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Author Topic: Forgiveness: One of the Greatest Gifts  (Read 2374 times)

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Offline Joe K

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Forgiveness: One of the Greatest Gifts
« on: May 11, 2009, 03:05:36 PM »
One of the greatest abilities that we possess as human beings is the gift of forgiveness.  It amazes me the transgressions against us that we can forgive in others, yet many of us, are unable to forgive ourselves.  Forgiveness can be as simple as moving past issues that barely affect us, to what I believe is the greatest forgiveness possible: forgiving yourself for whatever role you played, in becoming HIV positive.

I realize this may not apply to many readers, but I suspect that it impacts far more people, than even they recognize.  I remember my own disgust regarding my behavior, which contributed to my becoming positive.  The revulsion I felt and the self-loathing toward myself, that accompanied my test result.  I had tested HIV positive.  How could it have happened?  How could I have been so stupid?  What is going to become of me?  Why did I drink so much?  Why did I allow this to happen to me?

These and dozens of other recriminations, continued to pervade my consciousness for a couple of years.  The guilt was enormous.  The effect on my life was devastating.  I was losing my future, by torturing myself over my past behavior, over mistakes.  Mistakes, they sound so innocent, yet their power to subjugate me under their spell was enormous.  Maybe I was using my guilt, to shield myself from my reality, or to delay having to accept responsibility for my own future, because I was too busy lamenting the past.  I seemed unable to move past those mistakes or the guilt they inspired.  I had yet to learn the about the true power of forgiveness.  How sad that it took me far too many years to realize, that I alone held the key to my own forgiveness.

I would like to share some of the things that I learned on my journey, towards my own forgiveness for becoming HIV positive.  I hope that you might see yourself in my words, or that they may serve to help clarify your own feelings.  That somehow, what I learned on my journey can help you to find the power to grant your own forgiveness.

To begin with, forgiveness is not forgetting.  While you might want to "forgive and forget", this is often not realistic and has little value.  Of course, you would rather erase the unpleasantness of your past, but that is just not possible.  The real goal is not to forget the past, but to learn from it and to use that knowledge to help yourself and others.

Forgiveness is also not condoning.  It does not mean that the past was okay or not so bad.  You made mistakes, you were hurt; it was painful; and it affected your life.  Forgiveness enables you to deal with the past more effectively, yet does not minimize the past, but rather minimizes the effects of that painful past.  It in no way denies, justifies, or even condones your mistakes; it simply acknowledges their existence.

Forgiveness is not a form of self-sacrifice and it will come when you are ready.  It is not pretending that everything is just fine when you feel it is not.  Often the distinction between, being truly forgiving and simply denying or repressing anger and pain, can be very deceptive and confusing.  You either forgive, or you do not -- there is no halfway.  You must be careful to be honest with yourself if you are not ready to forgive yourself.  Because it is better to admit to and deal with your inability to forgive yourself, than to just pretend to forgive.  Forgiveness will come when you are ready to both give it and receive it.

Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.  Far from weakness, it is a sign of true inner strength.  When you forgive yourself, you understand that you no longer need your anger and hatred to protect yourself.  You do not need the pain as a crutch anymore.  You are able to view how your infection happened, the role that you played and to accept that as reality.  You do not forgive yourself out of pity for yourself, but because of your own internal strength.  Forgiveness for any mistakes you made is something that only you can do for yourself.

Forgiveness is a form of realism.  It allows you to see your infection and your role in that infection realistically, possibly for the first time.  It does not deny, minimize, or justify what you did to yourself, or the pain that you have suffered.  However, it does allow you to honestly look at that old wound or scar and see them for what they are.  It allows you to see how much energy you have wasted and how much damage you have sustained by not forgiving yourself.

Forgiveness is a sign of positive self-esteem.  It allows you to put the past into its proper perspective.  You no longer identify yourself by your past mistakes.  You cease to be a victim.  You claim the right to stop hurting, when you say, "I am tired of the pain, and I want to be healed”.  At that moment, self-forgiveness becomes a possibility -- although it may take time and require hard work, to achieve it.

Forgiveness is letting go of the past.  Forgiveness does not erase what happened, but it does allow you to lessen and eliminate the pain of the past.  It allows you to view that pain, in perspective and to accept the pain that those mistakes have caused you.  More importantly, the pain from your past no longer dictates how you live in the present and can no longer determine your future.

Forgiveness does not want to punish you.  It does not want to get even or make you suffer for your mistakes.  It is accepting you cannot change the past and castigating yourself, because of that past does nothing to help to heal you.  It is discovering the inner peace that you feel when you just let go of the past and accept your mistakes.

Forgiveness is moving on.  It is recognizing all that you have lost because of your refusal to forgive yourself.  It is realizing that the energy that you spent hanging on to the past is energy better spent on attaining your future.  You must let go of the past, so that you may reach for your future.  You are moving on, not attempting to change the past.

It is my hope that each of you, who need it, will learn to forgive yourself for becoming HIV positive.  You must accept your own reality and move past the need to flog yourself over mistakes, often made long ago.  It all comes down to reality.  You made some mistakes, plain and simple.  The specifics do not matter, only that you made some mistakes.  Granted the repercussions of those mistakes may be grand in scale, however, mistakes are not judged by degrees.  At some point, it is my hope that you can learn to accept any mistakes that you made and forgive yourself for becoming positive.  Holding onto the guilt, serves no good purpose, as it just drains your being.  Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to yourself.  Is it not time to let it all go and forgive you?

“The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbor as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves.  We hate others when we hate ourselves.  We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves.  We forgive others when we forgive ourselves.  We are prone to sacrifice others, when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves...”                                        Eric Hoffer


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