Gratitude and Forgiveness

Fortunately there’s no such thing as time travel. And even if there was, I wouldn’t be travelling back to this month, ten years ago with any advice for my former self.

The past has gone and everything that was within it has gone. The light that lit the past has gone out. The energy that powered the past has been transformed. The atoms that shaped the past have moved on. Nothing remains of the past except the faint echo of memory.

A photograph isn’t the past, its atoms here in the present, shaped in a pattern that mimics where light fell onto a light sensitive substance long ago. Even we are not the past. The atoms that make up our bodies change with every breath and we have an entirely new body every ten years or so.

So the past doesn’t exist and the future is out of reach. We approach it on the slow train at the speed of one second every second. Although we can’t see into the future, that slow pace allows us to shape what we’ll find there by the time we arrive in it by what we think and do today.

The way to get more of what you want in your life and less of what you don’t want is to focus on what you have that you do want and celebrate it and be thankful for it. This is what we call gratitude. I can now say that I’m grateful for everything that has happened in my life because of what I’ve learnt and the changes I’ve been able to make because of those events. That doesn’t mean I’d rather it hadn’t happened in quite the way it did, but since that was what was required to get me to this point, I’m not making a fuss. To be grateful for everything requires one extra giant step and that is perhaps the hardest one to make. But to be truly free of what has happened to you in the past, you must be ready to forgive.

I’d never really understood forgiveness properly, apart from abstractly, until this point.

I don’t believe that forgiveness means that you should necessarily forget, unless you want to. It doesn’t mean that you should be best friends with those that have hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you expect compensation in return. It doesn’t mean that your pain is negated or unimportant. It doesn’t mean that you have to justify what was done to you. It doesn’t mean that you have to take any blame yourself.

All it means is that you hold no malice, anger or resentment. It means you have no emotional attachment to what happened. It means you no longer hold a grudge, seek retribution or demand punishment. It means you have let go.

It feels like a hard thing to do, but to me it felt like a release. What’s rarely discussed is the self-benefit of forgiveness. It’s not so much a gift that you are giving to the other party but a gift that you are giving yourself.

So I had already forgiven her, but since I had no contact, she didn’t know. Then out of the blue came a text message. At first I didn’t know who it was from since I had long erased her details. She said that she knew that she deserved the misery that she was now suffering (which I knew nothing about). She said that she wanted to tell me that “we reap what we sow”, so we can only guess what may have happened to her. She then asked could I ever forgive her. I replied simply that I could and that I already had.

Life is what you make of it. The good and the bad. Every single situation can have a negative, positive or neutral angle on it. Those angles aren’t really there, except in the context of the person experiencing them, who can choose which meaning to ascribe to the situation.

So nothing good, bad or indifferent really happens to us. All that happens is that events occur. Being human creators, we naturally search for meaning in events and look for significance by stringing them together into narratives designed to fit our pre-judged criteria.

So was what happened to me bad? Obviously, I’d been cheated on, betrayed, lied to and left. Are the outcomes greater than what I would have had if all this hadn’t happened? Absolutely. Thus we notice we’re part of the complex paradox that is life. Do I wish all the pain hadn’t happened? Naturally we want to avoid pain, but what if that pain allows us to grow?

Fortunately, we don’t have the power to change the past. We don’t really have the brain power as mere humans to calculate the effect that minute changes in space and time could manifest in the universe. Fortunately we can change how we think of the past.

I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, the television series with the mysterious traveller known as ‘The Doctor’ who has a machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Even with all that power he rarely tampers with the natural flow of events. When his companions try to prevent the forthcoming invasion of the Spanish to South America leading to the extinction of the Aztec people, the Doctor tells her, “you cannot re-write history! Not one line!”. When he is faced with one of his greatest foes, the Egyptian god Sutekh, he summarises the danger by saying, “it takes a being of Sutekh’s unlimited power to destroy the future”

But most famously of all, in one story he travels back to the creation of his most dreaded enemy, the Daleks and has the opportunity to destroy them before they were even created. “Have I the right?” he asks himself, “a lot of people became allies because of their fear of the Daleks. Out of all that evil, one day some great good will come”. He decides to let time and coincidence take its natural course. He doesn’t get the result he wanted or expected but the result is good.

Some dreadful things have happened in history. But who can tell what has come to pass because of the complex tapestry of history. There’s no point in saying “oh if only I’d done such and such” or “if only things had been different”. What we have experienced has taught us the lessons, which enable us to embark on the next phase of our lives.

Can we love again? Can we trust again? Those are no more important questions than asking after a bout of food poisoning, ‘Can I ever eat again?’

The price I had to pay to gain what I now have wasn’t really so high. It was so definitely worth it. I’m grateful for it beyond measure.

Because of the changes and decisions I made after the events of ten years ago I am more healthy than I ever was. My business has been transformed in ways I could only have dreamt of. I’ve spoken to and hopefully inspired thousands of people, all over the UK and around the world. I’ve been paid money to do something I love doing. I’ve taken my guitar to Africa and sang songs for children on the beach. And of course I have my wife and three wonderful children.

All we have is today. That’s all we will ever have. But to live a happy and worthwhile life, today is all we need.

The only thing we can control is our thinking today. Our thinking today determines our actions today and our actions today determine our future. Let’s change our thinking today into even more powerful positive thoughts for an even more wonderful future.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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6 comments on “Gratitude and Forgiveness

  1. Brilliant, Ayd. We must be living at least mildly parallel lives and we’ve come to many of the same conclusions. I love that fourth paragraph, and the more I consider the power of NOW, the more I am grateful that I can’t go back or forward in time, but I can shape the past (in a sense) by how I let it affect me now, and I can shape the future (in a sense) by what I do and believe now. Wonderful post, Ayd. Just wonderful!


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