An enlightened understanding of forgiveness

In my last post, in which I discussed the whole issue of an apology and distinguished it from saying you are sorry, I explained that an apology, seen clearly, is simply a way of acknowledging a misstep, expressing a willingness to take responsibility and a request for forgiveness. Since my definition ended with a comment about forgiveness, I am inspired to share with you a previous post on that issue because people seem to struggle with the whole idea of forgiveness as much as they resist offering an apology.

People think that forgiving another for a perceived trespass lets them off the hook. Or, since people love being right, forgiving another is perceived as admitting you were wrong. Or, forgiveness is often seen as condoning another’s behavior.

Of course, none of those things are true and what is almost always missed when people refuse to forgive is the reality that the one who suffers is the person who is holding the resentment. Which is why it’s often said that not forgiving is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Since the willingness to forgive is so essential to having a peaceful and loving life, allow me to share with you my personal view of forgiveness which has evolved over time.

In the broadest sense, the whole idea of forgiveness is a barrier to our growth as a spiritual being. In order to reach our full potential in life, it is critical that we take responsibility for everything in our life. So the whole idea that we have to forgive another for something they did that impacted us is to declare that something happened where we had no responsibility in the matter. That way of thinking turns us into a victim of the circumstances rather than a creator or co-creator of the circumstances.

But there’s more. The need for forgiveness implies that someone has done something “wrong,” meaning that the action must be viewed in a context of right and wrong. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there is no such thing as right or wrong. Those are all judgments we make as we look at the world through our version of reality.  No matter what example you come up with, there will always be a situation where the exact behavior you are calling wrong occurs in different circumstances as being right.

Here’s a powerful example: I know of no one that wouldn’t consider cannibalism, eating the flesh of another human being, to be “wrong.” But remember many years ago when an airplane carrying a team of soccer players crashed in the Andes mountains and, to make a long story short, many of those who knew they wouldn’t survived implored those they thought would to do exactly that. In fact they did eat the flesh of their dying teammates and that allowed many of them to indeed survive.

My point is that nobody ever does anything which is inconsistent with their map of reality. And since there are 7+ billion different maps of reality, who gives any of us the right to label another’s behavior right or wrong. Besides, nobody appointed any of us judge and juror of other’s behavior. In the final analysis, everyone will be held accountable for their actions. So if you want to have peace of mind, a lot less stress, an ability to truly enjoy the spirit of Easter that we just experienced all through the year, learn to either forgive easily and quickly or realize that forgiveness isn’t really necessary at all.

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