One of my readers emailed me last week to let me know how last weeks blog (No More Poison!) had caused him to think about things differently. He jokingly (I think) asked me what I was going to challenge him to give up this week. As I was thinking about this and listening to some people around me this week, I realized that one of the other things we need to get rid of in our lives are our whips. If I asked most people if they enjoyed being whipped, most people would say no. If I asked them if they would voluntarily whip themselves, most people would still say no. Yet why is it that we are good at whipping ourselves.
Now I know there are some people who have a whip for reasons that are more related to personal forms of self expression, but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about how some of us whip ourselves repeatedly for mistakes we made years ago. When we are not whipping ourselves, we are whipping others. As someone I know once shared with me, his wife does not get hysterical; she gets historical.
We have all done things of which we are not proud. Maybe you were not there for a friend when they needed you to be or maybe you made a decision that hurt others. Sometimes what has happened in our past can leave us feeling shame, guilty, and worthless. Some of us have carried these feelings around with us for years. The problem is that we do not just carry them around with us; we beat ourselves up for them repeatedly. We keep ourselves imprisoned in a jail cell of our own making, whipping ourselves for the actions of our past.
However, what we do not seem to get is that there is a difference between taking responsibility and embodying guilt and shame. When we take responsibility, we hold ourselves accountable for our actions and the consequences of them. We are intentional about making changes in our life and moving forward knowing we have made peace with our past.
As long as we are holding on to the whip of guilt and shame, we are not able to set ourselves free. We keep ourselves imprisoned in a cycle of self-abuse. We feel guilty about something and so we punish ourselves and then we keep repeating the cycle, because we have never broken the cycle. So we keep whipping ourselves. At times we even give others permission to whip us because we do not feel as if we are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.
When we take the time to reflect on our role in creating a situation or event, then we lay the whip down. We continue the process of spiritual evolution. We are not only able to forgive others, but more importantly ourselves. In the process, we set us both free to move on with a deeper understanding of self and the Creator.
When I first began studying Toltec wisdom, the teachings about forgiveness made me realize that my traditional thinking on forgiveness actually kept the whip in my hand, rather then taking it out of my hand. What I learned was that the original meaning of the word forgiveness means to reject the giving. Giving something to the one we think we have wronged does not move us forward in our evolution. Nor does someone giving us something, if we think they have wronged us, move us forward.
Giving out of guilt does not lead to forgiveness; it keeps the whip in one’s hand. True forgiveness is an inside job. It means we have to learn from the situation, grow because of it, and resolve any feelings we might have about it, so that we might move forward. Life is all about the journey and learning all that we can from every experience. As Meg Christian once sang, “Great wisdom through painful experience is an inside job.” as we lay the whip down, we should be asking ourselves "What has this taught me? What lessons can I learn: about myself, about others and about my life? How can I use this new knowledge to change my thinking and behavior and help others avoid the same trap?"
When we reject the giving, we reject the whip and we receive valuable lessons about ourselves, others, and the Creator that will assist us in our life journey.