That f word
I don’t know what the weather has been like where you live, but on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, we are nearly through our first month of Spring. It’s starting to become humid, days are warm, getting longer and starting earlier, and the temperature is forecast to reach 37•C today, which is warm for this time of year even for Queensland!
Spring is a great time to do a big clean up of your house, de-clutter the winter wardrobe, sort the back of the drawers, get into the garden. That’s why it’s often called a Spring clean.
It’s also a great time to spring clean your mind!
Take some time out to breathe, sit and journal, walk a bit further than normal and notice with intentionality where your thoughts drift to. It’s an open the window and let in the lightand air out the corners metaphor.
Of course, in my role as a mental health clinician/therapist/clinical social worker, this is what I teach people to do everyday. There are probably millions of strategies, metaphors, exercises and activities that we can use to spring clean our minds. It’s about finding the ones that work best for you. They each have a varying degree of effectiveness, clear out small spaces in our minds, illuminate the shadows in corners. And depending on the issue, it’s severity, timeframe, strength and level of unhelpfulness, different things can have similar results in terms of their effectiveness.
There is one word that is common amongst everyone, every human mind, every memory, every situation, in terms of needing to be done. It’s that horrible ‘f’ word that inevitable always eventually needs to come up…
I was working with a client last week, about something that had happened that had caused a large wound. I knew where the conversation needed to go. I warned them… “You’re not going to like this… you’re not going to want me to say this word…” FORGIVENESS.
Yep, they had the same reaction as you…. squirm, hard swallow of the lump in their throat, arms folded, shift in their seat, look away…
…and the emotion: ANGER.
Here’s the conversation that followed:
Client: “How dare you suggest that! Do you not know what that word means? I am not going to forgive them so they get away with what they did. I’m not ok that it happened. I will not accept that what they did was ok. I can not forgive them. I will not. Anything else”.
Therapist: “In all the years, and with the thousands of clients I have seen in that time, the one thing I have learnt is this: it always begins and ends with forgiveness. We can do all the work in the world, use every strategy, get everything else done, but if unforgiveness remains, we will always be stuck. Right there. Where it happened. Unable to move forward”.
Client: “There must be another way”!
Therapist: “There’s not. But it is your choice”.
Client: “I will never choose to forgive”.
Therapist: “You don’t have to, but if you don’t, you will always feel exactly like this, like you are right now. You will always be bound by this”.
Client: “I can’t understand what you are saying”.
Therapist: “here’s another way to look at this. When someone hurts us, they light a fire then they walk away. If that fire is still burning, we are the one stoking it. The person who lit it has walked away. We keep the fire going so as to show the other person the damage they did to us, to show we are not ok they lit it, to try to pay them back. But they rarely, if ever, look back. The fire just burns us. And we have the power to choose to put the fire out. The water of forgiveness is just that. We can put the fire out and it no longer need burn us. It doesn’t mean we accept the hurt or are ok that they lit the fire. It simply means we choose it not to continue burning us.”
Client: “but how can I do that? What’s the water?”
Therapist: “Forgiveness. Choosing to forgive is a choice a thousand times before it’s a feeling. It’s a choosing to say ‘I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. I put the fire out. I will not allow this fire to continue to burn!”
Client: “I just don’t know that I’m ready”.
Therapist: “that’s ok. When you are, just say it. And keep saying it until you feel it. Even when the fire is out the coals still feel hot for a while. But you will have walked away from there. You will be free of this pain”
As I read that back, my eyes are filled with tears, my heart is full of anticipation at the freedom this brings. It’s so easy. If only we knew how easy! And how big the result is to freedom: we would never choose to stay here again!
My heart beats for freedom. For true, unbound, real, healed freedom. And it’s possible. And I see people walk into healing everyday!
Please don’t stay bound. Do not stay here. The fire is not keeping you warm. It’s burning. Please choose to put it out! It’s a choice.
I’ll write more on this another time as it’s a big one.
Remember, you can be free. It takes courage to leave the fire. We fear the cold. But you can be warm without being on fire!
Be brave. Face your fear. It’s never as scary as it tells us it is.
To healing, to forgiveness. Brave on warriors.