Accept the children the way we accept the trees – with gratitude, because they are a blessing – but do not have expectations or desires. You don’t expect the trees to change, you love them as they are.
~ Isabel Allende
I woke up early one morning this past week and grabbed my phone. The boys were just getting out of bed and playing together in their room. It gave me a brief, quiet moment to check-in on Facebook. And that’s when I read a post that one of my Inside Out grads wrote that woke me up.
This woman shared that she had a realization about her mother and decided that it was time to open her heart more fully to her. For the first time she felt at complete peace with forgiving her for the past and was ready to let go of old hurts. She shared, “I realized why I can feel and see this love my mom gave to me. I can see and feel it now that I have given birth myself – now that I am raising my own little angel and now that I experience my own struggles in meeting his and my needs… I have forgiven my mom for everything I once felt hurt about. For everything that I thought she could have done better. I finally understand what true forgiveness is.”
This woman spent so many years struggling with past hurts, but she never before felt true forgiveness in her heart. Until now. She goes on to share, “I finally know what forgiving really means – so very deep inside of me, where the dark places are replaced with light and love, where there is no way back to the darkness and where warmth, happiness and joy fill my heart, my mind, my soul…”
Isn’t that so beautiful?
And then it hit me…
There is someone in my life that I want to forgive – but I’ve been struggling with that back-and-forth feeling – like I’m over it and than I get triggered into anger and frustration yet again. Talk about emotionally draining. But what I’ve been feeling really ready to experience is that true sense of letting go, releasing the past, opening my heart and feeling the love that comes from true forgiveness.
Tears streamed down my face. In that moment, a new feeling of acceptance came over me – an acceptance of the past hurts and an acceptance that I can’t change people to be something other than they are.
I knew I was experiencing a knowing in my heart – a kind of spiritual awakening, if you will. I was forever changed, in that moment, while lying in my bed, holding my phone and hearing my kids laughing in the next room.
You see, I’ve been contemplating loving-kindness and the act of giving. I’ve been wondering if it’s really possible to give too much. What does it mean to set boundaries? Is there a need to protect and guard my heart from those who have hurt me in the past? Should I be more selective in who I help, or who I give my time and energy to, or who I receive love from?
But here’s what awakened in me that day…
I realized that I don’t have to guard my heart anymore. Because I feel grounded in who I am. I love myself. I love my life. I love the people I encounter in a day. And in this love, I am learning how to forgive those who aren’t as I wished they would be. I can release the judgment because I no longer judge myself. I don’t have to change the actions of another, because I am way less likely to be effected by things that happen outside of me.
I’ve realized that I no longer have to protect my heart, because I no longer can be pulled into the actions of another. Meaning, I can let them dance in their own karma and I don’t have to take on their problems and chaos.
Yet…I can still love them.
I can still be giving.
I can offer deep listening.
I can let go of judgment.
I can release expectations.
I can be of service.
I can be loving, compassionate, supportive and kind.
Because, isn’t that what living is all about?
How can I truly give, share and receive love with a guarded heart?
I no longer have to protect my heart, or close it off from past hurts, because I have love even for those who’ve hurt me in the past. I can let go of the things that happened back then. I can move on. And rather than be selective in who I share my love with, I now feel, more than ever before, that I can share my love with everyone I meet.
Sure, it still is hard at times. I know I will continue to be tested by difficult people, irritating situations and inner judgments that creep up in my mind and heart…
Yet, when you allow your heart to fully, deeply, truly expand, something forever changes deep inside you.
The bigger your heart is, the harder it is to close it off.
And it all starts with forgiveness, acceptance and letting go.
I also see that the more I can live with less judgment, the more likely I am to accept the differences in others, especially in my own children. It doesn’t matter if one kid is super outgoing, and one has to work through a lot of fear first. It doesn’t matter if one is more particular and one is more laid-back. Our society or my inner critic may want to point fingers and say one is “right” or “better than” or is more likely to “fit in,” but you know what? I don’t believe in any of that.
It’s our differences that make life meaningful.
It is our practice to accept those differences. To love ourselves, even when we fall and stumble and make mistakes. To love others, even when they fall and stumble and make mistakes. And to remember that there is no right way to BE in this world.
Yes…I think it’s important to find balance in your life. You can’t give more than you have to give. Giving all your money away to help others, but not having enough to buy groceries for your family is a sign that you need to bring things back to center. I’m not saying you give and love at the expense of your own needs. I’m not saying you let people walk all over you, either.
But what I am saying is I now fully, deeply, truly understand what forgiveness feels like. I totally get the meaning of the song, All You Need is Love.
Loving yourself and others for who they really ARE is a really great place to BE!
Your Personal Reflection:
Are you holding grudges? Are you reliving hurts from the past? Do you have negative feelings towards family members, friends or co-workers that are holding you back? Do you have high expectations for yourself, others or your children? Are you trying to change others for who they are? What can you let go of? Who can you forgive? What can you surrender to? Live your life with an open heart. Notice how good if feels to meet people with forgiveness, compassion and love. Enjoy the feeling of receiving the love that you pour out to the world.