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Audacious with Chion Wolf: Transcript for 'Forgiveness: How we define it and how it defines us'

Audacious with Chion Wolf
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Chion Wolf  00:00

This episode originally aired two years ago.

Montage of voices  00:04

Forgiveness is empathy. / Forgiveness is not giving any more energy to something that holds you back. / Forgiveness is the moment that my heart and my mind reach equilibrium. / In me, forgiveness is silence. / Forgiveness is changing the sentence from, 'They did that to me' to, 'They did that to themself.' / Forgiveness is really all about letting go of the pain and giving it to your higher power. / Letting go is how you become lion meat.

Chion Wolf  00:37

From Connecticut Public Radio in Hartford, this is Audacious. I'm Chion Wolf. Most people can't agree on what the word forgiveness means. So if we don't know what it means, how are we supposed to, you know, do it? To make it even more slippery, the definition of forgiveness changes depending on where you are in the timeline of being hurt. I mean, how you define forgiveness can be very different from the day someone blows up your life to 15 years down the line when the dust has long been settled. I'm at the early stage of pondering the definition and the utility of forgiveness. Last July, just nine months into our marriage, my wife said she wanted to pursue parenthood, something we agreed was not part of the plan from day one. And we reaffirmed it throughout our relationship. It was shocking and devastating. But I told her I was so proud of her for making this hard choice. And I forgave the 10s of 1000s of dollars I lent her while she was in school, because after all, if she was going to be a parent, she would need all the resources she could get. So I helped her move out. And as we signed the divorce papers, we held hands and wept. But in the months leading up to this moment, we'd been having some strange conversations about her relationship to the woman who'd been living next door to us for three years. I'd been noticing some things like the time a text came up on her phone from the neighbor who was calling my wife 'baby'. I saw a single fern leaf from our garden, her favorite plant, in a vase on the neighbor's counter. And there were a lot of other little things that didn't make sense because my wife would never. And when I asked her about these things, she either came up with a plausible enough explanation, or she accused me of making it into something it wasn't. And I began wondering why I, at 41 years old, was suddenly becoming a jealous person because she would never. But then after she moved out, I found 54 hours of phone records, and one particularly damning Venmo transaction. And I asked her to call me. She admitted that not long after we got married, yes, she'd begun having an ongoing affair with the woman next door, during a pandemic. So currently, forgiveness is a word that tastes like blood in my mouth. Later you'll hear poet David Whyte reading his poem about the word, and Reverend Dr. Shelley Best tells a story of how she forgave her brother for spending her entire million-dollar inheritance. Robert Chelsea talks about whether or not he forgives the drunk driver who hit him and caused him to need a full face transplant. And you'll hear thoughts from Audacious listeners on what forgiveness means to them. Recently, I was sharing some sorrows over tea with one of my oldest and best friends, Sara Eyre. I knew we had to do a show about forgiveness when we were parsing through different definitions of the word. They said that for them forgiveness is taking the knife out of your own heart.

Sarah Eyre  03:54

Taking the knife out of my heart is understanding that regardless of the ills that were done, the evil that I see, the harm that I perceive, that each and every human being, regardless of what is happening, they are trying to do what they perceive in that moment as the best thing possible. That is a challenge to find compassion and understanding for the people who have created harm in their lives, in the lives of those that they care. That, that doesn't mean, that doesn't mean that I'm like doing that work for, you know, a decade or so and going out writing some invitations and being like, 'hey, we had a super painful relationship but I would love to have lunch,' because sometimes there are dynamics and just situations where people are not safe around one another, and that is not fixable. But that doesn't mean that you need to walk around and feeling that knife in your heart, that constant pain. You can release that. You can let go of that hurt, you can turn the anger that you have, that these things happen, into productive energy moving toward, I don't know, some legislation to make sure that these things don't happen or working in a charity to support the people that these things happen to, as opposed to thinking angrily or hurtingly, about the person who did it to you. Because that's not productive. It's not doing anything particluar in that moment. But you don't have to like go, 'I forgive you.' Because how much does that really matter? That's not, that's not relevant. What matters is just not feeling that way, that pain anymore. And as we sit around, trying to renegotiate our trauma, that's really all we're doing, is living in that pain. And I don't have time. I only have so many days, and I just don't have time to sit around wishing and wasting time.

Chion Wolf  06:14

Don't have time to waste time.

Sarah Eyre  06:15

No, I don't. There's only one direction, and it's forward. Only one way out of a hole, stop digging. And I think it's important just to look at when you're dealing with someone. How hurt are they?

Chion Wolf  06:29

And how aware of it are they?

Sarah Eyre  06:32

And where's, where's their fear coming from? How old is it? What is their context? It's not always the context of you.

Chion Wolf  06:41


Sarah Eyre  06:41

Oh, I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. Oh, it's so hurtful to realize that maybe the trauma that you endured had nothing to do with you. Oh, that sucks!

Chion Wolf  06:50

Oh, actually, that's a relief to consider. It

Sarah Eyre  06:53

It is, it is but complicated. That's a Buddhist perspective, not an American one. The big giant relief of it's not all about me. And matter of fact, almost nothing is - so against the way I grew up. Oh, God.

Chion Wolf  07:14

So did we figure out forgiveness for everybody?

Sarah Eyre  07:17

Oh, yeah. All right. I've got it unlocked. Now. I'm gonna start giving courses, donation-based, please bring muffins. Or I prefer...

Chion Wolf  07:26

Forgiveness muffins. Yeah. What flavor would that be?

Sarah Eyre  07:29

Um, actually, I'm interested to find out so we're leaving it open. What flavor are forgiveness muffins?

Chion Wolf  07:34

White chocolate chip orange.

Sarah Eyre  07:36

White chocolate chip orange. Okay, all right.

Chion Wolf  07:39

Orange zest.

Sarah Eyre  07:40

Ooh, yeah, orange zest for sure. I think for me, it's gonna be an apple spice.

Chion Wolf  07:46

Apple spice forgiveness muffins. After this conversation with Sarah Eyre, I thought I'd ask some Audacious listeners how they define forgiveness. And you know what? They did not disappoint.

Celest Benn  08:03

Forgiveness is not giving any more energy to something that holds you back. Forgiveness means moving forward and not revisiting the situation. And as I tell my kids, you dodged the bullet. And it's their loss, not yours. I think that's very, very true in today's world, because all the hiding behind social media, all the hiding behind crass talk, all the hiding in general, you couldn't hide years ago. Like I said, you have to forgive in order to let go and be better. And remember, you're doing yourself a big favor. Because you're so worth letting go. And giving forgiveness makes you the top dog, upper hand, etc.

Christian Cajar  08:49

I think there's levels of forgiveness, like there's the level where you're still smoldering, but you refuse to or don't let what happened bother you anymore. And you're not hung up on it when you're going about your day. But man, don't bump into them at the grocery store. Then there's the level where you can actually interact with the person and not be *bleep* but in your head you really want to be. Then there's the level where so much time has passed. It's like a waste of time to even have *bleep* thoughts or get derailed. Maybe you've actually forgotten. Maybe you haven't. But either way, it's a footnote. There's probably in-between levels mixed in there and you're always allowed to go back and forth between them. It's not a linear thing. I don't know, maybe this is less about forgiveness and more about moving on. I've always preferred letting forget take care of any outstanding forgives.

Jonatha Nathan  09:42

I define it like the dictionary. Forgiveness. Noun. The action or process of forgiving or being forgiven. When it comes to the process, that depends on the person and the situation. As you can see, almost no one sees it the same way. Some think it's for them, others think it's for the other person. The core of it all, from what I'm reading here is about grieving the loss, moving beyond the betrayal, and letting go of vengeance. It can be some grand compassionate gesture. But it can also be, *bleep*, this isn't worth my time. If that definition is accurate, you can even practice forgiveness without consciously doing it. Because when you find yourself no longer caring, it's happened. So with some reflection, forgiveness is finding that you have no more *bleep* to give about it. Anything less than that wouldn't be full forgiveness, just acts that aid in moving toward forgiving.

David Eric Zakur  10:40

Forgiveness is the moment that my heart and my mind reach equilibrium. It's my process. It's my timeline, and it's my end product. It's a totally selfish act. And it must be, I own it.

Lauren Incognito  10:52

To me, forgiveness is silence. It's nothingness. When we are wronged or betrayed that feeling of injustice consumes us. And anything we try to do, it permeates everything, trying to take a walk, socializing with friends, watching TV, even enjoying a cup of coffee. This distraction oozes into everything we do, and it takes us away from life. In time, hopefully, whether it's a month, or, for some, years, the chaos loses its voice, loses its power. The way I know I have forgiven myself or others is when my mind wanders back to some injustice and there is no chaos, no emotion. It's nothingness. This doesn't mean I've forgotten. It simply means the edges of anger had smooth and the chaos is gone. The memory is quiet, like breathing. And maybe that's all forgiveness is - learning and waiting, how to breathe quieter.

Ym Myla Neaj  11:45

Sometimes you have to give yourself forgiveness. In moments, circumstances and situations where you just can't get it. You can't have it. Someone can't give it to you. And not only can they not give it to you, they don't see any reason to actually apologize. And then you fall into these blanket apologies, these sorries with no understanding behind why they're apologizing. So you have to come upon some sort of closure for yourself. You have to close the book. I'm not sure if forgiveness can always be given. But sometimes I think it has to be taken and given to yourself.

Leslie Giordano  12:27

It is about letting the wound heal. So when you touch it, it doesn't hurt anymore. But it reminds you that you are a stronger and better person because of it. El perdón, el perdón es dejar que la herida y que cuando la toques no te duela mas, pero que te recuerde que eres una mejor persona y aún más fuerte por ella.

Chion Wolf  12:27

You heard the voices of Celeste Ben, Christian Cajar, Jonatha Nathan, David Eric Zakur, Lauren Incognito, Ym Myla Neaj, and Leslie Giordano. When we get back,

Rev. Dr. Shelley Best  13:09

I let go of the ideas of what my life would have been because I have gratitude about what my life is. And that's why I can truly forgive now.

David Whyte  13:19

The point comes where the other person or the other entity or the other country refuses to change. And you find that you're being held hostage by your refusal to move on yourself and to create a greater context.

Chion Wolf  13:35

A poet and a pastor on what forgiveness means to them. Plus, what forgiveness means to a man who needed a full face transplant after a drunk driver slammed into his car. Then stay tuned for my updated reflections on forgiveness two years after this episode originally broadcast. I'm Chion Wolf. This is Audacious. Stay with me. This is Audacious. I'm Chion Wolf. How do you define forgiveness? How does it define you? Reverend Dr. Shelley Best of Hartford has had her definition tested. About a million dollars was left in an estate in which her big brother was the executor. But as he struggled with drug addictions, he spent all the money. She said, 'I forgive you.' Because, you know, that's the Christian thing to do, but she didn't really cultivate any kind of meaningful relationship with him even after he had 35 years of sobriety - till the pandemic came.

Rev. Dr. Shelley Best  15:10

So in the pandemic, when everything got quiet, I had time to really reflect on my life. And I really started to see who really cared about me in the pandemic. And my brother was one of those people that called me regularly to check in and see how I was doing along with some other friends. And I realized, he loves me, he really loves me. And I love him, he was my best friend. And he's done a good job. And then what I realized for myself, my brother, in many ways, probably saved my life. Because if I had had that million dollars as a 20-year-old Shelley, I would not be here today, I would not be a minister, I probably would not be living this incredible life I'm living, because I might have been caught up in what would have happened to me as a naive person with a million dollars. And so I can say, through the pandemic, my brother and I have grown closer, I love him, there is nothing left in my heart that I'm holding against him, I want the very best for his life, I let go of the ideas of what my life would have been because I have gratitude about what my life is. And that's why I can truly forgive now, forgiveness is allowing that car that's parked in the parking lot of your mind to be towed away, and you no longer have to think about it. And so for me, that's the lesson of forgiveness.

Chion Wolf  16:32

I have a hard time figuring out how to think about forgiveness in the future. You know, when when things happen, that you can't really prepare yourself for, I mean, that's, that's sort of the crux of it. Like how do you possibly front-load forgiveness? Can you front-load forgiveness?

Rev. Dr. Shelley Best  16:47

What I'm finding, and I guess this is the lesson of time, the gift of gratitude in your life when you are grateful for your own life, right now, this moment, when you realize you have this opportunity called life, you're blessed in so many ways, the people that love you, when you really can wrap gratitude around your life, then you can let go of these ideas that we had of what life would have been, when you realize that this moment is precious and good. That didn't work out. But I've got this amazing life. And if I don't celebrate it and enjoy today, then I've really lost in many ways. I keep being reoffending because I'm not living every day, and I'm reoffending myself. Gratitude is the gift that allows you to have the fullness of life today. And forgiveness is a part of it. Let go. And my friends know that one of my favorite sayings is 'bless and release'. We've got to bless and release. So it's like, 'bless you. I love you,' and let it go.

Chion Wolf  17:55

Heavy on the blessings, and heavy on the release.

Rev. Dr. Shelley Best  17:59

Yes, and release.

Chion Wolf  18:04

Reverend Dr. Shelley Best, I'm grateful for you. Thank you so much.

Rev. Dr. Shelley Best  18:08

Chion Wolf, I'm grateful for you as well. Thank you.

Chion Wolf  18:18

Reverend Dr. Shelley Best is the CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council. Now let's hear some more from Audacious listeners. I asked people on the social medias how they define forgiveness. Here's some of what they sent.

Levi Lomasky  18:32

Forgiveness involves either acknowledging that the wrong has been righted or giving up one's claim to have that wrong righted. Hopefully, that step will also involve some kind of mental peace or clarity on the part of the aggrieved that allows them to move forward without the baggage that came with being wronged. I get the impression that this is what people expect from forgiveness. My suspicion though, is that peace and clarity can come without forgiveness. And that forgiveness can come with that peace and clarity.

Miriam Lexie  19:06

To me, forgiveness is when I reached my point in a journey of healing where I am able to see the other person who I felt wronged by as a flawed human being and recognize their humanity and that they make mistakes and are imperfect. Because I am done with the anger part of my own healing. To me, forgiveness doesn't mean forgetting. It doesn't mean that I excuse what happened or that I would allow it to happen again. But it means that I reached the point where I've gotten what I needed to from the anger and I'm able to release that completely because I no longer need to hold it.

Steven Meis  19:44

Forgiveness is changing the sentence from, 'They did that to me,' to, 'They did that to themself.' When people hurt you, I don't think it's often because you're weak or ugly or insecure. It's because the person doing it feels weak or ugly, or insecure.

Taixa Lenid  20:06

So when I think of forgiveness, I think of the act of letting go. So letting go of any resentment and the anger towards anyone that's done me wrong. And in doing so you find freedom to just focus on more positive things. I also think about forgiving yourself for anything that you may think are shortcomings or your failures. When you do that, you're kinder to yourself, and you won't look at yourself as a failure. Instead, you're you're learning from anything that you're doing. So just, you know, forgiveness, is just, it could be looked at many different ways.

LB Muñoz  20:42

Forgiveness is an abstract concept that people love to get all philosophical about and offer you endless platitudes. Letting go is how you become lion meat.

Andréa Hawkin  20:55

I really do believe forgiveness is really all about letting go of the pain and giving it to a higher power, like, as a gift, here you go. Right, and really releasing it, and just not letting it control you and make you feel a way about yourself. There is a saying by the Buddha that says, 'Holding on to anger is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die.' And I love that saying, I love the idea in that. And I do feel like it grounds me and helps me remember that when I'm angry. And when I'm holding on to something, that I'm the one that's suffering.

Carol Carson  21:47

I struggled with forgiveness for a long time, unwilling to forgive things that really are unforgivable. Learning that forgiveness is giving up the hope of having a better past helped me to see that forgiveness isn't absolution. What was wrong is still wrong. But it is past, I can't change it, only my acceptance of it.

Barbara Cunningham  22:09

When you forgive the betrayals, pains and wrongs others have done to you, they don't hurt you anymore. You stop thinking about them, unless you choose to recollect them. And when you do, all the emotional responses that were tied to the memories are gone. And oh, what a glorious feeling. But to forgive, you have to understand why the person hurt you in the first place. This isn't something that happens in the moment. Of course not. It's in the aftermath. When you're getting back up and dusting the dirt off yourself. You have to feel the rage, and the anger, and the hurt. You need those good cries first. But to truly forgive, you need to understand. Sometimes you'll never learn why. And it takes so much longer to get to the point where it stops hurting. Trying to understand why someone hurt you is hard. Oftentimes, you'll learn of something or someone that previously hurt them, an abusive parent, or a past lover who stomped all over their sense of self. Hard, soul-wrenching things are often learned. And it makes your forgiving bittersweet. You want to stay mad and angry for a bit. But you also can't help but feel some kind of compassion. Forgiveness is empathy. And that I think is the best form that forgiveness can take.

Chion Wolf  23:31

Those were the voices of Levi Lomasky, Miriam Lexie, Steven Meis, Taixa Lenid, LB Muñoz, Andréa Hawkin, Carol Carson, and Barbara Cunningham. After the break, poet David Whyte:

David Whyte  23:46

It not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, it actually draws us closer to it source.

Chion Wolf  23:53

And you'll hear some updated thoughts from me two years after this episode originally aired. I'm Chion Wolf, this is Audacious. Stay tuned. This is Audacious. I'm Chion Wolf. Today: Forgiveness, how we define it, and how it defines us. You've heard Robert Chelsea's voice on our show twice before. We heard his story about what it was like being the first African American full face transplant recipient after being hit by a drunk driver back in 2013 in Los Angeles. We had him back again for a show we did about what it's like being part of a diaspora, and he talked about being part of the disabled diaspora. He and his godson Everick Brown were recently in New Haven to meet with a new team of medical professionals, and I got to connect with them in person for the first time. Robert Chelsea! Wow.

Robert Chelsea  25:03

So good to see you.

Chion Wolf  25:06

It's so good to see you too. Wow. In real life. How're you feeling?

Robert Chelsea  25:12

I'm good.

Chion Wolf  25:14

I talked with Robert about how I remember that he told me a while back that he doesn't really factor forgiveness in when it comes to the guy who hit him. I asked, 'Well, why not?'

Robert Chelsea  25:26

I don't think a lot of him. Do you think about the grocery store attendant? When you think of the last time you went to the grocery store? Do you think about him or her? Why would I consider him? If I start thinking of anything or anyone, it's who I can get to to ask them to forgive me. If I just, just spent any time I'd rather be the most (inaudible) person to think of, to think about who I would be able to apologize to. Who has an idea of how many people I've caused to stumble or insulted, just in my looks alone? Or caused to be afraid. I would like to apologize to them. But I don't really know who they are, if they would accept my apology or not. I already know the proper way of apologizing, that I would get the results that I will be looking for. And that's the way it is. So I have no concern about the guy who hit me, or what happened to him.

Chion Wolf  26:49

If the guy who hit you did get in touch with you and say, 'This has been on my heart. This has been heavy on my soul. I made decisions that day that changed your life and caused you a lot of hardship, including all the goodness that you've made of it. But I want to say to you, Robert, Chelsea, I'm so sorry. Will you forgive me?' What, what do you think you would say?

Robert Chelsea  27:14

Well, we both know we're here now, we have a good time hugging. I just right-turned and backflipped. Who could have thought of that?

Everick Brown  27:29

The irony is his first response would be 'forgive you, you were forgiven way back when.' And the beauty of it is, is think of the joy that his response would give him. But you know, as I listened to you speak, Chelsea, the one thing I was thinking of is as humans, we spend a lot of time focused on others and not ourselves. And that's where you roll into judgment. And judgment says, you know, you created this and did something to me. And so now I'm affected, as opposed to if I was focused on myself, you'd be able to journey like he has, right? You kind of clear yourself of, you know, these obstacles that we put in place like, 'What did he do to me?' For me, when you start talking about forgiveness, what is it, like most people would think it means I get rid of something or I release something. For me, it's, I immediately go forgiveness -- judgment, because for some reason right there, to forgive or not to forgive has something to do with in the mind and the psyche, judging. And if you're not judging, then you forgive immediately, you move on. There's nothing there to release. If we're focused on self. I don't need an explanation, right? Why would you do that? Like, why? I could be concerned about myself.

Chion Wolf  29:11

That was Everick Brown and Robert Chelsea. We talked this past weekend in New Haven, Connecticut. We'll link to our other conversations with Robert and Everick at ctpublic.org/audacious. David Whyte is a poet, philosopher, and the author of 'Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words'. One of those words, forgiveness, is what made me want to talk with him. Here he is reading that selection from his book.

David Whyte  29:41

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it. It may be that the part of us that was struck and hurt can never forgive, and that strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks-after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded. Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it. Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing. To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft. At the end of life, the wish to be forgiven is ultimately the chief desire of almost every human being. In refusing to wait; in extending forgiveness to others now, we begin the long journey of becoming the person who will be large enough, able enough and generous enough to receive, at the very end, that absolution ourselves.

Chion Wolf  33:19

Thank you. So how good are you at taking your own advice?

David Whyte  33:28

Well, I'd say the record is quite spotty. Sometimes, sometimes better in certain contexts than others. But I do believe I have learned through the years to begin the process much earlier. I always think forgiveness occurs when you change. You can't ask forgive, for forgiveness if you haven't changed the behavior or become a different person than the person who perpetrated the hurt in the first place. So, the great question on forgiveness is almost below where you forgive yourself is when you change first. And what, if you need to forgive someone else, have they changed, you know. The point comes where the other person or the other entity or the other country refuses to change. And you find that you're being held hostage and held in your own form of imprisonment by your refusal to move on yourself and to create a greater context. So forgiveness might not look like my putting my arm lovingly around what, who had formerly been my enemy. It may look like just creating a much larger context in which to understand them.

Chion Wolf  34:55

I first heard your voice on the meditation app 'Waking Up' by Sam Harris. And I first discovered that app as I was going through a divorce, which was very sudden, and later found out that there was an ongoing affair. And so having that app and figuring out how meditation fits in my life, what it does for me, because I get why people discover meditation for themselves in times of crisis, because you realize that your mind is now supercharged in the most agonizing ways. And there's got to be a way to center yourself as this chaos is swirling around you, right? And so yeah, I'd like to hear from you what meditation has to do with forgiveness for you.

David Whyte  35:53

Well, I mean, in the case of, you know, a broken heart and love, what we're experiencing at a very deep level is not being wanted, in the way we want to be wanted. Part of meditation is, is undoing the voices on the periphery that say you're not wanted. And dropping down to this physical experience, whereby you find the world, every part of the natural world is coming to meet you every second, and acts as if it needs you. This birdsong can't be heard without your ears. This spring day can't be felt without your body being here. And you could say that the world can't feel its full, bitter, and beautiful cry without your grief. One of the strange understandings that comes through contemplation, which is really a, it's a very mild word for a very, a state of very, very fierce attention and intentionality. But I feel that one of the things you, you start to understand is quite miraculous, is that we're the only part of the universe that can be disappointed.

Chion Wolf  37:18

I don't know why I find that funny, but it's kinda sweet.

David Whyte  37:24

I have another bit, another essay on disappointment, actually.

Chion Wolf  37:30

That'll be another show. Great, we'll have you back!

David Whyte  37:34

And we're the only part of creation that can have our heart broken and have a conscious knowledge of it. I mean, animals have their heart broken in a kind of temporary way, but they can't contextualize it the way a human being can and extend it to an understanding of the heartbreak of others. We may be proven wrong on that end by future generations. But whether or not there are a few animals that can do that or not. Or it's quite a unique experience. So you start to understand that your own heartbreak is a kind of miraculous invitation into the very wellsprings of your own identity. They tell you what you wanted in your life and what you were disappointed by. And they really asked you to be brave in a way and your heartbreak asks you to be brave. And understanding that there's no courageous path a human being can take without having their heart broken. And it's the willingness to do that. That allows you to fall in love again. Or allows you to pick up your pen again, when you were told you couldn't write. Or when you fail, you felt you failed. There is no sincere path you can take without having that imaginative organ atomized and broken apart. So we stopped looking for a path where I'll be insulated against pain and grief and disappointment. And so you're willing to give us those lovely lines by Patrick Kavanagh. He was the the working-class poet that followed the aristocratic poet William Butler Yeats in the Irish tradition. And he said, 'Me I will throw away. Me sufficient for the day. The sticky self that clings adhesions on the wings to love and adventure, to go on the grand tour. A man must be free from self-necessity.' And if he'd been alive today, he would equally have said a woman must be free from self-necessity. 'Me I will throw away. Me sufficient for the day. The sticky self that clings adhesions on the wings to love and adventure, the sticky self that clings adhesions on the wings to love and adventure. To go on the Grand Tour, a man must be free from self-necessity.' Self-necessity, what am I doing just out of rote? I'm often keeping, this is a piece I wrote actually about. I wrote it after an hour in one of my favorite architectural structures in the world, which is a fishing house in an old monastic ruin over the river Cong, on the edge of Connemara, in Western Ireland. 'To break a promise, make a place of prayer. Whether you're religious or not, you know, you don't do this lightly. This is about spaciousness going deep, yeah. You don't break a promise lightly. You have to understand where it came from. To break a promise, make a place of prayer, no fuss now, just lean into the white brightness and say what you needed to say all along. Nothing too much. Words as simple and as yours and as heard as the birdsong above your head, or the water running gently beside you. Let your words join one to another, the way stone nestles on stone, the way water just leaves and goes to the sea, the way your promise breathes and belongs with every other promise you ever made. Now, let them go on. Let your words have their own life without you. Let the promise go with the river. Stand up, walk away. Have faith.' So it's interesting, you know, I mean, when marriages break apart, it's interesting to think that you, the original promise you made has, has never been touched, actually. You just hung it on on certain named possibilities.

Chion Wolf  42:05

One or two, yeah.

David Whyte  42:06

Yeah, which you might have taken a little too seriously at times.

Chion Wolf  42:11

Let that be a lesson to me. Yeah. Yeah.

David Whyte  42:14

But what's tragic, is when you let go of the promise that meant so much to you that you made, what you were looking for when you made that promise, and the necessary innocence that's needed for a better future for yourself in that person who made the promise, it's still, it's still there.

Chion Wolf  42:45

David Whyte, thank you so much for this, for talking with me.

David Whyte  42:50

My pleasure.

Chion Wolf  43:01

David Whyte is the author of 'Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment, and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words'. It's been almost exactly two years since this episode aired, and there are a few things I wish I could tell past-me about forgiveness. I believe the word is too loaded. So let's call it letting go. That's what all the definitions you heard today have in common. You want to let go of what happened. And you're frustrated that you aren't. Because it's over. Right? She admitted to the affair. She apologized, and she and the neighbor are gonna move many states away. But it wasn't just about the affair. It was the deception, the gaslighting, the manipulation, you ruminate on how this could have happened? Because she would never, right? So you become obsessed with trying to figure out where things went wrong. You start pouring through old texts and emails, maybe there's some clues in there. You talk to mutual friends, did they see something you missed? You even start seeing psychics because maybe they can tell you what the hell happened. As if your detective brain could solve the case, some sort of justice can be served and maybe then you can let it go. But you're trying to figure her out, which is a clever tactic to delay or outright avoid figuring you out and letting her go. So here's the big question. How do you let go? Because a perpetual victim is a committed perpetrator. It starts with being willing to see and do things differently. First, when the painful memories come up, remind yourself that it's not happening right now. You're just really vividly imagining it. Then drop your shoulders, take a deep breath and say out loud, 'I'm letting this go. I'm not the kind of person who holds on to this.' And I know what you're thinking, 'Oh, breathing and words. Is that all? Why didn't I think of that? Thank you so much.' But here's the thing. You've been holding your breath for a long time. And you've been using words constantly, where it's like, what's wrong with me for having had this experience in the first place? What's wrong with me for not being over this yet? And those words have kept you tethered to the pain that you so very much want to shed. So how about seeing what different words can do? And I'm not saying it's like a magic wand. You say this incantation and poof, all as well. It's a practice. And you can start really small. Someone cut you off in traffic? There's probably a good reason. Someone didn't hold the door for you? They're probably pretty deep in their own head right now. And you do it, and you think, 'That wasn't that hard, and it felt pretty good.' And then you wonder what else can I let go of? Screaming kid on the plane? Fine. Caught someone in a white lie? So what! Got stood up on a date? Ooh, that sucks. That sucks. But okay. Even when you think why am I not done letting this go? You can let that thought go too. But wait, there's more. Having thoughts that you're not good enough? Let it go. Having judgy thoughts about the way someone else looks? Let it go! Or thoughts that you're the best at what you do and everybody else better step it up. Yeah, those can go too. Everybody is your teacher, including yourself, and you realize that you have the right to remain peaceful. And when you begin to picture future you after years of practicing this. She's more relaxed and peaceful. You really like her. There's no such thing as justice. But there is such thing as letting go and trust. You will be rewarded for it in ways you couldn't possibly imagine. So I'm asking you, dear listener, what can you let go of right now? Where can we start? Audacious is so lovingly produced by Jessica Severin de Martinez, Khaleel Rahman, Meg Fitzgerald, Meg Dalton and Catie Talarski at Connecticut Public Radio in Hartford. In addition to my powerful friends, family and community, I was directly influenced by, and I'm grateful to the philosophers Michael Singer, Byron Katie, Matt Kahn, and Matthew Blau. You can find all of our episodes on your favorite podcast player and at ctpublic.org/audacious. I'm on the socials at Chion Wolf, and you can email me at Audacious@ctpublic.org. Thanks for listening. And since I've had this song in my head the whole time I've been producing this episode. You're gonna have it in your head too. I beg your forgiveness.