“A Rattlesnake, if cornered will become so angry it will bite itself. That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself. We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.” E. Stanley Jones
“Treat people as if they were what they should be and you help them become what they are capable of becoming.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Forgiveness is not an easy thing to accomplish. However, it’s essential to self-healing. You can’t give Radical Love, without being willing to forgive. Here’s my forgiveness story.
Twelve years ago, the job I thought was my dream job, and the purpose of my life, was yanked out from under me. The father, a powerful person in the school district, thought his daughter should have been hired two years earlier, when they hired me. We were the only two candidates for the job. A year later she was hired for the second position in the department, and they set out to discredit me in any way they could. At the end of my second year, budget cuts came to my department, due to a failed bond measure. Since I had just earned my teaching certificate, I thought for sure, I’d be the one to keep my position. That was not the case. I was in shock.
I was furious, helpless against their attacks, wanted revenge, and hated them for treating me as if I was an obstacle instead of a human being. The fact that they could dispose of me so easily was a complete shock. I had been working for the school for six years and had a good reputation, yet I was as disposable as if nothing I had done mattered.
My supporters who were officers in the teacher’s union, confirmed that the daughter did not hold a teaching certificate, and urged me to sue. But something told me that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. I’d been given a great gift, even though I couldn’t see what that was at the moment. So, I found another teaching job in a nearby town and set about healing.
It’s taken me from then until now to forgive everyone involved in what I considered a betrayal by the school district. I had to let go of denial, and wishing the outcome had been different. At first I allowed myself to feel completely angry. I dreamed of revenge. Like the rattlesnake, I was biting myself, thinking the father and daughter were going to be poisoned. Even though the poison didn’t feel good, I wasn’t ready to let it go quite yet. My anger turned to self-recrimination. Why hadn’t I seen what was coming and blocked their efforts?
One day, about two months into the new school year, I was coming out of the local grocery store, and the father was coming in. He smiled and said, “Hi. How are you?” I just glared at him and didn’t say a word. How do you think I feel after you stole the job I loved, you B___d? What was wrong with him, why couldn’t he see what he’d done to me?
Later, when I cooled off, it hit me, He’s completely asleep. He has no idea how much he hurt me. I’m not a person to him. When I realized that, I remembered an interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio a few years earlier. I think James Lipton was interviewing Christopher Walken, but I may be wrong. In any case James Lipton asked the actor how he felt about playing so many villains. The actor said “Well, you know, the villain is the hero of his own story.” Ah, the father and daughter are the heroes of their own story. To them, I was the villain. It’s all a matter of perspective isn’t it? Somehow this little aha made me feel better. That was the day I began to heal, though I was still wounded.
For years, every time I drove by the high school, I felt physical pain at my loss. I refused to step foot in the school for blood drives, or for civic events. Eventually I was forced to do so, because of a county wide teacher’s conference, which was to be held at my former high school.
It helped that many of my former colleagues came to greet me, and tell me how much they missed me. Some of them even told me that things weren’t going so well in my old department. I know this sounds bad, but I was glad. I felt vindicated. But by then, I’d found my place in my new school district. They appreciated me, and I saw the contrast between the two districts. I was in a much better place. After that event, I was able to let go of wishing things had been different. Instead of looking back, I was determined to look forward.
Little by little I let go of parts of my anger, hurt and blame. I saw that I had called this situation to me for some larger reason that I couldn’t see at the moment. I let go of the biggest chunk of my grudge the day I realized that my new teaching position had led me toward writing. In the old position, I might never have allowed myself to uncover my long held desire to be a writer. I’d have been too busy to think about old, unrealized dreams.
I thought I’d let all the pain of that time in my life go, but a few months ago, I realized that I wasn’t completely finished with my forgiveness process. I set about letting go of those old, old hurt feelings.
As you might guess, since I came to the realization that we must practice Radical Love to heal the world, I’ve been working on sending love to people, and situations that need it. This morning in my mediation, the faces of the father and daughter came into my mind. Without any shred of anger or desire for revenge, I was able to send them love.
What a relief! I can move on. I can learn to practice Radical Love, for myself and others.
Thank you to all of my followers. I love your comments, they help me grow.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014
4 thoughts on “Forgiveness As Radical Love”
First, I want you to know I thought for a long time about your previous post. I composed a response, tried to post it, and it went into the ozone. I have not yet forgiven the ozone for stealing my words but am working on it.
This one. Forgiveness. Sometimes it is so difficult, especially when it is a betrayal. When another person makes a conscious decision to do something cruel, I have a hard time forgiving. Frankly, I still have not figured out how. But I have learned to let go of the anger, and that is a step in the right direction.
Thanks for this.
Emilie, I know what you mean. It took me twelve years to completely forgive. I think it happens in stages just like the stages of grief. I think complete forgiveness is the end result of finishing the grieving over what was lost.
I went through something similar with a school district. I really get your story, as I went through a similar healing process. I can honestly say I’ve let it go, as well, which is not easy, and takes time, but is well worth the effort for the peace of mind it brings. I truly think schools have become toxic environments for students and teachers alike, and on a larger scale hurts our country. Our experience is not unique. I really don’t think I am overstating this situation. Thanks for putting it in words so eloquently, and full of wisdom.
Janet, Unfortunately, I think you’re right. Toxic work environments can be found anywhere. We need to change that. Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you healed and forgave.