What role did forgiveness play in my ordeal?
- Suddenly dropping out of life threw a spotlight on various loose ends (at home and at work). I forgave myself for not being prepared.
- While the cancer seemed so random (no known risk factors), I must have done something to help bring it on. I forgave myself for not taking good care of myself.
- While in the hospital, one doctor really bummed us out with his seemingly arrogant bedside manner. Fortunately, I only saw him for one weekend. Unfortunately, he operated on me during an emergency surgery that Sunday night. I forgave him his bedside manner before the surgery and put my confidence in his technical expertise.
- I forgave the doctor whose accident created a myriad of serious complications for me.
- I forgave various caregivers their rare moments of forgetfulness (e.g., forgot my cup of water).
- In moments of weakness, I forgave myself for not being strong.
Just like life outside the hospital, there were small annoyances and inconveniences to forgive. There also were the “you-could-have-killed-me” things, too.
While there were others to forgive, I mostly had to forgive myself. It’s not like I spent the preceding months sabotaging my life. Rather, I had been living and working as I always did. That is to say,
I forgave myself – accepted myself – for being who I was.
Unconditional acceptance of self helped me accept others as they were – without qualification or condition. I let people be who they were and didn’t expect anything more or anything less.
I let them make their mistakes, and I let them atone for them in their own way.
The arrogant doctor atoned by being a bit softer as surgery approached. The doctor whose accident led to complications visited me every day – even on his days off. Others expressed remorse in their own ways. It wasn’t for me to judge the worthiness of their implied apologies. Rather, I chose to accept them and move on. In my mind, it was a healthy choice…a healing choice.
Some may ask, “How could you forgive like that? I don’t think I could do it.”
Ten years ago, I don’t know that I would have forgiven as much. Through regularly practicing the Fundamentals of Forgiveness – gratitude, kindness, and generosity – I have, as one author puts it, developed my forgiveness muscles. It’s a practice in how to respond to the people and events that come into your life. It’s a practice that played no small part in my navigating the past few months.
Forgiveness is a skill and, like any skill, it requires practice. The Fundamentals of Forgiveness offers me a path for daily practice. You may choose another way (e.g., gratitude journal, guided imagery). Whatever practice you choose, I encourage you to start it, re-start it, or stay with it.
It’s a healthy and healing thing to do.
The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world. Marianne Williamson
Storyteller Dawn Gluskin offers five other ways to practice forgiveness (read now)