Exercising forgiveness on the freeway — a challenge, and a continual opportunity!
Originally published 2000
A fellow cut me off on the freeway yesterday. Immediately, I felt anger. Then I did the forgiveness thing. Right afterwards, a most amazing realization struck me — I was not harmed! It seems silly, right? I mean, how could I have been harmed? But the alternative (which I’ve experienced many times) was to dwell on the situation, to be frustrated, to think of how the person was slowing me down, or how they were endangering me, and on and on — and to add that frustration to the last thing that annoyed me, and add them both to the next thing…
But here, the cycle was broken. That “forgivessness space” led to the perception of myself — as a being, as a whole entity — still sitting in my car, completely unharmed, and still making progress toward my goal — at sixty-some miles an hour, no less!
The amazing part of that experience was the feeling of wholeness. Like in the dream, I was in the situation, but no damage, no hurt resulted from it. “I” — the “I” that is going somewhere, making a living, working to achieve goals — was untouched! I was still there, still going forward, still making progress, unharmed. Too cool! (My martial arts master called this “rising above”. And there is definite sense of floating upwards — an emotional “lift” you experience in the process. I never really understood those words before. I do, now.)
Later, I noticed that when someone cut me off, the forgiveness was immediate. Instead of waiting for the anger, the action itself triggered the forgiveness. It reminded me of something a gymnast friend once told me: When you’re learning something new, you tend to “back it in”. Let’s say you decide to take your lunch to work every day. The first day, it’s lunch time and you thing, “Darn! I forgot to pack a lunch”. The next day, that thought occurs to at the midday break, when you’re starting to think about lunch. The day after that, it occurs when you arrive at work. The following day, you think of it while driving to work. The next day, it’s when you go to the car. Then it’s on your way out the door. Finally, you remember it before you leave, and you actually pack a lunch!
That’s the way we learn new things — we back into them. So anger/frustration/annoyance is the initial indicator of a need for forgiveness. (And, typically, for admitting one’s own culpability!) The act of forgiveness then dissolves those emotions. (Perhaps more accurately, entering the forgiveness-space produces the realization that they were never there — they disappear like a chimera, like a movie image when the projector is shut off, like shadow puppets when the lights are turned on.) Eventually, the things that trigger those emotions triggers the forgiveness-response instead!
Observing the Process
When you consciously forgive, the excuses for others’ behavior come second. The process goes something like this: Something upsets you. You recognize the upset. You focus on the source of the upset, and forgive. Various “exusatory” thoughts then occur, like “Oh, they probably meant well”, or “they were just tired, or had too much to do”, etc. The interesting thing is that NO excuses are acceptable until you forgive. Iif someone tells you, “they just weren’t thnking”, it means nothing at all. But after you forgive, you readily accept such explanations, and even generate them yourself.
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