Recently, I came upon a new word: “pseudo-forgiveness.”
Pseudo-forgiveness is the act of forgiving someone before you have experienced the long string of complicated and painful emotions one MUST feel before one is ready, and capable, of bestowing true forgiveness on someone else. Basically, pseudo-forgiveness is “pretend forgiveness” posing as real forgiveness.
I spoke of forgiveness before on this blog, in an article entitled 6 Ways to Regain A Sense of Power. In this article, I said that forgiveness was an important step in regaining a sense of power, and that’s true.
But now I realize that I had not truly forgiven the person I had said I had forgiven in that article. I had only “pseudo-forgiven” them.
You see, at the time, I had forgiven this person because I knew, intellectually, that forgiveness was a part of the process of letting go and moving on. But little did I know that I had skipped an important step. Little did I know that in rushing straight to forgiveness, without allowing myself to experience the full range of complicated, painful emotions I had to experience in order to truly forgive this person, I had not really learned my lesson.
Now I know that forgiveness is far more complicated than just saying: “I forgive you.” Now I know that you have to mean forgiveness–all the way down to the very core of your being–for forgiveness to be true.
Why Skipping A Step Is Not The Same As Mastering It
I suppose I was naïve to think I could forgive right away, and skip all pain I needed to feel to arrive at true forgiveness.
But now, I understand: I do this. In fact, we all do this. We skip steps, we over-intellectualize life’s big challenges just so we can avoid experiencing them. Through our over-analysis, we grind life’s big lessons down into a pulp—hoping the meaning behind a challenge we’re facing will reveal itself more easily this way.
It’s a clever, more roundabout, way to thwart our own progress.
While some don’t even start the race for fear of where the race will take them, others will try to bypass the race all together. Instead of experiencing what it’s like for their feet to hit the track, these people will go rent a golf cart, zoom to the end of the track, jump out of the cart, and cross the finish line before the clock runs out.
They become so obsessed with winning the race, that they avoid the race completely, and then they hold out their hand for a trophy they haven’t earned yet.
Pseudo-forgiveness, and other pseudo-acts like it, are simply clever ways to avoid the hardships of our life’s journey.
But who can really blame us for attempting to pull this clever rick on ourselves? Who wouldn’t want to bypass all of life’s pain, confusion, and complications by zooming straight to the finish line, and just getting it over with already?
But that’s the mean trick of “pseudo-learning” a lesson. Pseudo-learning a lesson makes it seem to us as if we’ve crossed the finish line, when we really haven’t. Our celebratory dance is also premature: we’re fooling ourselves. We think we’ve outsmarted life by rushing to declare that we’re masters of our own story—when our story isn’t even finished yet.
But life isn’t easily outsmarted. It knows we’re only fooling ourselves. It knows we’re really just putting off what will catch up to us eventually.
Pseudo-Charmed Kind of Life
There is not only pseudo-forgiveness, but also pseudo-peace, pseudo-enlightenment, pseudo-compassion, and many others.
I have often rushed to declare my compassion for someone who did me wrong, only to find out later that–despite my light-speed act of compassion–I was still very angry and bitter at the person who did me wrong. I would be shocked to discover that I wasn’t the perfect compassionate being I thought I was.
I now realize that feeling anger, bitterness, and hatred is actually necessary before I can finally arrive at true compassion for someone who has done me wrong.
You see, just learning a lesson isn’t enough. You must also experience it.
And this is our work. This is our work. To understand life not only with our heads, but with our hearts, with our bodies, and with our souls. We cannot rely solely on collecting “the data” of our lives, and then analyzing this data in order to arrive at a concrete solution to all our problems.
It may seem counterintuitive, but to arrive at a concrete “solution” to life, we have to stop analyzing it, and simply experience it.
To learn to forgive, for instance, we must hate someone first, and then feel that hate long enough to the point where forgiveness becomes the only thing that can soothe that hate. To be compassionate, we must feel the full extent of our distrust and disappointment with another, until compassion becomes the only way we can be saved from our misery. To arrive at true peace, we must experience chaos in its entirety, until peace is the only thing we’re left thirsting for. To arrive at true enlightenment, we must experience confusion, loneliness, and loss to its highest degree, until enlightenment is the only thing that can heal us.
This is not a happy lesson for me to share. It’s a sobering lesson to say the least. But it’s a true lesson. And every time we try to skip the process of life, every time we try to skip all the ugly, smelly, dirty parts of life, every time we try to “cut ahead of the line” so to speak, we’ll find ourselves right back where we started.
Because skipping a step is not the same as mastering it.
John O’ Donohue and The Fish
I had a dream in which the Irish poet and philosopher John O’ Donohue appeared to me. He was standing in a river, fishing. He had a very warm and loving energy. He smiled at me and then started to tell me a story:
He told me how he used to buy boneless, skinless fish from the supermarket. He would then cook this fish for his family, for dinner, and they would all love it. The fish was not only delicious, but it was very easy to eat, and it slid down their throats very nicely.
Then, one day, John didn’t go to the supermarket to buy fish. Instead, he went directly to the river itself to catch the fish at its source.
Later that day, John cooked this freshly caught fish. After the fish was cooked, he served it to his family. His family ate. Although his family tought the fish was more delicious than anything John had cooked before, they complained about the bones in the fish (that scratched their throats) and the skin (that made it hard for their teeth to chew on the meat).
When John finished telling me his story, he explained to me that this simple story illustrated the true nature of the spiritual journey. When we begin the spiritual journey, he said, it is like we’re eating that store-bought fish. At first, the spiritual journey is boneless, skinless, and easy to digest. We believe that this is what the true spiritual journey is like.
But, after a while, we find that, in truth, the real spiritual journey is more like the fish John caught from the river–it is far more delicious than anything store-bought, but it’s tougher to chew, and it’s filled with sharp bones that often cut us, if we’re not careful.
I never knew John O’ Donahue, but I think that his appearance in my dream was meant to assuage me. It was meant to remind me that life is meant to be a hard journey; and that the “hardness” of life, far from making life unfair, is what makes it more (dare I say it) authentic and delicious.
Don’t Analyze It. Just Experience It.
Now, at the end of my first post of 2012, I leave you with this thought:
What if the challenges facing you right now don’t require your “analysis”?
What if the challenges facing you right now are just asking you to let go of your relentless need to over-analyze everything in life?
What if your bridge to “a better place” is made up of the very stones of pain and remorse you feel you must avoid at all costs? What if it’s your experience—and not the analysis of your experience—that’ll make all the sores heal? What if it’s the living of your life, and not the analysis of your life, that’ll finally lick all the wounds clean?
How do you make sure not get too ahead of yourself when it comes to learning life’s big lessons? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
> > > Novel Update: As I mentioned before I went on break, I’m done with the second draft of my novel! So, right now, I’ll be taking a much-needed hiatus from writing the book. In the meantime, I’m having my sister read it and offer me feedback on basic structure, character, and story. This is the first time anyone has every read a draft of my novel in its entirety (other than me) so I’m very nervous, but also very excited! I’ll get back to you with the next goal for my novel in 2012, but, in the meantime, I’ll be enjoying this brief hiatus from my fiction work.
> > > Top Secret Project News: I’ll be launching a brand new project this Friday that will require your help and involvement. It is something that many of you have been asking me to provide, and soon, I hope, it will become a reality. So stay tuned!
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