Last night I took my son to see the Smashing Pumpkins in Charlotte, NC. As a guitarist, it was a dream of his to see Billy Corgan do what only Billy Corgan can do on a guitar. As a music fan myself, I love that my son favors cool music, and, I love doing this kind of thing with him.
The Pumpkins first came to my attention in the early nineties. I must admit at that time I was not so much a fan. I was primarily listening stuff from 10-20 years earlier. It’s probably been in the last 5 years that I’ve really come to appreciate them. Not only because of some great songs, but because I love to see a guy my age enjoying what he does…hat-tip to you Billy Corgan.
But, I write less about the band, or the songs, and more about an experience. About two-thirds of the way into the show, something began to happen inside me. It was during what I would have considered a b-side song; sure I’d heard it. It was released twenty years ago, but I couldn’t tell you the name. Yet, during the song, I kept having images in my mind of something that had happened in the early nineties. It was a painful memory. One I would have said I had forgotten…apparently not.
Years ago, I would have just quickly tried to change what I was thinking about and reminded myself, “Hey, you are at a concert! This is supposed to be fun!” That’s a good thing to do if I were just being distracted from the moment by life’s chatter, but it was obvious I wasn’t just thinking about needing to cut my grass after a week of rainy weather.
There was something in the mix in the associations with the nineties song, the smell of Clove Cigarettes and beer, and the hairstyles of the people around me that triggered this memory. I realized that I had not forgotten about this old event, but rather, I buried it. It came up for a reason; I needed to deal with it.
I’ve known for a very long time it is not good to bury things. The effects tend to stick with us and leak out later in other places. But despite understanding this, I still practiced a lot of burying, calling it “forgiving.” Calling something by a different name doesn’t make it any different however.
I’ve gotten better at truly forgiving over the years, especially the last five. What does it look like? Well, for starters it involves a recognition that I haven’t forgiven. Trust me, that is a huge step!
Second, I often never processed the emotion of a painful event, just stuffed it down so I could move on quickly. And, we can’t forgive any deeper than we are aware of the pain. So, for me, forgiving involves feeling the emotion associated with the event; all of them. Just acknowledging the emotions is healing in itself.
Third, and this is crucial, I must take responsibility for my thoughts. There is no use blaming other people; that only perpetuates a victim mentality. People are messed up and do and say things that hurt us from time to time; that is part of life. I do it, you do it…so we really aren’t any better than those who hurt us. Watch out for judgment against others, “as you judge, so will you be judged…what you give, so shall you receive.”
Fourth, I must take responsibility for my actions. I need to be mindful of any vows I may have made in the past from the event like, “I’ll never speak to ______ again,” or, “I’ll never give of myself fully to that person again.” I’m not suggesting there aren’t people or events we should not want to be near again, for there surely are. But, we must be mindful of these kinds of vows. I can’t really make them about one person or one event because they spill over into every relationship and every event. Despite my best attempts, I’m really not that good at compartmentalizing my heart; neither are you. If I’ve made a vow like this, I take the time to break it through prayer, visualization, and yes, even a phone call if necessary.
Fifth, I must learn from the event. I usually ask, “What part of me shut down because of this event? What would my life be like if that part of me were open again? Would I enjoy life more because of it? Would I be more truly me?” The answers always come and they are usually not very complicated. Here, I try to feel the emotion of operating in wholeness; that is very powerful.
How do I know if I’ve truly moved through to forgiving? Simple…if I can think of the event and no longer feel the emotional angst associated with it, begin to feel gratitude for learning from it, and blessing toward the person or circumstance that I reacted to. How do I know if I’m moving towards wholeness? Simple…when I can interact with the person (or people like the person) without judgement or emotional angst; when I’m operating out of my heart rather than a self-protective False Self.
How long can it take to forgive? It can take a while, but my own life experience suggests to me that it is because I am not yet completely aware of how deeply something affected me. Often, and more so with practice, it can happen as quickly as a b-side Smashing Pumpkins song (about 12 minutes). It did for me last night, in the midst of a crowd, loud music, and my foot tapping through it all.
So, be mindful when you are out and about…it is no coincidence a song, a smell, or a hairstyle brings up certain memories. These things are coming back up because it is time to deal with them; your future depends on it.
I am an Anglican Priest, an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach (ACC), and Certified Spiritual Director (CSD). My mission is simple: I help people discover who God created them to be…and how to get there.
If you have any questions, including how to begin a Christian Life Coaching or Spiritual Direction relationship with me, please feel free to contact me.