by Britta Reque-Dragicevic
This first appeared in Britta’s blog, “Life After War” on February 16, 2014, and is republished with the author’s permission.
First off, let me tell you this: forgiveness is a human issue. Not just a God one. There is ample discussion of forgiveness in religion and many sources to find those discussions. Instead of diving into theological viewpoints, I’m going to bring it all down to one fact:
We are all of One Source.
One Entity. The human Spirit is carried in physical bodies. You don’t have to believe in a religion to sense this. Nor do you have to alter your religious viewpoint. For our purposes here, what matters is that you realize that when you are seeking forgiveness from God or in your faith or from another person, what you are actually seeking is to feel accepted despite the actions you sense were wrong.
The question “can I be forgiven?” is a desire to feel that you are still worth loving and loveable, even though you’ve done something that you believe is against God/against another soul/against your own moral code. You can call your actions “sin” or not. Labels here don’t matter. What you feel is a sense that you do not belong, that you’re not worthy, that you can’t be embraced by Love as fully as others can. You feel cut off from God, from others, and from yourself. And often, you feel so drenched in guilt that it begins to consume your sense of identity. What you feel responsible for becomes who you feel you are. And you punish yourself by not allowing yourself to step into Compassion. Life and living become a constant effort to cut yourself off from anything that might be “too good for you to deserve.”
Wherever you are along the line of guilt, shame, and longing for a sense of forgiveness, you need to know that there is Love for you. So let this article wrap you in a Love you’re not sure exists for you and, even if it’s only for a moment, allow your heart to be held by a Grace you do not fully believe in yet.
Why do you feel the need to be forgiven?
A good part of your mind knows that everything you had to do in combat, you had to do. You were doing your job, doing it well. Your job was to kill the enemy and protect your own. Your job was to follow ROEs. You did your job. There’s no debating that.
What comes up sometimes is how you feel about the job you did. The factors thrown in that tug at your human heart and more importantly, at your warrior’s soul. Questions like: did I do enough? Could I have done something more? Would this person still be here if I had? Those are questions that can lead to doubt, guilt, and shame.
The sense that you need to be forgiven comes from a deep, instinctual place. And this is where warriors get stuck. Three elements intertwine:
1) What you believe about moral/ethical behavior
2)The moral/ethical behavior you experienced as reality
3) Your innate spiritual nature as a being Of Life
Let’s start with what you believe.
You grew up with a sense of right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable behaviors. These depend on your parents, your childhood environment, any traumas you endured, and your affiliation with religion/faith. You have your own sense of what’s right and wrong. And you took that with you into combat.
But what did you experience?
Your own beliefs were put up against forces that confirmed and contradicted them. You saw, heard, felt, and did things that crossed or questioned your own boundaries. What you were so certain of before became murky. Some things felt right. Some things did not. Experience changed things. You lost buddies you believed could have been saved, you may have had to consider children as the enemy and kill them, and you saw many injustices by people you expected injustice from and many from those you did not. What was right and what was wrong blurred fast.
In this spiritual chaos, the big picture gets experienced in the precise moments that eat away at the heart. Not having said goodbye. A last word that didn’t convey how much someone mattered to you. Someone else dying, having been where you were meant to be, but weren’t. The look in a child’s eyes. A family wiped out in a vehicular crash. What you didn’t know or do, couldn’t have known or done, but really believe you should have. And the things you did but know you shouldn’t have.
Then we have your innate spiritual nature as a being Of Life.
As a warrior, it’s honorable to kill, not hard to kill, and you may even miss killing. But every time you took a life your soul broke a bit somewhere deep inside. Why? Because as humans we are Of Life. It is our natural instinct to defend life, even when defending life means taking it from others. As part of humanity, you can’t escape your essential nature as a Breath-bearer. Or the instinctive knowledge that taking life separates you from feeling spiritually accepted.
So, the sense that you need to be forgiven comes from a combination of all of these things. And at the core, it stems from your beliefs about yourself, what is right/wrong, and your own power to control things.
Who can forgive you?
I believe that as beings Of Life, we are also Of Love. And that this Love is greater than all the doctrines of all religions. I believe we come from Love and return to Love. We ARE Love, even though we don’t always remember that too well while we’re here on earth. Who can forgive you depends on your beliefs.
But beliefs about God and religion are just that: beliefs. They are the thoughts you choose to believe as truth. There is no evidence of them except for the echo in your being that those beliefs resonate with you. Who can forgive you ultimately, comes down to: You.
If you believe that God can forgive you, you must still be the one to accept that Thought as Truth. You are the one who accepts forgiveness — whether it’s from a Deity or another person — the power to feel forgiven is completely and only within your power. For example, if you are a Christian, you must accept (i.e., choose to believe the thought) that God forgives you for your sins in order to feel forgiven. Christians will tell you that you are forgiven whether you feel it or not. But what good is being forgiven if you don’t feel that you are??
You hold the key to your own freedom from guilt and shame. Whether that is through embracing a religious faith or changing the beliefs you have about what it is to be human.
How do you set yourself free and feel forgiven?
Feelings come from beliefs. Beliefs are thoughts that you keep thinking and accepting as truth. Thoughts and feelings can be changed. Religions talk about grace and forgiveness by God, but those are relatively easy to accept mentally. What they do not teach you is: How do you forgive yourself or feel forgiven when God forgives you?
I’m not going to make light of how hard this is. I’m not going to say that it’s just a matter of changing your thoughts and poof! you feel forgiven. It’s not. What is at stake here is an entirely deeper way of looking at yourself, a more human way than most of us ever venture to explore. It takes seeing yourself with Love, Compassion, and Grace. It takes looking at yourself as you would look at a loved one who had been through everything you had with the same results. It takes humility to admit and accept that in those circumstances you were powerless or not in control. But what it really takes is looking deeply at your intention.
Did you intend for what happened to happen? A good majority of the time guilt comes from our sense of powerlessness and our inability to accept that we were not able to change events. It comes from holding onto a belief that we should have/could have — when the reality is, everything combined in that moment, including forces beyond your control, and what happened, happened.
On a spiritual level, you also have the other person’s soul at play – and you do not know what decisions those souls made about when/where they would leave earth, or what they came here to experience. Or how their lives were meant to interact with yours and in some way, end up blessing you and themselves with the Love of Acceptance.
And what if you did intend for what happened to happen and now you feel guilty?
Couldn’t it be that the lessons for your heart are the same but in reverse? A deep humility that acknowledges your power and the control you had? A sense that there is a greater purpose for what you did and the lives you changed, and perhaps that purpose is to receive the Love of Acceptance?
People can tell you you’re forgiven and accepted, but as long as you keep believing that you’re not, their words won’t make any difference. Read that again.
No matter what happened, it’s what you choose to believe that keeps you feeling what you are feeling. You need to understand that you own the power to feel forgiven — even if the other person cannot forgive you. Forgiveness is not declaring what is wrong to be right. Forgiveness is about getting unstuck from a moment in life that keeps you from growing and moving on as a human being. Ultimately, it’s about coming back to where we started: we are all of One Source. Our transgressions against each other, and our acceptance of each other is all within the same Oneness. And there is a rich, deep well of grace for us as Us.
Thoughts to Explore
It is easier to talk about this than to do the work to reach a point where you can feel forgiven. It requires the time the soul needs to remember that Grace is how we humbly continue living when our own hearts convict us the harshest.
It’s also important to remember that you keep yourself cut off from Love as a way to punish yourself. Self-hatred, self-rejection, self-disgust — these keep you unable to accept Good in your life, to feel Love, to allow yourself to receive Love from others.
As you ponder forgiveness, here are some thoughts to explore:
1) Imagine that someone you really love has been through what you have. How would you feel about that person? Would you be able to see them with compassion? Would you be able to see that they are more than just what happened or what they did?
2) What would it mean if you could know that those you killed or who died because of you have nothing but Love for you now?
3) What if you could know that someday, because of what happened, blessing would come in some way you cannot imagine now?
4) How will holding yourself apart from acceptance do anything to make things right?
5) When you return to the Spirit World, and you are embraced in Love, will you regret that you held yourself accountable to a sense of judgment that no one, including God, holds you accountable for??
Please know that even if you cannot feel it, you are held in Love. You can deny that, you can not allow yourself to feel it, but you cannot change it. Love is there for you.
It’s okay to allow yourself to respond to it.