For me, it is hard to separate the power of healing from the power of forgiving . . . it seems that they come hand in hand, and that in order to heal, it is key to forgive.
I looked up the definition for forgiving online: “to stop feeling anger or resentful toward someone”. However, I believe I like the definition my brother gave me better. He says that TO FORGIVE means TO UNTIE. When you forgive someone, it is as if you let go . . . you untie that person from your life. You do not have to carry that person with you any more, you are free from him/her. My brother’s words provoked a picture in my mind – someone dropping off the heavy weight they carry …. and are finally light, to be able to walk, run or fly much faster!
For me, when my brother explained this, it made it a much easier process, because I understood that the only person damaged by not forgiving was me. I understood that until we forgive, we are giving much power to the person that wronged us. It is as if they still control our life, without even knowing it.
It takes courage to let go . . . it takes time to let go . . . but it’s a must!
It was in the villages where I would learn about the power of forgiving as a way to heal. As I shared earlier, I grew up in a country at war. The year I was born,was the same year an internal conflict in Guatemala started . . . one that killed over 200,000 people and made 1 million run to other countries.
After working in a refugee camp in Guatemala, and graduating from my master’s degree, I became an organic farmer and was teaching other farmers to do it. I ran into a community where the war had left very few people alive. I met them and I partnered with them in their dreams which were similar to mine. They wanted to START PLANTING TREES, so that the water springs and the wildlife would come back to their villages, also giving firewood and wood for other uses.
I met a man called Patricio and ten of his friends and we started to plant trees. As time went by, our group grew to become 300 friends, 3 villages, tree plantations, a saw mill and villagers learning carpentry and making products that were sold in national markets. Yet one thing struck me. They could not see that together we had set up an industry, a value chain that would recover ecosystems and create income. I could not understand it. We had collected the seeds together, we planted the trees, we set up the sawmill and carpentry . . . we were creating beautiful products that were providing income for them, yet – THEY COULD NOT SEE IT.
With Queta, my cousin and business partner, we decided to invite a therapist – Marina – to help us with this. She met with the community and us, and we gathered at a place where three women and a baby had been killed during the war. For the first time after many years, the people started talking about the war, about what they had lived, about how they saw family members and friends being killed. About how much anger they felt. Marina listened and then dressed a little girl in white, and asked the people that felt anger to put mud on their hands and touch the little girl. What started as a beautiful little girl in a simple white dress, ended up a child in clothes full of mud. What was beautiful had turned ugly. Marina thanked the little girl for helping her community heal and then reflected with the people:
“You have gone through so much, 10 years ago they destroyed your life. The problem is that they are still destroying it, as long as you can’t forgive. You are still carrying those people with you. You were given something beautiful, but your hatred is destroying it. You have a beautiful timber industry, but you are destroying it. Forgiving is a first step in being able to take control of your life. It’s not easy, there is still much justice to be done, but unless you find a way to forgive, nothing will be good.”
It was intense. I had been working with these people for about 10 years. I did not know what was in their hearts.
I learned something important that day – unless we forgive, we don’t see the beauty and the blessings around us. Unless we connect emotionally with people we want to work with, it’s hard to build something together.
To heal means much more than to forgive, but it is a very important first step. And it does not mean justice does not need to happen. That however may take longer but when it happens we will have not wasted so many years before being able to start rebuilding our lives.
What or who do you need to forgive in your life? Make an inventory, think of whom you need to let go and start feeling lighter . . .
In another blog, we can talk about the other key part – being able to ask for forgiveness . . . but for today, I think we have enough.