Only those who forgive can be free

I’ve been thinking a little – not a lot actually, happily less than I feared – about how you move on from love when it ends. A few of my close friends are coming out of tough breakups and so its been a topic of long conversation.

One such friend was talking to me last night about that moment when you move from loving someone, when the clouds begin to part, the dopamine they stimulated begins to drop, and you start to see some of the wood for the trees. Of course, depending on the nature of the relationship and the break-up, and your personality, this can be the start of the shift towards hatred. When with some distance you can see the things that in the moment you either didn’t see or chose to ignore. My friend said that she’s been learning not to let the hatred win, that resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. She said when she feels like she is being dragged back in she remembers the quote from Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel:

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference

After all, to love or hate someone is still intensely emotional.

I don’t know how I feel about indifference towards someone you once loved, I understand the sentiment but perhaps its the wrong word for me. I do however believe hatred can keep you trapped and is toxic. It is the opposite of healing. Perhaps indifference is the right word for what comes after that tipping point when from one day to the next you suddenly notice that you feel that little bit less intensely towards them, and the mere thought of them no longer inspires the same highs and lows.

Today I finished reading the novel “A Well-Tempered Heart” by Jan-Philip Sendker, a beautifully moving and mesmerising exploration of love and the human heart, set in Burma (which I was lucky enough to visit four years ago). One theme the novel explores is freedom as a result of forgiveness.

We were prisoners of our hatred. Prisoners of our desperation. Our embitterment. Our sorrow….We would have remained prisoners even if they had set us free…It is a cold, dark, and dreadfully lonely place… I resolved to love…Let’s just say that Love came to me. One day she was standing at the door asking to come in. She had traveled a long way, and I did not refuse her. I felt certain she would not make the effort a second time…To forgive, one must love and be loved. Only those who forgive can be free. Whoever forgives is a prisoner no more.

Forgiveness I think is an often misunderstood concept – I instinctively misunderstand it on a regular basis. Forgiveness is not condoning or pardoning an offence, nor is it forgetting or denying the emotional effects of wrongdoing. But it is letting go of resentment, of a need for retribution. It may never involve the other party again. And it takes time. It is so much more than the throwaway words “I forgive” often said in response to the equally flippantly used “I’m sorry”, which its worth noting means nothing without real actions. But forgiveness after a broken heart is a path to personal freedom.

And then for my final thought, it has to be back to my new found favourite Nikita Gill. Much of her writing touches on love, and self-love, and I said something similar, though much less poetic, the other day.

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