As the seasons shift and we are in the time of the Autumnal Equinox, Yom Kippur, Mabon, and Eid al-Adha, I have had some quiet time for self-reflection. What ultimately stands between me and the higher-purpose life I long to live? Forgiveness. Acceptance. Whether it is the person in front of me who is not driving fast enough as I tailgate them, or the shopper with more than 7 items in the Express Lane, the supervisor who criticizes instead of praises, the dog that throws up on the nice rug, or my friend who doesn’t have time for me right now–all of these are resentments I harbor. All of these deserve my acceptance and forgiveness.
But how does one begin to forgive others, sometimes even total strangers? First and foremost, of course, we must cultivate kindness, gentleness, and compassion for our own selves: our mistakes, flaws, character defects, our imperfections–our human-ness. Out of that wellspring of self-care and compassion we can draw up the love, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness of others and their human-ness, too.
On a recent road trip with a friend with whom I had never traveled before, I was reminded how we are beautiful mirrors to each other. How my words or behavior reflected back to her something she did not accept in herself and, therefore, became critical of in me. And then we became caught in a negative dynamic for the rest of the trip. Aye, there’s the rub!
Acceptance is the key. The more we can accept in and of ourselves, the kinder, gentler, more compassionate and accepting we can be of others. [Be careful not to confuse compassion with pity. Pity is judgmental; compassion is heart-opening, unconditional love and acceptance.] And what a difference compassion and acceptance make in our families, communities, and the larger world around us. One tiny shift in the way I responded could have made for a much more positive and stress-free trip with my friend.
I love this quote (attributed somewhat erroneously to the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein),”The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” So, what if we can make tiny steps, small shifts toward unconditional acceptance and forgiveness in our daily lives? It’s not difficult. It just takes practice. Commitment. Acting instead of reacting.
Be an Einstein today and try this experiment: Instead of reacting in your usual, patterned way when something negative or unpleasant happens to you today, respond with a kind word, a compassionate gesture, a generous action–and be kind to yourself first. Let that person go in line ahead of you. Be kind and supportive to the screaming child and frustrated parent (instead of casting judgment). Turn off the “CNN” (constantly negative news) stream. Back off the slow car ahead of you and bless them. Bless everyone! Bless everything! Be grateful for the beautiful day and the limitless potential of you and your life. Try this experiment, and if you like the results, make it a daily practice. Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude opportunities abound. Compassionate action. This will lead us to our higher purpose life because unconditional love and acceptance is our calling, our higher purpose.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. And the courage to change the things I must.”