You have heard that every buried treasure has a snake guarding it. Kiss the snake to discover the treasure! ~ Rumi
One of the questions that continuously crops up in my consulting practice is, "How do we know when we have really forgiven someone?"
There is a tendency to intellectualize that we have forgiven when in fact, we have yet to let go whole-heartedly. As a result, all that we accomplish is to rationalize away all of our personal power when it would serve us so much more effectively to face ourselves in the mirror. Moreover, when we superficially forgive someone, there remains a powerful residue of resentment that causes a negative thought stream to arise, seemingly out of nowhere, when we least expect it. If the bitterness is buried deeply enough, the unhealed wound might even play out in a dream. Likewise, those of us who have done shadow work understand that an unresolved issue often exhibits itself in dysfunctional and secretive behavioral patterns that lead to further guilt and shame. Sadly, this approach merely aggravates and delays the forgiveness process.
It is only when we allow the hurt feelings to surface that they can be fully healed in the light of clarity, openness and acceptance. Furthermore, we must be prepared to continue this exercise of meeting ourselves as often as necessary with steadfast patience and undying courage. It is a blessed moment when we grasp that we can only resolve a memory of suffering, conflict or betrayal when we befriend it and completely embrace it. From this vantage point, and with honesty and appreciation, we realize that every life event is a gift. We also discover that the treasure, which the snake is guarding, is our very freedom. Blissfully, the instant that we are willing to kiss the snake, we affirm with our entire being that we have truly released the past once and for all.