The end of the calendar year is always a time of cleansing. It may feel more like a time of consumption, but transitioning from one year to the next gives us room to take stock, let go of things that no longer serve and open doors to new possibilities. It can mean releasing all the disappointments - and even the joys experienced - to start again with a fresh slate.
It strikes me that this is also a perfect time for forgiveness. I've spent a lot of time lately digging into this form of cleansing, sensing that it's time to let go of some old hurts while seeking forgiveness for actions that may have hurt others. There comes a time when you become exhausted from banging your fists against a pillow or feeling that hot, sticky burn of resentment or beating yourself up for having fallen short in the eyes of others, so that there is nothing left to do but surrender. This is a beautiful turning point; when you realize the only way out is through forgiveness, acceptance and love for the imperfect people and relationships in our lives.
Forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give someone. It recognizes and affirms the fallibilities of being human, including your own. I love that forgiveness contains the word "give". Giving grace, giving light to dark places. Giving love and tenderness to what's unlovable. It doesn't mean excusing injustices, but it does acknowledge that people do their best with limited resources at the time. By withholding forgiveness we stay stuck in negative emotions like anger and contempt, and these have energetic qualities that not only keep us in a perpetual loop of pain but make our bodies tense and inflamed in the process. Instead, forgiveness is that cool water that releases the tight places and lets love flow freely again.
So, our first thought goes to "Who in my life do I need to forgive?" However, I invite you to go one step deeper and look inside. Often times we don't realize that the most important person asking for your forgiveness is you. Forgiveness is a powerful healing agent, and there is nothing more profound than being on the receiving end. Can you remember a time when someone whole-heartedly forgave you in the past? Did you notice how the minutes, months or years of shame or guilt dissolved in a matter of seconds? What if you could give that generous gift to yourself? If you wanted to, could you let yourself off the hook?
Try this: find an old photograph of yourself at a time that was personally difficult or when you felt less than your best. Open your heart of compassion for that younger self and breathe love into the scene. Imagine a loving parent soothing his/her child. Thank that younger part of you for doing the best you could with the information you had at the time. Acknowledge the sadness or fear you felt and that it is all welcome now. Say out loud, "I forgive you, (your name)." Softly remind yourself that it's ok. You are loved no matter what, imperfect parts and all.
Now that you have generated this quality of love and forgiveness in your heart and body, is there someone else you would like to direct this kindness towards? Pour the vessel of forgiveness over this relationship and see where it takes you. Winter bonfires, walks in the woods, meditation and prayer are wonderful receptacles for the pain and uneasy feelings that may arise. Continue to use this transition season for refining, clarifying and releasing old, unneeded hurts towards others who want and need your forgiveness so that you can create room for new life in 2018.