What’s in your baggage

What’s in your baggage? Examining the dynamics of forgiveness.

February 26, 2020

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in the past five years is that, as I’ve come to discover, everyone carries baggage but not everyone keeps it full.

Baggage, as we commonly understand it, are the unpleasant things – slights, hurts, humiliation, embarrassment, shame, grudges, resentment, sin – that we suffer along the journey that is life. Some of us walk around severely hindered by the weight of our baggage but without noticing it (which is a discovery in itself!). There’s a way to empty our baggage that is accessible to us all the time: forgiveness.

The First Force of Forgiveness: It’s not About You

Every day we get deposits added to our baggage (sometimes made by ourselves!), and every day we can let them go. I want to emphasize this: For better or worse, accept that the baggage will get its share of deposits every day of the year! Each evening, take account of the deposits, and then bid them farewell.

Why? Because the toxic stew that lives in the backpack is not about you.

The deposits made into the backpack are not a reflection on you and they’re certainly not about who you are. They are very much about the person who dispenses them, and they are a reflection on that person’s state of mind, heart, soul (sad to say it, but sometimes that person can be our inner critic, our rebellious selves). Which says a lot about their need for mercy and forgiveness (and our need for self-compassion and repentance).

The Second Force of Forgiveness: It’s Free and Abundant

Forgiveness is a free gift we give ourselves and others, and one we are meant to give in abundance, without restraint.

Counter-intuitive, right? My mom has always had a tempestuous relationship with her sisters. A few years ago, she told me she was not ready “yet” to forgive this one particular sister for the years of misery and injury she had inflicted on my young mother. The thing is, unbeknownst to her, my mother was the only person in this dyad holding on to those injuries, keeping score, and remembering what happened long, long ago in the unlikely hope that this “wait” would make her sister either suffer a long time before claiming her forgiveness or suffer the humiliation of having to ask for forgiveness.

My mother was not aware that the real reason why she was withholding forgiveness was to make her sister pay her back. However, I knew it. I was sad to recognize the very place where my mother stood because I had recently truly forgiven her for the injuries she caused me so long ago. After struggling with the exact painful wait and equally ineffective payback my mother was lugging around all those years, I was elated to share some good news with her.

The Third Force of Forgiveness: Moving on Is a Choice You Can Make Right Now

The good news is that I, and my mother, and anyone withholding forgiveness (which is, by the way, another way of saying “refusing to let go of the baggage’s poisonous contents”) is always waiting alone for nothing at all, which makes waiting a misguided choice, which means we can change our minds and hearts now, at this very moment, and choose to let go and move on!

After all, isn’t that a common denominator among those who hurt us? They (and in our worst days, ourselves included) seem to move on so easily and so unencumbered by guilt or remorse from the damage caused… Why is that? Perhaps it’s because of what we’ve established – that it’s not about us, which is a very good reason not to waste any day, any hour, any minute lugging baggage around!

The Fourth Force of Forgiveness: Nothing Can Prevent You from Being Whole, Unless You Let It

At the end of each day, you can examine your baggage and empty it out, seeing its contents for what they truly are: mementos from souls tortured first and foremost by pride (remembering that very often we can inflict self-injury). What a waste of human potential for all involved! These unwelcome, unhealthy mementos do not define us, do not reflect us, do not alter the course of our character (though perhaps they do, for the better, if we actively practice forgiveness!).

Baggage cannot saddle you because there is nothing any person (your inner critic included) can say or do to you that has staying power over you. Nothing can separate you from redemption, from being whole.

The road to redemption, to wholesomeness, is paved in forgiveness. It is my hope that this perspective can encourage you and strengthen your footing as you move through your day. Do not let your soul be troubled with second things. Hold on to the knowledge of who you are. You are lovely. Stay lovely and light. Practice forgiveness.

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