I’ve been diving deep into my own practice of forgiveness lately. Forgiving is not just a singular act, it is a practice that takes work, effort, and can feel so uncomfortable sometimes that we want to quit and stay mad and be right. But, it also feels so good once we start getting the hang of it. I’m going to share a personal story of what it looks like to truly work with forgiveness.
A while back, I discovered a website was created by someone that claimed to be me – complete with plenty of content, photos, and health articles that I had written lifted right off of my actual website. It was an imitation, a shadow of my own professional life, but with changes, falsehoods, and inappropriate content.
When I discovered it, I was first worried that patients were being misled. Health care is a regulated field for a reason- it’s very important that people know they can trust what’s out there. If patients are getting incorrect info, or even false contact information, they could be led to believe something wrong or even harmful. If someone sends an email through the site’s contact sheet, I didn’t know who was responding or what they were saying, while they posed as me? I wrung my hands and wondered how many people had been misled or left hung out to dry, thinking I didn’t care to respond?
Another part of me was upset that someone would do this at all – I racked my brain trying to figure out who, and more importantly, why? I’ve spent my life trying to help people and I was upset to be impersonated like this. A part of me was angry for having something I’ve worked so hard for – my education and my life’s work – imitated so easily. I felt mocked and embarrassed.
I share these reactions to show the internal process does not always start out as a pure and good desire to forgive. For me in this case, it started with uncomfortable ego-driven reactions of fear, anger, frustration, a desire to fight back and shame.
Over the course of about a year, I worked at finding the author, trying to have them stop posting, or at least have the site removed for copyright infringement. After being shuffled back and forth between the various parties that host the site or register the domain name, no person seemed able to take responsibility or even identify the author due to privacy issues. Through this stage too, I struggled with frustration, and a feeling of things being unfair.
But recently I’ve sat back into my (initially really uncomfortable) forgiveness practice. I sat at a table and invited the angry, ashamed, and fearful parts of me to come forth so I can look at what might be going on. I invited the impersonator’s spirit to the meeting and asked them to bring all parts of them along too.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes and sat in meditation.
Sitting there, in meditation alongside all my vulnerable imperfect parts, I looked at what might have brought this person, or any person, to do something hurtful. It could have been any reason, but the truth is, it probably came from an uncomfortable place in them. I held this discomfort, both theirs and mine that I’ve been holding for what felt like a long time. When I really sat with it, at that table, it felt like it was overflowing, beyond my capacity to hold it in.
And so I let go.
I reminded myself that holding a grudge or holding onto anger hurts me as much as it hurts the other person, and it corrects nothing that happened in the past.
A famous quote that is attributed to the Buddha is “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, but you are the one who gets burned”. That meditation was me sitting and holding the hot coal. I saw how much it was hurting me, taking up my time and energy thinking about it, and I saw how needless it was.
And it helped me let go.
It didn’t happen right away; it happened over the course of several meditations and practices when I really connected with this feeling. When I thought I was done with the feeling, it would come back temporarily and I had to again resolve to continue the practice of forgiveness.
Letting go lightened me, and it alleviated the stress of carrying those feelings. I still do hope that site will be removed for the sake of my patients, but it’s no longer about me, no longer about my ego. I feel freer and actually grateful in the end for being asked to be so honest with myself and the uncomfortable parts I contain.
If you want to practice forgiveness, you can listen to a guided forgiveness meditation here that helps introduce the idea.
May you be at peace!
Thank you everyone for your kind support. I want to update everyone that the fraudulent website has been taken down very shortly after posting this. After a long time and multiple attempts to reach the author, I am grateful that this ended after a healing forgiveness practice. Thank you for the lesson!