A Guide to Forgiveness (By a Witch Who Sucks at Forgiving):

A Guide to Forgiveness (By a Witch Who Sucks at Forgiving): August 22, 2018

Lately on the Facebook feeds, a video about forgiveness which, although it’s from a Christian pastor, has been making waves in Pagan circles.  The bolt-cutter image is wonderful. I’ve been working with this image in my meditations. Sometimes it works better than others. I have a long way to go.

I suck at forgiving. 

If you bullied me in the third grade, guess what? I’m still mad at you. Did you give one of my books a scalding Goodreads review? I have analyzed all the weak arguments in all of your blog posts. I hold grudges the way a Krispy Kreme holds transfats.

Most other religions have philosophies on forgiveness, but Witches do not. I think this is an area where we need collective growth. Instead of constantly sending hexes back and forth or engaging in Bitchcraft, maybe we could all work on forgiveness?

And by we, I mean me. If you feel the same way, here are a few things I’ve learned…

How To Forgive (by a Witch who sucks at Forgiving):

 

Grudges don’t protect us–they weaken us.

Years ago, I offered a workshop at a conference, one in which participants had to pay an additional fee to attend. I was a new author and excited to share my work. A very famous author offered a workshop of the same content at the same time slot. He was so angry at the “competition” that he offered his workshop for free. However, I was so new, I was no real competition for him. His audience surely would have outnumbered mine, but because he did not charge and I did, his workshop was overfull and only one person attended mine.

I didn’t speak to him for years. When he approached me at conferences, I walked away. When he commented on my posts online, I replied with something curt.  Eventually, a friend called me out. “What he did was unkind, but by holding this grudge for so long, you’re not being the bigger person in this situation.”

What he did was unkind. New authors need to be supported, not “squashed.” Maybe he was feeling insecure? I’ll never know. But it was on me to either address the situation or let it go, instead of grumbling off into the distance.

My grudge did not undo what he had done, but it made me feel pretty awful for a long while. It had weakened me, not strengthened me. 

We’re mad because we’re hurt.

I had a friend for many years, “Jan,” whom I used to see for readings and Magickal advice. One day, she sent me a scathing email, accusing me strange things. When I asked for clarification, she got meaner. Later, I learned she’d been sharing my readings with others and publicly criticizing me and my work. I was heartbroken and honestly, still am. The hurt turned to anger and the anger to vitriol. I hated Jan. But hate is exhausting and I wanted to let it go, yet I couldn’t find my way out of it. Every time I tried to forgive her, I would remember how she’d betrayed me and I’d get angry again.

Brigid said, You’re angry because you’re hurt and because deep down, you still love your friend which makes the hurt even deeper. Can you find a way to remember that love? 

I sighed. I listed all of the things I loved–and still love–about my former friend. And I found myself thinking this as loudly as though Jan were standing in front of me: Jan, I valued you as a friend. But you didn’t want my friendship and that’s your right. I want all of the best things for you, but I won’t be part of your life anymore.

While I can’t promise that anger won’t return when I next see Jan at a party, it has a weaker grip on me, now.

By honoring the hurt, I found a tunnel to forgiveness. 

Often times, others don’t even realize they’ve hurt us.

For many years, I gave a lot of time, counsel, patience, and second (and third, and fourth, and fifth) chances to a consistently disruptive Covener.  When I finally drew a firm, non-negotiable line about her behavior, she emailed me to say she was leaving the Coven. Almost immediately, she posted on social how happy she was to have left, how her life was improved, and more.

That hurt. I thought about how many times she’d cried in my arms, found joy in my rituals, fun in our Coven gatherings. Leaving improved her life? Was the time I’d given her worth nothing? For a long time, every time I saw her picture, I felt the hurt again. One night, before I went to bed, I asked the Gods to find a way to help me let that pain go. The next morning, a voice in my head said, “She has no fucking clue.” The voice was right. She had no idea how much energy went into being her High Priestess, and she certainly didn’t know how much that little Facebook comment (which she likely forgot about posting, almost immediately) had hurt me. Maybe she forgot I had feelings? People do forget that.

Unkind? Yes. Unfair? Yes, at least I think so. But was she aware of it? Nope. And never would be. Forgiveness comes easier when we remember that most of the people who hurt us have no friggin’ clue. 

Waiting for “Karma”? Guess what? It’s none of your business.

I took my piss-poor attitude to the Morrigan when I heard my name was getting dragged by someone who used to be a friend. “She’s going to get hers, right?” The Morrigan was like, Lol. Sure. Maybe. But guess what? Her life lessons are none of your business. The only person whose lessons you need to worry about in this situation are yours.” I ended my meditation to go throw rocks at trees, but She was right. Witches focus so much on “karma” (and most Witches’ understanding of Karma is pretty nill, by the way….) that we forget that what other people are supposed to be learning from our ugly situations involves us not at all.

Which sucks, I know. But understanding this has kept me from refreshing that friend’s Facebook feed, wondering when she’s going to publicly comment that someone else dragged her name and now she knows how it feels.

Maybe it will happen. Maybe it won’t. But either way, it’s none of my business. It’s none of my business. It’s none of my business. 

Next up: How to Forgive Ourselves for the Dumb Shit We’ve done in the Past!

Est. publication: August 23, 2128.

Well, I do hope to figure that our sooner. I’ll get there. Eventually.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Danielle Williams

    This type of public real look at the most imperfect parts of ourselves is very brave and this article was personally really helpful to me. So I just wanted to thank you for sharing.

  • Unlabeled_Unlimited

    Thank you for this.
    The best description, for me, is that not forgiving is like drinking poison everyday yet expecting the other to die.
    I’m at the end of a long, horrible choice, of a marriage.
    I was so broken, so hurt, so disillusioned that for years I hated my husband.
    I have had to forgive, and bless, him to even begin my plan to leave.
    This dimension is so weird.
    Blessings to you for sharing.

  • I keep what I call sh-t lists. Only a few people have managed to get on my lifetime list though. (Which means that for one reason or another, I have banished them from my life, sometimes with a mirror spell.) Several have made the one year or one month list. (which means, I’m pissed at them, but I will get over it.)

    The key is to not hold the anger inside. The sooner you heal yourself, the faster you can take action to right the wrong.

  • WildestSea

    Ouch, yes I am rather vengeful and unforgiving too, and yes it’s not helpful, it ruins my day my energy and the culprit is enjoying her/his live in the meantime, cursing and hexing may hurt them but that rarely solves anything. Reminding myself that my unforgiving stance is counterproductive for ME and not for them, helps me to start working on forgiving, but it’s hard. A little voice in me keeps complaining “it’s so unfair” and I have to remind it that it doesn’t matter, fair or unfair it doesn’t do me any good to stay mad.

  • Termagant

    We must also remember that some people simply do not deserve our forgiveness. And while this may be true, it does not mean that this non-forgiveness must eat us alive. It is possible to refuse to extend the gift of forgiveness and still go on to lead one’s own life in peace, prosperity (both spiritual and monetary), and contentment.