To err is human, to forgive is Divine; this is something that I and I’m sure most everyone has heard before. I’ve no idea who coined that, when, why, where or how…maybe from the Bible?
You hear and read a lot about forgiveness. I remember reading something about the 12 step programs and forgiveness of yourself and others play an important part in it.
Being a Catholic I was introduced to the act of forgiveness: God forgives us for our sins, Jesus sacrificed Himself so that we could all be forgiven, the Sacrament of Confession so that we can ask God for forgiveness and all that…stuff.
The thing I grew to understand is that the act of forgiveness isn’t really an easy thing to do. I mean we all tend to keep the negative emotions created by a person, a situation and ourselves. We think we’ve forgiven, but most times it’s there. The “it” being the hurt, the anger, the fear, the pain and the sadness. Like a lump of coal. One on top of the other, building a mountain of coals in us though most times we aren’t aware of it.
We wonder “Why me! What did I do to deserve this?” We proclaim, with justified self righteousness when a person that has hurt us runs into problems, that “karma is a bitch” – the thing we don’t understand (this includes me) is that it’s not really karma that’s being a bitch. Karma is completely and utterly non judgmental. The Universe is also non judgmental. The only “judgmentals” around would be you and I.
If you think forgiving others is a lot of work, can you imagine forgiving ourselves? It’s an even bigger task. We can be the most judgmental towards ourselves…well unless you’re like some evil villain that has lost his soul and is aimlessly wondering the world causing mayhem. However, that begs the question of how sure are we that the evil villain isn’t just projecting his pain out into the world? We are after all creators of our universe, our life. We are the producer, director and lead all rolled into one, making the movie of our life as we go along.
So yes, I used to flirt a bit with the notion of forgiveness. Most times like a blessing, my penchant for forgetfulness used to help…or so I thought. The more I pondered (and ponder) on it, the more I realized (and am realizing) that it is furthest from the truth. Just like everyone else, I too have a little Mount Everest of coal sitting within me. It flares up when I project the anger out or when I have my little pity parties. I am forced to realize it when I lose patience with my parents or wish ill and the pox on some of the politicians governing this country (ok, I don’t actually curse them with the pox, but you know…)
I used to try to forgive others and myself though it got a little tricky. When I sit and think or try to remember what it is that I need to forgive and whom I need to forgive, it got blurred. I honestly don’t know if it is because I was refusing to remember or I just didn’t feel there was anything to forgive or I was whitewashing my past by feeling that there was nothing to forgive…like I said it got tricky.
Here’s the thing though…what exactly is forgiveness?
- Is it to forget what has been done to you? Or what you have done to you or others?
- Is it to let go of the negative emotions that are bound to the act that you need to forgive?
- Is it to be able to look at the person who has hurt you and be able to interact without any negative feelings arising?
- Is it cultivating the attitude of “Hating the sin but loving the sinner”?
- Is it one of the above, all of the above or…something else all together?
The Buddha compared resentment to a hot coal you pick up to throw at someone else, while you’re the one who gets burned. Dropping the coal isn’t about condoning someone else’s bad behavior or waiting for an apology. It’s unilateral disarmament. Forgiveness is entirely about you, a radical commitment to reclaiming your peace of mind and to extending empathy and kindness to other human beings regardless of what they’ve done to you – Your Soul’s Compass: What is Spiritual Guidance?; Joan Borysenko, Ph.D and Gordon Deverin, Ed. D
That’s what we would call a tall order isn’t it…extending kindness and empathy to those that have caused you pain. When I read is that forgiveness is like an act of self-preservation and to some extent one would be challenged to not think of it as being self-righteous. But you see…this is what I thought of forgiveness too. It’s not about forgetting the deed but to say, “It’s okay. Someone has wronged me but I’m going to forgive. I am still going to let go of all the bad thoughts and just need to love the person instead”.
The problem was…I wasn’t able to. I feel a lot of us too are unable to truly forgive because the negative emotions / energies still linger within us. How can one not forget but let go…it sounded too hard and too complicated.
An Alternative to Forgiveness?
A few weeks ago, Ishtar, an Ishaya monk who specializes in working with energy and clearing told me something that completely lifted this burden that I unknowingly carried. He told me: “When you say or think of forgiveness you admit that wrong was done to you. And when you say that someone has wronged you, you are in a way claiming that you are not perfect, that you are in the wrong as well. But you are perfect. All that has happened to you is to make you who you are now. There is no need for forgiveness”
You have no idea how wonderfully light that made me feel because it is true isn’t it? We are all perfect. Our past makes us who we are today. And if we are to see our life from a higher view, the bigger picture; our lives are a testament to the lessons that we need to learn, that we have chosen to learn to grow and to ascend. It is makes more sense now to “extend kindness and empathy to others”. It removes the word “wrong” and “bad” from our vocabulary. It allows us to focus on what the situation was teaching us instead of focusing on the act. It allows us to finally become free. It teaches us to step back and to view the situation without attaching it to a negative emotion.
Does this mean that murderers and rapists should be set free? No. Their path is their journey. At a soul level we all have lessons that we need to learn. According to a book by Steward Wilde, our souls want to and need to experience the full gamut of human experience. We need to know what sadness is before we can appreciate joy, we need to experience fear before we realize the true strength in each of us and so on.
This is about you and about your journey. This is about learning your lessons in whatever form they are presented to you. It is not about putting yourself on a pedestal of self-righteousness when you decide to forgive. It is not about being the better person. Whatever they may have been remember this always:
You are prefect. There is nothing to forgive. Everything that you have experienced is …it just is. Life is here to teach us our lessons. It is here to teach us about ourselves. Your life is perfect. Perfectly perfect for you.
The quote above is from the section on Forgiveness, which ends with this:
Forgiveness is a potent form of surrender to what is…coupled perhaps with gratefulness for what has been learned.
What’s your take on forgiveness ?