Thursday, July 16, 2009


Recently I've been going for walks around where I live and thinking about human beings.  I know that sounds funny, perhaps a little too far removed from the fact that I am indeed a human being.  Yet it's so much easier to step back and observe others and take in the qualities that make them ordinary or the ones that make them extra ordinary, to dissect the daily grind from afar.  So where am I going with all of this?  I promise I have a point and I'm getting there!  A dear friend of mine owns a bookstore and I recently asked her what kinds of books she feels there are not enough of, what topic is not addressed enough?  When she said "forgiveness" I have to admit I was somewhat shocked.  If you ask me, there are tons of books about forgiveness.  The entire self-help section at any large bookstore or the divorcee shelf alone is heavily focused on the art of forgiving which is placed alongside "more than just friends."  

I truly prize my friend's opinion and so I did some further investigation because she knows what's out there and I want to know more about this gap in the literary world.  I went from bookstore to bookstore and she's right, there are not as many books that truly delve into the depths of forgiving as maybe there seem.  Let's start with a question: what does it mean to forgive?  I'm not sure I can pinpoint it but I know what it means to put a band aid on a cut or to wipe some dust far under the rug and let it fester till' it comes back up years later.  I can think of friends and family and strangers that I've forgiven over the years and who have forgiven me but it was always for simple little things like small arguments that lasted an hour or a day.  In traffic we scream and then forgive, or remain like an open wound, exposed and angry, leaning on our car horn till' someone lets us in.
As I walk everyday I watch people drive by in a hurry, some stroll in search of coffee and others are quickly headed on the train to new york city.  I wonder how many of them have truly forgiven something painful in their past?  I guess by "truly forgiven" I mean, let go of the outcome.  I watch them in a haze of traffic and movement, unaware that I am observing them like lab rats or flowers.  

Lately I have been doing an exercise that I created where I forgive myself.  I try to say to myself at least once a day, "it's okay Erica."  I've found oddly that in all the literature that is supposedly out there about forgiveness, this exercise has become a giant catalyst to allow me to actually forgive others and even given me the courage to ask for forgiveness more freely.  It's so simple.  I guess that's the part that I'm sort of perplexed by.  It's not as complicated or hard, or scientific as I assumed it would be.  Most people just want to move forward with a clear mind, body and spirit.  

I recently asked forgiveness from an old friend of mine that I lost touch with.  I never in my wildest dreams would have expected that I would be brave enough to gently confront the tear in our once strong friendship.  I wasn't overt and angry or begging for forgiveness but I sort of just let her know that I didn't want to move on in my life with this unsettled business still on my plate.  She was kind and forgave me for disappearing out of her life during a time when she needed me.  I am grateful that this was the outcome.

Many times people aren't ready to forgive or the wound is still too open to let go.  I offer this advice from what I have lived: when you can forgive someone you can be free to live again.  The mirrors of compassion allow us to embrace the humanity that circles through us all.  "I am sorry" or "will you forgive me," "I forgive you," "thank you for your apology," "it's ok let's heal this," are some of the best phrases out there in my opinion.  

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