How many times have we heard that forgiveness is not for the perpetrator of harm, but for the one harmed? Supposedly, if I forgive someone, then I have been freed from what they have done. Intellectually, I get it, but emotionally it doesn’t make sense. I’m kind of a visual learner, so I needed something to look at to help me integrate my intellect and my emotions. For some reason, I began thinking about yarn.
Yarn can be bought as a skein, the kind that is in a loose twist, or a ball. I’m going with ball, because the word skein makes it sound like I know something about knitting, which I don’t. So, I’m imaging neatly wound balls of yarn, in shades of red, blue and yellow; maybe some greens and purples as well. Wait, did it say neatly?
A ball of yarn is like a portion of our lives. Sometimes, life is good and the ball stays neat and tidy. We use it, as needed, to create beautiful events in our lives. Other times, what we think is going to be stunning turns into a knotted mess. Maybe we knotted it ourselves: we didn’t listen to good advice, we procrastinated until it was too late, we stayed out too late with other people who were full of knotted messes. Sometimes, outside people and events grab our yarn and wreak havoc on it: insults, acts of violence and divorce to name a few. Can we still create beauty with this tangled part of our lives? It depends. How widespread is the damage? How tight are the knots?
This is where forgiveness comes in. Forgiveness is the act of untangling the yarn, our own yarn. The small hurts in our lives can easily be straightened out and neatly rewound. The bigger the hurt, the more effort it takes to unknot it. It takes continued, repeated effort to be able to look at a situation without the emotional hurt (re-knotting) creeping in. This means we may need to consciously forgive a person more than once, while our minds process a new way of responding to the memory.
The cause of some events, however, is so painful, it’s like the yarn has been tightly knotted. Our efforts to escape the pain only makes it worse. We have tugged and yanked on the yarn until there is no hope of undoing it. Even if we could, the yarn would be frayed and damaged. Some knots just need to be cut away.
What does cutting away the knot mean? (Don’t forget, these are just my opinions.) I believe this could mean that we have forgiven a person, but choose to no longer associate with them. Alcoholics, for example, need to stay away from people who tempt them to drink. It could also mean forgiving and firmly choosing not to allow the painful event to hurt us anymore. This is different than simply consciously forgiving a person. This takes a paradigm shift. A dramatic change in how we view an event. These types of decisions often require help from professionals. They are trained to find the knots. Even the ones we didn’t know existed.
Whether we forgive or not, our lives will never be the same. When we are able to forgive, we take the now untangled parts of yarn, and rewind them to use again. There will be long pieces and short pieces wound into this ball. These represent the beneficial memories from the past. Because they are different, they can inspire us to create beauty from here forward in ways we never would have imagined before.