The current Richard Rohr series of e-mails on Letting Go have been resonating with me all week. Turns out they are based on a series of talks that Fr. Rohr has given and put into a CD collection.
Today's e-mail was no less powerful for me than the one earlier this week:
What does letting go on the practical level tell us? Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of something is to admit it. You have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against yourself; different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of yourself, which are nonetheless true, are seen for what they are; but you refuse to turn them against yourself or against others. This is not denial or pretend, but actual transformation.
The religious word for this letting go is forgiveness. You see the imperfect moment for what it is, and you hand it over to God. You refuse to let any negative storyline or self-serving agenda define your life. This is a very, very different way of living; it implies that you see your mistakes, your dark side, but you do not identify with either your superiority or your inferiority.
Forgiveness is of one piece. Those who give it can also receive it. Those who receive it can pass forgiveness on. You are a conduit, and your only job is not to stop the flow. What comes around will also go around. The art of letting go is really the secret of happiness and freedom. [all emphasis mine]
Own it. That's supremely difficult because you are, as Fr. Rohr said, admitting something to yourself that you have been avoiding, denying or worse - burying deep inside where it can fester leading to a more systemic issue from which there may be no return.
Forgiveness. I think many people are confused on exactly what forgiveness is. True it is something you give to someone else if they ask for it and you are in a place where you can freely give it. (Contrary to popular sentiments I don't believe you should forgive and forget; if you forget then you abandon the lessons that God taught you thru the act of forgiveness.)
No - forgiveness in Fr. Rohr's context is the gift you give yourself. It is the willingness inside of you to reach out to yourself and grant absolution for whatever it is you find you need to let go. That could be a host of things that would take too long and too much space here to enumerate.
Self-forgiveness could definitely be the act of forgiving someone else, inside of yourself. When you do that - when you lay aside that burden of hate or pain, when you let go of it thru the act of self-forgiveness - you take back the part of yourself that you gave up to hold onto the pain. I read something recently that describes this perfectly and goes something like this: Hanging onto resentment is letting someone live rent-free in your head.
Once again, this is not as easy to do as it is to write it. And I can say from my own experiences over the past few years that self-forgiveness has been the greatest gift I have ever given to myself.
And being the kind of person who used to believe, as I said earlier this week, that I wasn't the good person people say I am - when I finally reached the point where I could forgive the people who made me feel that way; the very people who should never have taken up that particular kind of space in my heart; the feeling of freedom, of having the ability to fully stretch my wings for the very first time in my nearly 50 years in this world was...