Forgiveness and Radical Acceptance: Letting go of the hope that the past can be any different


Iyanla Vanzant, one of my favorite life coaches and teachers on the planet, has explained that forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different than it is.

I remember when I first heard her say this on Oprah's Lifeclass and how heavy and real it felt. It came into my consciousness today when I noticed myself struggling with the dialectic of wanting to harshly judge a relative at the same time that I wanted to extend compassion to her.

I realized that Iyanla's words -- letting go of the HOPE -- is exactly what I needed to do. At least in this case. I identified with the nostalgic memories of being a child and then the wishing that many aspects of that experience could be changed: I wished I had a more validating home environment. I wish my parents loved each other and that my father was not abusive.  I wished my mother didn't turn to alcoholism.  The list goes on.  By giving up the HOPE that these things can be any different than they are, that they are deep in my past, already done, never to be revisited again, I free myself.

I also free those people who I have considered offenders. I don't approve of what they did, but I accept that they also cannot go back and right their wrongs. They can't go back in the many ways that they wish they could re-do parts of their lives. And neither can their parents. Or their parents.  Acknowledging this helps me to tap into compassion.

This experience has also helped me to look at the fact that I have done things in my life that others may be thinking about now and affected by -- and not all in a positive way.  To anyone out there for which this may be true, I am so very sorry. May you receive the healing you need, and may my apology reach your heart if I am not able to apologize to you face-to-face.

Having had Borderline Personality Disorder since I was in my early twenties, undiagnosed and with no idea of how to stop my angry and self-destructive behavior, I didn't have the tools and reason that I do now.  

That's where a lot of people are right now: lacking in tools. The same is true of our past selves and those who were in our lives at that time.

I never thought I'd say this, but in this particular case, when it comes to radically accepting the past, I encourage you to "let go of the hope."


Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post, that's great advice. I wish I could do as simply as it sounds. Right now I'm in the process of finding out exactly WHAT happened in my past with my family (there's been a lot of drama and lies and I can't figure out who is telling me the truth, they hid all the details from me) but I'm hoping once I know what really happened, I can accept it and move on. But I think my first step is to find out exactly WHAT I'm trying to accept.

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