What is forgiveness? What enables people to forgive? Why do we even choose to forgive those who have harmed us?
Every wisdom tradition on the planet emphasizes that compassion and forgiveness are the quintessence of the holy……and to forgive is probably the toughest spiritual practice we will face in life.
I don’t like to talk about my own personal experience of forgiveness, although some of the things people have done or tried to do to me are close to what I’d consider unforgivable. I don’t talk about these things because I have witnessed so many incredible people who, despite experiencing atrocity and tragedy, have come to a point in their lives where they are able to forgive.
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.
However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.
Forgive we must in order to release the caustic energy festering within us, making us sick, and separating us from our highest Self…..and from each other. Forgive because we recognize that we are all flawed, all broken to some degree, all traumatized, all human. Ignore the story and see the soul. The people who have hurt us may be assholes, but they are also children of God (the Universe……Brahma) like we all are.
So give them back to God. Pray they learn, heal, and open to love. It is this forgiveness that unites, and it is this forgiveness that heals. And just when you think you’ve fully forgiven, forgive again. This process takes time, but it’s worth it; in the end, you get your Self back. Fully and whole.
I could not transcend suffering until I forgave the people who have hurt me the most and every other harasser, manipulator, and abuser. Forgiving them never once meant that I condoned their behavior. Not even a little bit. Forgiveness means I refuse to carry them, their energy, their wounds, and their story within me. As long as I stay stuck in the story, bound to them in negativity, I can never break free. Our commingled pain will continue to influence my present and my future choices and keep me disconnected from my truth.
What revolution would unfold if we truly embraced the teachings of the mystics? The truth is that we are here to awaken to the light, to the God within us and within all. How do we do that? By experiencing all of life, without creating separation. By healing the fractured parts of ourselves and accepting the gifts every one of our relationships has to give. By seeing the soul of every being as a pure expression of that person’s own divinity. Finally, by letting ourselves love the whole messy, chaotic, and beautiful process of “being” that can bring us home to the God within.
May these thoughts benefit us all in our search for peace and understanding, for mercy and forgiveness.