Thorny but Necessary Path:
I would not forgive her, I pouted at four, when once again, my sister, being the older, got to share the treats, this time it was a gloriously deep red apple. I did not forgive her that day, and for my stubbornness, I was punished. However, I did not care and refused to eat my share of the apple.
Although I distinctly remember my mother packing us up and leaving my father standing stoically on the veranda I decided I would not forgive him for not coming for us, even though he came once, and I refused to go with him, and my mother called the police who told him he had to leave. Then he stayed away and it would be well into adulthood that we reconciled.
Heart broken that my children had to suffer a similar fate as I, and be subjected to a divorce, I vowed never to forgive their father for not trying hard enough, for being unable and unwilling to change to make our marriage work. My feeling of betrayal set the tone for bumpy and uneven communications that often left our children feeling torn and tense.
The above incidents are but three occasions in a sea of many, when I elected to not forgive a person for some perceived wrong, but mainly for not acting in accordance with my needs and desires. These days forgiveness is never a beat away. I still get upset of course, but I resolve my petty feelings more quickly and do not hold on to grudges and feelings of betrayal.
I am not sure I can chart my journey from the stubborn four year old to the seasoned woman that I now am, but I know this path to clean and clear my heart began just before I had my first child, and since then, despite a few set-backs, I have been actively working to forgive people in my life. Forgiveness is a much-underrated philosophy and there are still a considerable percentage of people who refuse to even engage in the process, or who say I will forgive everything else, except this. Usually, the “except this” is what is most needed for forgiveness – Blacks for those who participated in our enslavement, Jews for the Holocaust, and each groups has its enemy. However, to have an enemy, is to have a great part of your heart-space locked off not just from you, but also from people, you love.
Forgiveness is a process. Today you might forgive someone, and tomorrow you have another experience with that person that sets you back on the stool of anger and hatred. Your heart tights and your breathing grows shallow. I had to forgive my father countless times, year after year after we reconciled so that now we enjoy a wonderful relationships, and this morning he called to thank me for sending him pictures of my daughter, his granddaughter, first moments at college.
I have had to forgive my ex-husband countless times, so that now I am at a place where I can bless him for who and what he is, and be thankful for the beautiful children we created together out of love. I have long forgiven my sister for being older. I am so grateful she is in my life and that, when my children were young, she would take them, all three, every summer for two or more weeks so I had uninterrupted time to write.
Forgiveness has roots, those roots sprout, a tree grows, and it bears sweet fruits. Now I practice forgiving everything and I find I have less tension and stress in my life. It is a wonderful feeling of relief to forgive the person who cuts me off in traffic, or who swings into my lane, knowing that by forgiving them, I am blessing them and creating more peace in the world. I want more peace in the world. I want to feel safe every day and everywhere I go. Hatred does not create safety. We all have enough experience of that to know this is so, so why not try another path. Just try and see if love works. There is no place in your heart and life for un-forgiveness if you are practicing love.
A few months ago I attend the Forgiveness Day Celebration in Marin organized by Bob Plath, and one of the honorees was young Christopher Rodriquez, the Oakland youth who was shot by a stray bullet, while taking piano lesson, and is left paralyzed for life. As he was wheeled on the stage for forgiving the man who shot him, I said to myself, `Opal, you still have so much to learn about the magnanimity of life. What a lesson that was for me. What a reminder of the work I still have to do. What an inspiration to let go of my pettiness and walk, yes walk each day with kindness and love. May I always drink from the cup of forgiveness and maybe you too be so wiling to share this cup with me.
Causes Opal Adisa Supports
California Poets in the Schools
Homeless Shelter for Pregnant Women