Pitcher 9: Forgiveness
I was evolving from a girl into a woman. Part of my womanhood journey and evolution occurred during one of the most painful periods of my life.
My mentor guided me through a critical womanhood process in 2013. The day I discovered what true forgiveness was, was the day we traveled 45 minutes outside of Seattle, deep into the woods to an old cabin. It was the home of her mentor, a woman who was called upon by the likes of Oprah and Maya Angelou for her wisdom. As I walked into this almost mystical setting, I was struck by the ruggedness of the three small rooms, the lack of a television or telephone, and the comfortable familiarity of the setting. It wasn’t the soft couches and walls of books. It wasn’t the vases of fresh flowers strategically placed. It was a force greater than the good energy that I felt; it was the presence of God that was in that place.
My mentors’ first assignment for me was to go sit among the trees by the lake that the cabin
overlooked. She told me what each tree stood for, and shared the story of how her mentor – the owner of the little cabin – healed herself of cancer by hugging the 200-year-old oak tree daily, right outside the cabin’s door. All of this sounded unreal to me, but I did as she instructed, despite my hesitancy. I was willing to do anything at this point.
I had travailed through a heartbreaking divorce and the discovery that the man I had given 16 years of my life to was not who he presented himself to be. Non-committal, angry, depressed – all of these were his issues, and his only relief was taking them out on his family…us. Over the years apart, I saw even more of the hidden monster that filled his heart when my young daughter shared with me that she had been abused during a visit to his home by someone in his home. No word that I can write here can describe the inescapable, outpouring of pure rage that I felt when he admitted this, then later denied it. To me, his denial was a denial of her – a denial of someone too young to SPEAK and be heard to all who needed to hear and understand. He denied his own blood, simply to avoid the perceived embarrassment he felt it would cause him by admitting this tragic fault. His pride was so giant, so all encompassing, that his need to be RIGHT was greater than his own daughter’s voice to be heard, and for her struggle to be acknowledged. I seethed with anger and pain internally and externally, as any mother who loves her child would, wanting to do something, anything to hurt him as he was hurting our daughter through his fear to confront the truth, which he disguised as ignorance to the fact.
I held my daughter, clutched as close to my heart as I could that day, and I wept with pain and frustration. I tried to squeeze her as tightly as I could as I took her face in my hands, looked her in her eyes, and affirmed to her how strong and courageous she was; how thankful I was that she told me, and how important it would always be that she told the truth, even and especially in the face of fear. She received my acknowledgement with a wisdom and peace beyond her years. As much as I wanted him to acknowledge our pain, there was nothing that I could ever do to make him feel what we felt. I felt the cold, numbing burn of hate in my heart for the first time in my life.
Seeing this unfold, my mentor called me to join her in this sabbatical. So, there I sat, amongst the trees that healed, outside of the cabin where women came to discover womanhood. And, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. “Do you see these trees?” I heard The Voice. “They do not worry. Neither should you worry, but forgive.” I sat silently, unmoving. I felt a cool breeze kiss my cheeks, soft as silk. A thin shiver tingled down my spine. I knew I was in the presence of God. “I have given you the power to be free, but first you must forgive…first yourself and then him.” I immediately felt defensiveness. Why did I have to forgive myself? I was the victim in this situation, I was the one who had done her best to overcome the hurt and pain, to let go of the hate. Yet, I was the one who was still crushed, while he was living his life. Clearly, my methods of punishment weren’t working – they were backfiring.
My mentor, seeing my tears and sensing my newfound enlightenment, greeted me with a gentle smile as I reentered the cabin. She then started teaching, and I took notes. That day, I learned that as much as I wanted him to acknowledge what he had done, what he had allowed, that my fierce unforgiveness was holding mySELF – not HIM – in a self-constructed jail cell. It was a jail cell built solidly with bars made up of past memories, justifications of my pain, blame and hate. I was the one in jail, not him. The evidence of my being in jail was the fact that I still experienced physical revulsion when I heard his name. It was easily seen in the lengths that I went to prove the point that I was making. It was clear in the emotional reaction I still had to the situation. Once I learned this, I realized that I needed to be set free – why would I lock myself up because of something he did?
Then my mentor enlightened me to a fact that I will always remember. The key to unlocking the door of the cell that we put ourselves in has been hanging around our necks the entire time we’ve been in our own jails. It is the key of forgiveness, and it remains in our possession at all times. I was not a victim, I was the one with the power, and all I had to do was to submit to the process of forgiveness, and I would easily unlock my jail cell door. In this moment, however, I fought against this concept, because “He doesn’t deserve my forgiveness!” I pleaded with myself, my mentor, with God. “And, you didn’t deserve Christ’s forgiveness of you, but you still have been given that gift,” she replied. It suddenly made sense. If I was created by God to be free, I would need to accept that awesome, priceless gift and walk in the fullness of the freedom that was my right. There are five key steps to a forgiveness process that I learned that day. If you truly desire to be free, understand that this will require time, work and patience with yourself:
- Make a list of the top 5 people you need to forgive, starting with yourself. You start with yourself so that you create a clean slate. Example: Myself, my ex, my mother, my father, my friend. Use their actual names.
- Acknowledge the fullness of what you feel about that person. Acknowledge your own negligence of yourSELF, your fear, your bad choices, your past, your weight – anything and everything that you feel about yourself that has a negative connotation, using a pattern of what you did and what you feel about what you did. Write these down. Keep going until you can’t think of anything else. Do this for each person listed. Example: I have held myself with such a perfectionistic viewpoint. I’m angry at myself for not achieving the goal that I set and I feel like a failure.
- Make a list of every negative feeling that you wrote, and on the opposite side of the page, write the antonym to that feeling. Example: Anger = Joyfulness, Failure = Success
- SPEAK the following statement OUT LOUD and with power, starting with yourself: “(Name) I now forgive you for all of the (list negative feelings) that I feel about you. I will no longer hold myself in a jail of unforgiveness. I release myself and set myself free!
- SPEAK the following statement OUT LOUD and with power: “I now replace the (negative feeling) I feel with (positive feeling)!”
As a walked through the 3 hours it took for me to write out my feelings and then pronounce them out loud, I cried, I wept, and I kept going for me and for my daughter. Without much struggle, I felt the chains of bondage that unforgiveness had piled on me literally fall away. I could breathe again. I felt light. I felt peace when his name was mentioned. I was healed. I was FREE!
Progressing through life, you will encounter many situations that will call you to a point of decision. You will have the choice to elevate or not. If you recognize the fact that you have an extraordinary gift, as we all do, you will not allow yourself to be jailed – the byproduct of which silences your voice and stops your gift from being used to better this world. When you are committed to developing your womanhood and maturity, you will elevate. This elevation – this healing – this FREEDOM is my wish and prayer for you, and I pray that you receive one of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself…forgiveness.
Until the conversation about each of the phases is complete, you’ll hear the voices of various contributors who will dissect the recently released, updated Black Woman Manifesto: “Lemonade.” This post is specifically about “Forgiveness.” Some of the contributors have chosen to use a pseudonym. Others have chosen to submit inspired works of fiction. If any name used reflects that of someone in reality, it is only by coincidence. Read all other posts at www.blackgirlspeaks.me .