The Road to Forgiveness

Forgiveness can be a tricky road depending on our mode of transportation. Too often we prefer to drive junky clunky cars to avoid the high price of mechanics and maintenance. It’s the same idea with forgiveness. We choose wounds over healing, pain over freedom and struggle over strength. Why? We fear if we take a deeper look under the internal hood – aka the heart – we may unearth something even more cumbersome. It’s easier to jump in the car and keep doing the same things over and over.  We keep hoping today is not the day something breaks down.

Tune-up is long overdue. 

A few years ago Samuel had a work situation that caused a lot of internal angst. A female supervisor was harassing his office mate. Whenever the supervisor left the office, his office mate would cry and moan about her maltreatment but would still not take action against this supervisor.  The office mate feared retribution and loss of seniority.

Samuel couldn’t take another day of witnessing his coworker’s unpredictable mood swings brought on by the abuse. He recorded several conversations and met with Human Resources to report the situation and how it negatively impacted his coworker’s performance. Instead of HR encouraging Samuel to address the issue with their supervisor, Samuel was asked to leave the company. Reasons offered were vague and allusive.

Months pass. Samuel acts as if his unfortunate job departure happened yesterday. The mental and emotional anguish seem endless. He awakens swirling in a mix of toxic thoughts and feelings:

  1. Rejection and abandonment by his employer 
  2. Shock and grief at the loss of a job with solid growth potential
  3. Anger and sadness engendered by the supervisor’s betrayal toward his co-worker 

Over and over again Samuel replays what he did wrong. How could he deserve to be fired when he was simply the witness to blatant wrongdoing by his supervisor towards his office mate?

What matters more – the Story or the Story’s Release?

Samuel has not considered lack of forgiveness as a factor in his inability to move on. He spends internet time searching for others who have gone through similar circumstances. He is looking to the outer world for support of his victimization. Despite countless hours spent trying “to understand,” Samuel is trapped by his burning desire to be understood by others.  Although friends and family lovingly tell him to move on, he prefers to repeat his I’ve been wronged story. 

Where is Samuel’s road to healing? Might his strength lie in a radical road trip called forgiveness?

Samuel shows up in the office of a Wellness Coach. He soon breaks down in a pool of tears. 

“I feel so helpless. This situation consumes my sleep and relationships. I have stopped working out so I can avoid people who know my story, and enjoy the gossip and rehashing the drama. Friends say I need to move on, but I don’t know how without feeling I am compromising myself.  Can I accept that I did the right thing and allow myself to let the story go?

The Wellness Coach suggests a visual which Samuel relates to taking a road trip. “Since I was a kid my folks packed us into the car. We drove for hours. Come to think of it, I haven’t done much driving since I changed jobs.” 

With Coach’s lead, Samuel closes his eyes and imagines he is standing in front of his favorite  black Suburban. He sees his heart beside the car on top of a pedestal.  Although he is free to think about the car, the focus of the exercise is to imagine his heart as the car.

Inspect and make repairs. 

Samuel walks around the pedestal and notes the condition of his heart. He determines it is broken and missing an important part. He doesn’t believe the heart can withstand many grueling hours on the road. Although not quite ready to take the forgiveness road trip, he is ready to make repairs in preparation for it. Coach asks him: Based on your heart analysis, what is missing: Peace, Love or Joy?

Samuel concludes he needs peace more than anything else. To make this heart repair, Samuel works on again trusting himself.  Once trust is in place, he can open himself up to an alternate perspective.

Get in the car and drive.

Eager to proceed, Samuel gets into his car. He looks at the Suburban’s dashboard. The highest speed is only 10 miles an hour.  Samuel is also required to keep his eyes on the road at all times to avoid road bumps and detours.

Samuel learns that unburdening ourselves is not a luxury or about speed. It’s about relying on our heart and imagination over and over again. It’s about staying on-course and bypassing hazardous road conditions. 

Enjoy the ride.

Samuel had no idea forgiveness would play a major role in getting his life back. After a few weeks he no longer wakes up with headaches or stomach knots. He begins to have new feelings of peace. He connects to his body and listens to its signals for hunger, movement and rest. Change is happening for the better at a slow and steady speed. 

For today’s Coaching session, Samuel is asked to open his heart’s door and allow his heart to take the wheel. At first this seems uncomfortable and confuses his mind. Can he truly trust his heart to do the leading and tell his head to be quiet?  Will this extricate him from his pain?

Fortunately, Samuel can make pit stops along the way. Heart-pumping fuel includes singing, walking in nature and guttural laughing out loud. Morning and night Samuel reminds himself that the destination is as important as the journey. 

Arriving at the right place. 

What does the other side of forgiveness feel like? Life-changing. The heart is lighter and brighter. The miles haven’t worn it out at all. This love engine doubles its capacity to go further and further.  Forgiveness sought and granted transforms.  By doing the work between therapy sessions, Samuel notices a significant shift in his heart. The momentum to feel good every day has taken over. He spends time searching for inspiration not desperation. Friends and family comment on his new lease on life … that it looks good on him. Samuel has taken the open road trip of a lifetime and his heart is full of possibilities. 

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