Via A Word in Edgeways on RTÉ Radio 1: Barbara Walshe, of The Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, talks about forgiveness - listen above, and read Barbara's reflection below.
You don't know what he’s done to me? You don’t know what I have suffered because of what she said or did? Don’t talk to me about Forgiveness!
Forgiveness is scarce and we accept the scarcity often without understanding what it is costing us not to forgive. Without it, our lives can be governed by an endless cycle of resentments and retaliation that we carry around often unknown to ourselves or, to the person or event that caused the harm in the first place. African American coach, Myrtle Gallows, a life-long advocate for the benefits of forgiveness says that 'unforgiving is like holding hot coals in your bosom and being intent on throwing it at someone else’.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning something nor does it mean letting someone ‘away with something’ either. It is an act of will and when I say, "I forgive you," mean it, and acknowledge the harm done and try and make up for it, I have spoken forgiveness into the world. The relationship to the forgiven person, or experience, or circumstance begins to be transformed. New possibilities open. We are no longer limited by what has happened in the past. Permission from anyone is not needed.
What would it be like on this island if we, the people, could acknowledge the hurt and harm we have caused each other because of a violent, soul destroying conflict and its legacy?
We can forgive ourselves for all we did or didn’t do and offer ourselves the gift of freedom and liberation from the negative thoughts and feelings that often run in a never-ending loop in our heads.
When we are unfettered by our resentments, our regrets, our shame, and our guilt, we enter a world of possibility, where something new can be created. We can begin to be free from the need to get even, make them wrong, to make us right or to be better than they are.
At Glencree, the word forgiveness is rarely used but it’s in the air. High up in the Wicklow Hills as former enemies hear each other’s stories and hurts in a safe space, they often unintentionally step into the shoes of the enemy, leaving the heavy burden of carrying too much hurt to bear behind.
What would it be like on this island if we, the people, could acknowledge the hurt and harm we have caused each other because of a violent, soul destroying conflict and its legacy? And ask forgiveness of each other and forgive ourselves?
What would it be like for us on this island, as a people, to ask forgiveness and forgive ourselves for all we abandoned to industrial schools, mental institutions, Mother and Baby homes and all those who took the blame and the pain on our behalf? Imagine creating a clear space for new things to happen, creating a future that doesn’t constantly collapse into the past. Wouldn’t it be worth it?
Listen to more from A Word In Edgeways on RTÉ Radio 1 here.