April 3, 2011
We humans are an interesting lot. Each of us in our own way believes we are a perfect judge. Now before you object to that characterization, search yourself and your own experience and think of a time you formed a judgment about the behavior of another, turned it into a grievance with them and then withheld your forgiveness because you were convinced you were right, and therefore, justified in doing so. How did your righteousness make you feel? Were you happy to be angry with this person? Did it bring you peace holding on to the grievance and making it real for you over and over and over?
The thing about unforgiveness is the assumption that my reasons for cultivating it are justified and absolutely true, which means I have placed my own self in the position of judge, jury, jailer and executioner. Feeling justified, I will go to great lengths (and have) to swat away any information that might overturn my view. In short, I become committed to holding on to the grievance and being right about it, rather than happy. Don’t know about you, but life is too long to go around being unhappy.
If you think about it objectively, every war or battle throughout history, whether between individuals, clans or nations has had grievances and unforgiveness underpinning it. This apparently works for some in the human experience. Not so much for me, personally. But, I know for certain there was a time when I did identify with the language of grievances, righteousness and unforgiveness.
Forgiveness is only important if peace is your goal.
In the human experience, without forgiveness, peace is impossible. From the perspective of “God-Love,” forgiveness is unnecessary, and in truth, wholly foreign to God. This is because we view God-Love as unconditional. Therefore, there can never be an original grievance to forgive. However, in our human experience, we usually fall woefully short of perfect unconditional love and we use our righteous judgment as the justification for conditional, rather than unconditional, love. “If you loved me you would…” Sound familiar? I know I have heard those or similar words in the past, both from my own mouth, and from the mouths of those I do love.
In our fear and sense of separation, we tend to pile up grievances in many forms, with ourselves for not being perfect, with others for disappointing or outright abusing us, with the media for promoting fear and negativity, with Democrats for being liberals, with Republicans for being conservative, with oil companies for ruining the environment, with agribusiness for genetically modifying foods, with governments for misusing their power and authority…and on and on and on. Any one of those opportunities holds the potential for peace to be disturbed. Funny thing about peace, if it is disturbed at all, even in the slightest, it is no longer peace.
As long as not being at peace is comfortable for you, then rage on! Forgiveness is not necessarily necessary for those committed to war. However, if you do desire to experience peace, forgiveness is absolutely essential, and yes, it must be employed consistently and diligently every day for as long as peace is your goal. Peace is not passive. It is active. Peace does not just happen. It must be chosen and chosen consistently. We can’t just choose it once and it sticks for all time.
So, this begs the question: how do we forgive?
We forgive by becoming willing to forgive. Our willingness to forgive is all that is required of us. We do not need to know “how” forgiveness is accomplished. Forgiveness is not theoretical, and therefore does not require debate or philosophical calisthenics to understand it before we can employ it. We just need to become willing to forgive.
If you think about it, unforgiveness happens the same way. We are literally “willing” ourselves into the delusion that we are perfect judges and therefore right and justified in our grievances. In this state of “willingness,” we would rather be right than be at peace.
It is the same with forgiveness, we must use the power of our Will to choose to forgive over and over, not because it makes us the superior person by taking the “high road.” But rather because there is no other path to peace, at least in the human condition. Once again, if peace is not your goal, then simply ignore the signposts pointing to peace. You’re already good to go, and I’m not sure why you would have read this far anyway. However, if peace is your goal, then forgiveness is your absolute best tool.
So, how many times should we forgive? Taking a cue from the Master Teacher Jesus, “seven times seventy.” In other words, as many times as it takes to restore peace and make it a normal condition.
Oh, and one more thing, remember to forgive yourself first. You will likely find that forgiving yourself is the toughest one of all. Once you master that, forgiving others is a cake walk, because you will know first hand how damn hard it is to forgive one’s own self, and you will know without a doubt others struggle just like you do. This is the dawning of compassion, a necessary stepping stone on your way to peace.
Stay tuned in…