Toronto, ON – I just left a room full of strangers who I now feel undeniably connected to because of an event called The Forgiveness Project. This workshop facilitated the most brutally honest, accepting, sincere exhibition of self-reflection and storytelling I’ve ever witnessed. 20 something people, many of whom are involved in the hip hop community in Toronto, walked away saying words like “together,” “courage” and “amazing.”
Many of us had no idea the type of soul-bearing admissions that would become the content for the three hour discussion. Tara Muldoon invited me to come hear stories of forgiveness from a diverse panel, but instead I heard from the panel and more. In what developed into a truly communal atmosphere, stories were heard of resentment towards absentee parents, guilt felt by an older brother, struggles to cope with significant personal loss, isolated torment following molestation and a heart wrenching lesson taught by a father to his son. Yes, it certainly got heavy.
This wasn’t about holding hands and singing kumbaya as we sat cross legged around burning incense. Nobody really knew what we’d hear or where the individual stories were going. But the topic was forgiveness and sharing stories of personal struggles with forgiveness, whether giving or receiving. And for some reason, with that steering the dialogue, intimate, emotional details of deeply personal journeys oozed out over and over from both the panellists and courageous audience members. It seemed with every admission the room collectively became more ready to face their fears and think about their own lives in forgiveness terms.
The term “forgive and forget” was challenged several times. “Maybe it should be forgive and learn and move on” said one panellist. “Not forgive and forget,” said another. “It’s more forgive…and don’t forget.” Meaning you don’t want to forget the process because forgiveness is the lesson, not the conclusion.
Another important distinction that arose was self-forgiveness. Many stories found people doing things they wish they hadn’t and holding onto grudges they couldn’t let go of. For these stories, it was made clear the power is in forgiving yourself first. Releasing yourself from the trap of anger, bitterness, resentment and guilt is a major type of forgiveness that was expressed.
Not everyone had a ‘family channel’ conclusion to their stories and many of us acknowledged we still manage the scenarios discussed to this day. But the process of verbalizing and then analyzing these instances of forgiveness was like spontaneous group therapy. It was the kind of moment that I honestly didn’t see coming. Maybe the organizers had this in their vision. Maybe the panellists had some warning. But I walked in an open-minded, curious journalist and walked out a touched, teary and inspired part of the group.
I wish everyone I know can experience something like The Forgiveness Project.
Written by Jonathon “Bizz” Brown for HipHopCanada