“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
― Nelson Mandela (1918–2013)
BITTERNESS and guilt are opposite sides of the same coin. Where we experience one in one situation, we will experience the other in another circumstance. What bitterness and guilt share is the partiality of a history of hurt – bitterness for what was done to us, and guilt for what we may have done, and both of these are regretful situations; things we’d neither do again nor allow to happen to us.
(I mention the word ‘partiality’ because it indicates imbalance; a vacillating between two unhealthy poles of emotion.)
Forgiveness is that process that harnesses the truth and energy behind both bitterness and guilt. When we believe forgiveness can help us, it’s surprising how very close we are to the answer.
We have to believe that forgiveness is the right process for healing all hurts.
The Wisdom of Leaving the Past Behind
We are best to deal with our past wounds – to honour them in truth – but we are also best to leave behind what can never be perfected. We consider it a learning experience. It has that definitive purpose.
We each have separate lives within one life – partitions if you like. When we have the perspective to draw the shades on the old thing, God, through our faith to let go, will provide the new thing, a new purpose. It makes no sense to languish in old clothes when there is new fashion afoot.
Leaving the past behind is agreeing that what could have been better is now ‘tied off’ and of no harm to anyone. We may visit it now, or at anytime, almost from the aspect of a third party. The experience can no longer harm us. Indeed, it edifies.
Leaving the past behind is finding that respectful space that sees the old thing, from today’s viewpoint, as a learning opportunity. There is always what seems as waste in the learning ground, but anything learned is never a waste.
Leaving the past behind is about acknowledging that bitterness and guilt were always destined to teach us something – if we would accept their lessons. Where we do accept their lessons we have undoubtedly grown in wisdom.
Freedom from guilt from forgiveness is finding balance between the raucous voices of bitterness and guilt. Both bitterness and guilt have their points, but we can’t stay there. Forgiveness straddles both bitterness and guilt and provides a way through to healing. We could have all done better.
Forgiveness acknowledges the old thing, but then chooses to do the new thing.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.