“ He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me” In those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease……In those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time, hatred ceases by love – this is an eternal law….
The Buddha The Dhammapada ( The Way of Truth )
If we are wounded and hurt through the actions of others ( real or perceived ) we may start to build up forms of hardened resentment and hatred in our lives. Then clinging to these negative elements like prized processions, we find it difficult to move forward, to enter into a healing space that forgiveness offers. And yet the Buddha unequivocally tells us that in order to seek out this higher spiritual level of eternal law, where healing resides, we must do exactly that – give up our negative feelings of hatred and cultivate love instead. But entering this sacred mandala isn’t easy…..
Forgiveness starts with us
Forgiveness starts with spiritual awareness – in the mind, heart and body. It’s the calling that tells us that we must let go of our storehouse of pain, that our resentment has built up, in order to return to peace. But no one else can make this move for us; it is our journey alone. The spiritual path of forgiveness that we tread, may be enormously difficult and we may have to accept that it is a unilateral move on our behalf. Our ‘ enemy ‘ may very well be unrepentant and yet we must still seek out and embrace forgiveness because it is a gift WE offer up – for GIVE ness – irrespective of any reciprocal return.
Forgiveness is difficult
If we keep on playing out the role of ‘ victim ‘ and spin stories about our hurt and pain, then our discomfort will continue and we will have missed an opportunity for self-succour. Trying to forgive can be a very difficult undertaking at times; we perhaps gain some ground, only to be knocked back again with corrosive, undermining feelings. But we just have to walk on that extra mile, where others fall away, because that’s the very time we can meet with unexpected results – our release from the tyranny of self-imposed bitterness.
“ Undertaking that make no demands on us are probably not worth the effort.”
Forgiveness is a process
Forgiveness involves us in a regular, therapeutic practice of looking and listening to what is troubling us, so that we may understand it more. But we must never rush this process, bring it to premature closure, because it may come back to trouble us at a later date. Incubation time is of the essence here so that we can make a shift in perspective, a fresh consideration about possible rigid, entrenched views. It can lead us to ask the following probing and challenging questions…………Are we are in possession of all the ’ facts ‘, or just our interpretations of the ‘ facts ‘? Are we judging too soon? Do we have access to the fuller picture? Could we be wrongly accusing people, or assigning blame disproportionately? Have we made a true and fair assessment, or have we allowed our minds to cloud over with prejudice?
Through engagement with this questioning process we may arrive at different conclusions and thereby reach a future position of reparation that encircles everyone.
Forgiveness is not conditional
Forgiveness can take time to ripen but when it ready to give, we must give fully. We cannot hold back – either we give it fully or not at all. There is no partial agreement, some negotiated deal that conceals as much as it reveals. Forgiveness is a full spiritual gift ( probably the most challenging one we could offer ) that ultimately benefits both the ‘ victim ‘ and the ‘ perpetrator ‘. It is a deeply enriching process of metastasis – transformation.
Even if we accept the notion of partial forgiveness, and pull away from giving fully, then we could only expect to be given back a corresponding partial healing. And that may not be enough for us.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting
Forgiveness should never cancel out the past but heal it, and move us forward to a more empowering future. The creative opportunity here is to recognize our past as a learning tool from which we can draw up a ‘ survival map ‘ for a better, more spiritually informed tomorrow. We must never try to’ erase ‘ our past hurts because this may damage us further. In reality it’s a form of repression that only ‘ hides ‘ them, creating an opportunity for festering and eventual re-surfacing again, in the future. We simply cannot ‘ forget ‘ what has happened to us, that’s unrealistic. All life’s events ( both positive and negative ) are consigned to our memory bank and constitute, to some extent, who we are. By remembering what has happened to us, we are able to learn and go forward in a positive fashion. But clinging is something else, that’s a form of ownership that just keeps us locked in a cycle of distress and anguish, with no prospect of relief.
Remembering is not the same as clinging…..
Forgiveness is more the heart’s gift than the mind’s gift
Ultimately forgiveness is a spiritual matter, not an intellectual one. Certainly we must bring wisdom and insight to bear on our thought processes when evaluating our emotions and feelings, our pain and anguish, but in the final analysis the decision to forgive comes from the heart, not the intellectual mind.
It is a journey into a sacred mandala where we are given the chance to leave behind all the corrosive, damaging thoughts that we have been clutching, in order to be cleansed and released.
It is a recognition and acknowledgement of a fundamental, spiritual law that brings everyone into equal standing for potential purification and reconciliation – with no exceptions ……
“ Whoever approaches Me walking, I will come to him running; and he who meets Me with sins equivalent to the whole world, I will greet him with forgiveness equal to it.”
Mishkat Al – Massabaih