Episode 74: Kim Phuc's Lesson for Me on Forgiveness with Shivani Gupta

Welcome to the AskShivani podcast. Today, I wanted to take you on a fairly deep journey of forgiveness, it's something bad doesn't come very naturally to me. I know some, some people do forgiving really naturally, and it's just part of their makeup. I also had a fantastic I guess, teacher and a guide who once said that the word baggage means that bags that age you. So, when you are not able to let things go, your baggage, your past, I guess ends up aging you. And so, people that don't let go of things, people that stay very bitter, people that aren't able to forgive, tend to hang on to things and their backs, their souls, their hearts, their minds become heavier. And it ages them faster than perhaps it should. And so, I wanted to talk about an experience that I had recently where I thought I had got better at doing some conscious, forgiving. And you know, those moments, sometimes when people talk about forgiveness, we talk about these really deep things.

But to me, you know, last week, I made some dinner, my son was really tired. He's 11 years of age. And I said, look, can we get the dinner happening, and he yelled at me. And I got really hurt. Because I was like me, I'm like making you a really nice dinner. I know you've had a fairly big full on, I've supported you quite a bit through the day, I've had quite a bit myself to get through the day. And so, in that moment, that forgiveness of him reacting to his own stuff, and not making it about my stuff. And then still asking him to apologize because of how I felt. And that I want to raise somebody who has more respect for his mum, you know, but just that little moment of forgiveness, which happens in perhaps all our lives to some extent, whether it's your son or your partner, or your colleague or a friend, little things happen that we need to forgive all the time. But there's also this deep forgiveness, there's these bags that age you this baggage that we carry that stays with us for a very, very long time. And I know that for those people that are really close to me know that and I've been a lot more brave and vulnerable in the last couple of years and started to speak a lot more about the childhood abuse that I had experience.

And for me, I sat in the victim mode, which was absolutely the right thing to do. And I don't mean victims in a negative way. But when I recognized and those memories surfaced, and I had to do a lot of deep work, and occasionally I still have to do a lot of deep work on that, those memories and that abuse. What surfaced up for me was, you know, okay, well, you can't change the past, but you need to understand it. You need to understand what this has meant. But I also needed to understand you know why this happened? I don't mean just physically. But what was there a bigger reason for what this happened? What did I need to do with it? What was I meant to make the most of in my life as a result of that? You know, who did I become as a mother? Who did I become as a part of who did I become as a person as a result of that experience? And all those answers were quite different to that. And I've done a lot of forgiveness of the fact that I happened. I've done a lot of forgiveness on the people that did that. But I haven't quite been able to fully let that go. And then a couple of weeks ago, I met this incredible woman called Kim Phuc.

And for those of you that name rings a bell fantastic, but I have not heard of Kim and as Kim started to share her story, what became really evident to me and what became a linkage to me was that she was the young poster child of the Vietnam War. So, if you do a search for napalm girl and IPL, she was that poster which I have seen many times fleetingly, of this girl who was coming out this kid screaming and crying and her body was on fire. And that poster I do remember, I don't remember the name of the child. I don't remember what happened to her. But I do remember that was as a result of something that had happened in the Vietnam War. But that image of her on fire had stayed very much embedded at a deep level. And when she brought that poster up, when she brought that image up, I just felt this. Like this deep punch in my gut, it was like somebody had hurt me really, really deeply. And like all these different memories came up. And as Kim continued to share her story, one of the things she spoke about, was having hatred in your heart. And when you have hatred in your heart, it's dark. And when you have love in your heart, it's light. And I can certainly relate to that. And we see that, in, you know, the hero's journey, we see, we see that in Marvel movies, we see that in Star Wars, we look at, you know, moving from the darkness, to the light, we see that in spiritual scriptures, we see that in religion, scriptures, and often this notion of moving towards the light moving, having a halo having light, different elements of using those words. You know, I've heard them all my life. And I'm sure that you've come across that in some way or another.

And Kim spoke about, and she used this beautiful analogy that when she thought about the pain and the numerous operations and numerous close calls to death that she had from that moment, of being a child, and now in her very much in her adult. And, you know, that particular poster just had its 50th anniversary in the last couple of weeks as well. So, we're so beautiful and fortunate to meet her at you know, a five decade a 50th anniversary, half a century ago, and that that poster have then been released. And she spoke about this beautiful and I don't want to take anything away from her story. But what it really got me thinking about worth the level of forgiveness work she had done for the people that had bombed the shelter, and that she was able to go back and reconnect with the person that had done that. And I guess, tell them that she loves them. And I thought about all the little things that I was got pretty good at forgiving so far in my life and lots more of that work to come whether it's for children or with partner or with something that happens recently, I've got excluded out of a number of professional meetings on this volunteer board that I sit on. And I found that really hard to take because I was like, look, we're all volunteers here trying to do the right thing. But I guess egos and politics will always take place, whether it's two people, whether it's paid, whether it's a lot of people, whether it's unpaid. And whatever the parameters are around that. And I got really upset about it. And I had to really think whether I wanted to continue on this particular platform, and I made a decision not to, because I couldn't see the politics alleviating and I just felt that maybe that was a sign from the universe, that I would be better serving somewhere else. And that those opportunities will come up. I know that because that's how things have unfolded so far. And so, by Kim sharing the stories of the people that had caused us so much pain, so much suffering, so many things that she was not able to do and still not able to do as a result of that act. I start to think about I've done some pretty good forgiveness work, whether it's this volunteer board, whether it's children, whether it's partner, whether it's people that have betrayed me, friendships, you know, work things, but I'm not sure I've got to that level of love and forgiveness that she had around my abuse, I'm not sure. I've got to that level of being able to sit down with the people that had caused my suffering and cause my pain and be able to say, you know, I love you, thank you.

And I realized that when I come across people like him, there is so much to be learned from people like her. And the timing of it, you know, where she is coming up to 50 years and what she helps other people do when setting up her own charity work. And you know, when I met her she may not have had a halo behind her but she wasn't far. You know, I've probably met maybe a handful of people in my life so far that I would call truly enlightened. And people that you know, we're really close to enlightenment and maybe she's already there, but she’s certainly one of those people that I met and thought, wow, if you can do that, I think there is still so much for me to learn. And if you can do that there is so much for us for the world to learn. And I don't want to dive into the politics of war between, you know, what's happening in Ukraine. But one of the things that I thought about and it got me thinking about with her was, so many things have happened, because we haven't had love in our hearts. So much stuff has happened, because we've had that hatred in our hearts. And we make these decisions, in little moments with our families, with our friends with our workplaces. But we also make these big decisions about going to war, and not forgiving people. And having our stance and having black and white views. And not actually being able to think about the broader ripple impacts the implications of our actions on other people.

And of all people, Kim with all the suffering that she's had, not only on that day, but all the operations, all the things she hasn't been able to do, she chose to focus on forgiveness, she chose to focus on her heart. And when I spoke to her afterwards, she said, and I've heard other people's have, they're saying that, you know, hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. And I never quite really fully got that it made sense to me at an intellectual level. But it certainly didn't make sense to me at a heart or a soul level, till I met Kim, and when she said that, you know, I was only going to be able to hurt myself. And if I kept that hatred, it only would impact me. And she didn't use saying of, you know, hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. But I got that, that anything that you keep in your heart that you're hoping that is going to upset other people or they're going to learn isn't really going to make an impact on the rest of the world at all. It's really just about your impact, and you know, what you can do and make that happen.

So, these were my lessons, I guess, from Kim Phuc, and I hope that one day I can continue to be more like her. And, you know, listen to some of the guidance that she has, and the learnings that we can have from such an enlightened being and continue to put that into practice in our own lives.

Thanks for listening.