“Anger is like flowing water.
There’s nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow.
Hate is like stagnant water; anger that you denied yourself the freedom to feel, the freedom to flow; water that you gathered in one place and left to forget.
Stagnant water becomes dirty, poisonous, deadly.” – @cjoybellc
If hate is stagnant toxic water, forgiveness is the clearing of stagnant water. It is what unclogs the drain, or dammed up water and allows it to flow and pass through. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow people to continue to inflict harm, it doesn’t mean we stand in harms way, it doesn’t mean they do not have to be accountable for the harm they have inflicted. It simply means we have developed understanding about why they behaved in a certain way, and acceptance of what has already happened occurred. It means we chose understanding over resentment.
It is through understanding that we can begin to clear the stagnant water of anger within.
We can choose to further this inner clearing by shifting forgiveness into compassion. Compassion means we take that understanding to the next level and we begin to understand the conditions through which one created harm. These conditions may be systemic, they may be part of a large social indoctrination. Often times when we look at the larger picture we find that even the perpetrator of harm, has also been harmed by the larger system they have participated in.
Compassion practices take us our from the contracted state of our hurt and help us to expand and see beyond the stagnant pool. These practices give us a birds eye view to see the whole river and everything blocking the path.
I want to reiterate, this does not mean we stand in the way of harm – through this deep understanding we may develop boundaries to protect ourselves. This may look like boundaries - restricting time spent together, or an adjustment to how energy is exchanged or how communication happens, or ceasing contact. Boundaries can be an act of self-compassion and love.
Compassion practices teach us to release the resentment, anger, hatred, or disgust we hold close to our hearts - the stuff which becomes toxic to us. Compassion practices are for ourselves, not for the offender. They help us stay open to and imagine new possibilities even when we've been hurt or hopeless in the past.
In this way our pain is transmuted into boundaries, and the boundaries are like the rocks in the river that water flows around. The pain has space to move, to flow through us, rather than stagnating into toxic pools within us. The rocks may create a bit of temporary roughness but the water never pools up and becomes stagnant - in the end the river still arrives at the sea.