“To love another person is to see the face of God.” -Victor Hugo
A new friend reminded me today that the patience and tenderness that I seek for my estranged family is in reality a search for love in myself. Most of us have been confused by the idea that forgiveness is primarily an action we offer for others. This is the juncture where we lose our intention to love, because we believe that by forgiving other’s trespasses, whether deliberate or accidental, we let them off the hook. So instead of allowing ourselves to experience our own vulnerability again, we close off our hearts, unknowingly locking the hurt inside of us. In truth, forgiveness is not a free pass for others’ mistreatment of us, rather it is a release of that internal damage. Other people might benefit from our letting go, but the depth of the action’s healing is freeing ourselves from the past wrongs others have committed against us.
It is not uncommon to nurse an incident of betrayal or emotional cruelty and turn it into a storyline that defines your relationships- past and present. Some of the behavior that people display in the course of break-ups and divorces can only be understood as the polar opposite of the intensity of love that they once felt. It’s no wonder that the vast majority of violent crimes are committed between people who once deeply loved each other. Still, it is hard to fathom the deliberate hurt that we humans inflict on one another. It is only through our willingness to forgive, which is one of the deepest acts of receiving love we have at our disposal, that the damage miraculously heals.
The most powerful love stories bear witness to this truth. The lengthy and beautiful musical Les Miserables is built on the redemptive force of love that grows through forgiveness. The minister is able to heal Valjean’s 19 years of punishment through his witness of the goodness and the silver he entrusts to him to make a life worth living. Watching the cure of love again in the new film Silver Linings Playbook is the modern day equivalent, demonstrating how even the most disturbed among us are healed when we love, when we have the courage to open up and receive love. It is truly the last original magic in each of us. Find yours.