Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred.
A Course in Miracles
As we begin the fast approach to the holidays, I have started to think about what causes the most anxiety for people when they think about hanging out with those family members that may drive them crazy. Growing up we have many experiences that are interpreted by the child mind. During our younger years it is difficult for us to understand other people’s behavior without making it mean something about us. This is a large tenant of my coaching work. It is the whole reason we develop shame from certain experiences and try to cover up our truth, limiting the joy we are able to experience when we grow older.
One way we move on from those experiences and put an end to our attachment to not only our judgment of ourselves, but also the judgment of others is through forgiveness and compassion, which in turn come from developing a new point of view (which can be very difficult). A big tenant for me in the development of a new point of view has to do with the understanding that what someone does has nothing to do with our interpretation of it. But the meaning we place on others’ actions contributes to our attachment and continued belief that there is a separate self. All in all, it contributes to our suffering and prevents us from embracing not only our fullest potential, but seeing the fullest potential in the world around us.
It could play out like this- Charlie Brown is invited to be the director of the Christmas Pageant because he feels depressed due to the holidays by his antagonistic friend Lucy. He embraces his role as director and is asked to get a big, shiny aluminum tree- maybe even painted pink! When he is exploring the trees with his best friend Linus, he finds a little one that looks like it needs a little love (which is what Charlie Brown feels like too- projection, anyone? anyone?) Thus begins the plight of the “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree.”
When Charlie brings his tree back to the theater to show all his “friends”, everyone reacts badly to his choice- meaning, they react in a way that makes Charlie feel really sad inside. Charlie takes his little tree and tries to decorate it on his own, give it a little love. But in his attempt he concludes that maybe his tree really isn’t strong enough after all and abandons his little tree (projection again, anyone?). When Charlie’s friends find the tree, they decide that the tree was not that bad after all, and they whip it up into shape with colorful lights, ornaments and Linus’s trusty blanket.
When Charlie Brown first felt rejected by his friends due to their reaction to his little tree, he had a choice to see that maybe their reaction was just about a tree and had nothing to do with him. That their reaction was simply a reaction, but his vulnerability and feelings of holiday anxiety gave way to an interpretation based in fear. In essence, nothing really occurred in that moment but the meaning he placed on their reaction created more suffering for him. When we place a meaning on someone’s actions, we also give our power away to them. In the end, Charlie saw his tree standing strong and illuminated by everyone’s love. As everyone sang around the tree, he sang and felt joy. Everything he felt about that tree was a projection regarding what he already felt about himself. His interpretations all came back to him and his self perception.
No one really does anything to us- it is our interpretation that makes it something. Our interpretation is rooted in our self perception and how we are feeling at that moment in time- powerless, vulnerable, sad- even happy. No one can hurt us, we simply say their actions hurt us, and thus reconciliation within must take place. That reconciliation is forgiveness. Let joy into your heart through this reconciliation and new awareness so we can all find ourselves singing around Charlie’s illuminated tree without the perceived separated self!