One of my most potent learning experiences came from an inspiring professor in a university class simply titled Disability Studies.
It would have been more appropriately titled, Humanity…and Disabilities Studies, because her unflappable linguistic commitment to speaking about “people with disabilities”, rather than “disabled people”, still deeply moves and informs me.
She also didn’t placate her language by being excessively politically correct as to identify people as having “different abilities”. No. She was straight about the fact that some people did, in fact, stand in the face of tremendously demanding and debilitating disabilities. She did, however, acknowledge that we all have some form of disability.
And, while I didn’t have the insight or language to explain it at the time, I now understand that she was teaching her pupils how to break the bindings of binary thinking – a rigid frame of thinking that dehumanizes.
So why am I sharing this, and how might this relate to forgiveness within our communities?
I’ve noticed a trend in the yoga community to categorize. Within this frame of mind “People” become fixed properties – “yoga people”, “business people”, etc. And, while there’s nothing inherently wrong with categorizing people to better understand our current reality, we run the risk of dehumanizing and missing the humanity in others (and ourselves) when we perpetrate this need to categorize, identify and box people in.
What has helped me achieve better clarity when I’m frustrated with others is to distinguish between who someone is BEING and who they actually ARE. For instance, when I’m judging and comparing how my life measures up to others, I’m simply BEING judgmental, righteous and petty.
It’s a subtle distinction because saying that I AM, or he/she/they ARE, a certain way immediately constrains what’s possible. It ultimately misses the bigger point and shuts down the possibilty of forgiveness, freedom, joy, and our fullest self-expression.
So, what are we to do when we’ve actually been wronged, slighted, harmed or deceived by someone?
Well, where’s a suggestion: Acknowledge that your perpetrator is human, and that they’re like in deep pain themselves. Then, verbally acknowledge who they’ve been BEING toward you (as distinct and separate from their humanity). Then…forgive yourself, forgive them, and reconnect with a community of people where forgiveness (rather than complaint) is deeply displayed and valued.
Forgiveness is a personal gift, regardless of whether or not you intend to mend or resolve the issues you’ve experienced with others. Forgiveness is the opposite of weakness, and it doesn’t mean we must forfeit any calls for responsibility or reconciliation.
Forgiveness is an essential part of our humanity.
“Forgiveness is not always easy. At time, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to give the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.”
~ Marianne Williamson
Much love and keep moving,