By Bernie Bell

Seeing Frances Pelly’s way-marker stone for the St. Magnus Way, by the bay in  Finstown, got me thinking about forgiveness.

st magnus waymarker stone Finstown Bell

I think the idea behind the stones, and the interpretative boards, and the journey – is to get us to walk, and pause, and think.

I’m quite old , and a lot of things have happened in my life – some most excellent – some…well…..let’s say hard to take – and that’s putting it mildly.

Sometimes, I can, eventually let the hard things go. I can forgive. Sometimes, it’s more a case of acceptance, than forgiveness.  Sometimes, I’ve been able to genuinely  and completely take to heart, that I have forgiven an action.  I have looked at it, seen what it was, what caused it, and been able to let it go – actually fade and melt away into being The Past – something which will only exist, if I let it, if I choose to think about it.

I haven’t often said “I forgive you”, as that seems a bit patronising, but I have done so when the other person needed that – needed that benediction.  Otherwise, I just – let it go.

Sometimes, I have to admit, there have been times, and still are times, when I can’t honestly say I have been able let it go.  I just…..can’t.   I should, and I know I should, and I should be able to. After all, as I said, I’m old – old enough to know that I …should, and know how little many things do, actually, matter in our lives.  But, there are some things which are still there. I just can’t/haven’t let them go.

When this happens, it’s more a case of acceptance. I can see what has happened, and can sometimes see why.  I can accept it, and take it on board.  I don’t let what happened rancour, and some might even think, from my behaviour, that I have ‘forgiven’, but I know it isn’t true forgiveness – it’s acceptance of what can’t be changed – which is a different thing.

Do you see what I mean?

The St. Magnus ‘Forgiveness’ stone, got me thinking.

I have been aware of this difference – the difference between true forgiveness – letting it go – and acceptance – not truly letting it go. Not letting it fill my horizon, to twist my view or behaviour, but – it’s still there, and can mean a difference in my behaviour towards the person who’s actions  have hurt me.  I wish them no ill, I wish them well, but I can’t be the same with them, as I was. I’m not prepared to risk it.

That isn’t true forgiveness, is it?  Not really.

It means that I don’t carry the baggage of hurt around with me, it means that I wish no ill-will and try not to let the past action, dictate my present actions.  BUT…it’s not true forgiveness. So, what is?  I think it’s when I can honestly look at an action which has hurt me, and know that I hold onto nothing of it, in relation to the person who caused the hurt.  I can completely accept that – they are, as they are, in relation to me, and the world, and I can – let it go.

So, is that what forgiveness is – letting go?  Letting it go, truly and completely?

These are just my thoughts, my musings, prompted by the ‘Forgiveness‘ Magnus stone.

The ‘Hospitality’ stone at Orphir  for me, was more straight-forward.  There are lots of forms of hospitality – they are all based on kindness. That’s something we can consciously do – be hospitable. If it isn’t done with good intent, then it isn’t really hospitality, in my book. If you’re hoping to get something out of it – it ain’t true hospitality, it’s that monster of the modern word – Networking!

Forgiveness, true forgiveness, is a harder thing to grasp, or, it is for me.

I use to be un-forgiving, and have since learnt to be able to, sometimes, truly forgive, and sometimes, accept and hold no ill-will.

Not forgiveness – acceptance.

Strangely enough, it can be easier to ‘forgive‘ someone who doesn’t matter so much to us. It’s harder to ‘forgive’, or even accept, betrayal by someone who….matters.

Maybe that’s just my story – are there folk who can truly forgive, truly let go of almost unimaginably hurtful behaviour?  Yes, I know there are, as I’ve come across one or two. I don’t know how they do it, maybe something in their basic nature, maybe an ability to learn to weave events into the pattern of their lives, and let them be there, just as part of what was, and what is, their life.  Though – acceptance could be said to do that too?

There is a difference – I know there is, as I see it in myself.

Forgiveness – that’s a big one, a thought to conjure with. Through and through forgiveness, or – acceptance?  The first, may be the one to aim for, but maybe a person needs to be something of a saint, to achieve it.

Meanwhile, acceptance at least means that you don’t hold onto ill-will towards anyone, and you don’t let the past, mess up the present, or the future.

I must admit, for some reason, the St. Magnus Way didn’t appeal to me, when it was first instigated. I do have a liking for St. Magnus – a gentle man, in a time when that wasn’t seen as the way to be, who stuck to his way, though he perished for doing so.  He trusted, and, I’m sure, will have forgiven those who lured him, and killed him. The words on the Finstown stone, reflect this idea…..

St Magnus waymarker stone Finstown Bell

“Magnus prayed…..Forgiving them with all his heart….for their crimes against him.”

The idea of the long walk, The Way, didn’t catch my interest – though, I do admire Magnus, and his ‘Way’.  Now, the Forgiveness stone, has got me thinking, and thinking that I’d like to see more of them.

I won’t, physically , walk the way, as I’m not, physically, able to do so. We have found ourselves doing bits of it.  On some of our favourite walks, we come across the symbol of The Way, and I’m now keen to see more of Frances’ stones, and see what the seeing, strikes in my mind.

Not surprisingly, I’m reminded of El Camino  where a very long walk, is hoped to lead to a person thinking, learning, reflecting, knowing themselves. Walking themselves, into themselves, and so, maybe, to an understanding of, and acceptance of others, and life.

For some, that might include learning to forgive – to forgive others for their actions, and/or forgive themselves.

There now, I thought I was winding this down, and there’s a whole other aspect of forgiveness – forgiving ourselves, embracing ourselves and loving ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves – that could need more work, than forgiving others. Can I forgive myself for some of the things I’ve said and done in my life?  Or even just accept that that’s how I was, then?

One word, but a huge, wide idea.


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