do anything wrong and I still felt guilty because she didn’t understand that it wasn’t my fault. I called her house, I found her father’s number. I didn’t leave a message but he called my house back and my dad answered. They knew each other and said hello. Her father didn’t mention anything about Jenny. My dad said I probably called him.
I never called back. I don’t want to know how she died.
I imagine many things. Mostly drug overdoses, she was in the wrong crowd.
I need to forgive myself. Forgive myself for not reaching out sooner, for not explaining myself better. For not still trying to be her friend. I wanted her to have the opportunity to forgive me, so I would feel better. So she would feel better. So we could dance again.
Why do we forgive? Because it heals us. We do it for ourselves, not the other person. There are many people in my life that I want to forgive. But most of all I want to forgive myself.
I forgive myself for gaining weight.
I forgive myself for not taking the necessary steps until now of getting my work published.
I forgive myself for taking my life for granted sometimes.
And on and on…
What do you want to forgive yourself for?
I just read an article that said that if you went to a Shaman feeling depressed he would ask you things like: When did you stop dancing?
Forgive yourself for not dancing, but get up and dance.
Forgive yourself for not being happy in the past and be happy now.
The only way to be truly happy is to realize that you must forgive every person in your life that has hurt you. Forgive yourself for everything. Forgive god for being a guy who just seems to stand around watching tragedy after tragedy. I’m sure he has his reasons.
Does that seem like a tall order? Maybe impossible to forgive it all. Striving towards that is going to make a real difference in your state of mind. Hanging on to pain is usually our biggest obstacle in life.
You probably have forgiven god, maybe you have even forgiven other people. So why is it so hard to forgive yourself? The truth is we often don’t give ourselves the respect we give other people. We are really hard on ourselves.
We are usually playing an elaborate game of self-sabotage. The easiest way to ruin your life is to hate yourself for the mistakes you’ve made.
But why did we come on earth, what is our purpose? I think we came here to experience the different ways in which love manifests itself in creation. I think we came here in particular to make mistakes. Not only do we learn from our mistakes but we learn to love the flawed beings that make mistakes.
I will tell you who is the biggest flawed being of them all: me. You might think that of yourself too. If I can love myself despite all the mistakes I’ve made, I can love anybody. Isn’t that the lesson, to love people and things that are flawed?
If you ask me, I would say even god has flaws. Is that blasphemous? If we were made in the image of god, he has got to be flawed. Maybe god created forgiveness because he had to forgive himself, for creating things like diseases and natural disasters. Even the Pope has flaws, he met with Kim Davis for god’s sake!
If god and the Pope can forgive themselves, I can forgive myself for not watering my plants for the last month. It will be OK. They haven’t died yet.