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Perhaps the most difficult forgiveness, the greatest letting go, is to forgive ourselves for doing it wrong. We need to realize that we are not perfect, and we are not innocent. “One learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence” says Robertson Davies. If I want to maintain an image of myself as innocent, superior, or righteous, I can only do so at the cost of truth. I would have to reject the mysterious side, the shadow side, the broken side, the unconscious side of almost everything. We have for too long confused holiness with innocence, whereas holiness is actually mistakes overcome and transformed, not necessary mistakes avoided.
Letting go is different than denying or repressing. To let go of it, you have to admit it. You have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against yourself. Letting go is different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of myself are seen for what they are. You see it and you hand it over to God. You hand it over to history. You refuse to let the negative story line that you’ve wrapped yourself around define your life.
This is a very different way of living. It implies that you see your mistake, your dark side, and you don’t split from it. You don’t pretend it’s not true. You go to the place that has been called “the gift of tears.” Weeping is a word to describe that inner attitude where I can’t fix it, I can’t explain it, I can’t control it, I can’t even understand it. I can only forgive it—weep over it and let go of it. Grieving reality is different than hating it.
Letting go of our cherished images of ourselves is really the way to heaven, because when you fall down to the bottom, you fall on solid ground, the Great Foundation, the bedrock of God. It looks like an abyss, but it’s actually a foundation. On that foundation, you have nothing to prove, nothing to protect: “I am who I am who I am,” and for some unbelievable reason, that’s what God has chosen to love. At that point, the one you’re in love with is both God and yourself too, and you find yourself henceforth inside of God (John 14:20)!
“To pray and actually mean ‘thy Kingdom come,’ we must also be able to say ‘my kingdoms go.’ Francis and Clare’s first citizenship was always and in every case elsewhere, which ironically allowed them to live in the world with joy, detachment, and freedom.” — Richard Rohr
Discover more of this surprising wisdom in Fr. Richard’s new book, Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.
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