To prepare for this article, please read my previous posting, Why Gratitude, What You Haven’t Been Told.
Forgiveness is probably the most misunderstood concept of the last few thousand years, and thus the cause of endless suffering, from devastating wars to wretched lives and life destroying illnesses. If just this article alone were to be accepted by 1/10 of the population, the world would instantly, miraculously, literally become a ‘heaven on earth’.
Every one of us has been in situations where we feel that we have been wronged, whether by an individual, a group, a social system, or even by God.
And every one of us has been tempted to see ourselves as victims. Nearly all of us have then felt anger, and most of us have sought revenge, either directly or indirectly. Others have harboured the poisonous feelings within, often fantacizing or simply wishing ill on the other, or even deciding on behalf of some punishing God that that person will be punished.
Yet others of us decide that as ‘good’ people/Christians/Buddhists or whatever we believe is good, that we should forgive the thief, murderer, rapist or other perpetrator of their deed. After all, those are the teachings of Jesus Christ, as well as other great teachers throughout time and earth space.
Yes, forgiveness has been taught, but those that taught it did not intend forgiveness to be in any way linked with goodness, kindness or even love. Not directly, in any case. In fact, the greatest teachers who taught forgiveness were beyond such judgmental polarities of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, warning of the dangers of judgment, regardless whether of self, another or companions.
Forgiveness is not to be linked to “Goodness”
Let’s see what happens when you try to be a good person, Christian, or ‘good’ whatever by ‘forgiving’. This ‘forgiving’ involves certain basic assumptions, the first that you are ‘good’, and the other, ‘bad’, The second, more fundamental one is that you are a victim, a victim of another, or of fate, ‘karma’ or some other victimizing force which has singled you out. Not, as you truly are, a co-creator of your Life Circumstances.
What then is forgiveness, its purpose, and its benefits?
Forgiveness, to put it simply, is the act of refusing to invest time and energy in a person or circumstance that you see as being outside of your-self. This frees your energy to focus instead on promoting your own joy unconditionally.
In order to do this requires, nay, demands one thing; the unremitting commitment to be fully powerful and self determining. Not giving any of your power away.
Many people foolishly think that revenge is the ‘manly/strong/honourable’ way of putting grievances right. In light of our path we can see it is the precise opposite. Revenge is the total delegation of power to another, to the extent of creating even further turbulence in your life, with con-sequences (con=with), whether legal, psycho-spiritual, counter revenge or all of these which could not only affect you, but your family and others who care for you.
Revenge is the Total Delegation of Power to Another
Road rage is a simple fast developing example, where many a traffic indiscretion has started a sequence from cursing to somebody being killed. How do you respond when someone commits a traffic indiscretion? Have you noticed the state of your body, your heartbeat, blood pressure your expression, your driving ability, your behaviour etc, when you react indignantly, as opposed to just driving on, retaining your peace and composure? Notice how you drive when you drive in a hurry or bad mood compared to when you feel serene.
If you have read the article on gratitude and are now reading this one, would it be fair to assume that you are by implication accepting that we are co responsible, in a conscious or unconscious way, for our life circumstances?
By this definition, when we find ourselves being challenged to forgive, is it not ourselves who we are finding it difficult to forgive? Just as we have projected enough self dislike to create someone that acts out our self punishment, is our issue with forgiveness not merely an unwillingness to forgive ourselves, again projected outwards? The Course of Miracles goes as far as to categorically state that All forgiveness is self forgiveness, and, at an even deeper level, if we are truly non judgmental, of ourselves in particular, there is nothing to forgive!
All Forgiveness is Self Forgiveness
Being forgiving and acknowledging that every incident in everybody’s life is a self created reflection does not mean that we remain passive when we see what we perceive to be an injustice to ourselves or another. At the ‘now’ moment of it occurring, we are entitled to do what we can, in relation to the perceived threat, to stop it. No more. (the principle of ‘justifiable force’)
It is not for us to punish if we choose to remain centered in our power (rather than externally reactive). Remember that re (en) activity goes on in perpetuity until you choose to stop it, and the earlier the easier, less painful and better. ‘Vendettas’, from an inter family dispute to a national and international level have self perpetuated long after the initial grievance has been forgotten even amongst total strangers on opposite sides of the earth!.
This repetitiveness is exactly what happens when we do not take personal responsibility for our lives. When we give our power away. We will beat up (literally or figuratively) our perceived enemy, only to create another one. Or marry yet another abusive spouse after divorcing the previous one.
However, as soon as we truly for-give, we give for ourselves the freedom from this condition. We end the cycle of setting ourselves up in this way, having taken response-ability. We change. We change the people we attract. We change the way they relate (reflect) to us, the way we relate to them, and the way we respond. Always self centered. To quote Cyndi Krupp, forgiveness is the ultimate in selfishness.
When We Forgive, We Free Our-Selves. It is the Ultimate in Selfishness
You may now ask. ‘What about the law?’ Should I not challenge someone legally if I feel that I have been wronged? Should I not testify in court in a criminal case?
The answer to that is that legal consequences are part of the implied agreement of us living in a society, and have nothing to do with forgiveness.
Should you consider filing a suit against someone, consider the cost versus possible benefits and entrust the lawyer to fight the case. Separate your issue from the accused. The accused is merely the agent. Be selfish enough as to not disperse your energy to the accused. Be selfish enough to be forgiving, dispassionate. Be in the here and Now. Let go of all attachment to the outcome.
The example of the traumatized girls in the previous article is a perfect example. Their attitudinal healing and subsequent forgivingness led to a life far more powerful and joyful than before the traumatic event, to the extent that, given the choice, they categorically stated that, given the chance, they would not erase the event as part of their lives.
I am not promising you that you will find forgivingness easy. I am, however promising you that it is well worth the effort, and will result in life lived powerfully and joyfully, and (thus unavoidably) to the ultimate benefit of all.
The choice is yours….
Another excerpt on the art of living from an upcoming book by Apollo (more to follow)
Apollo Pampallis, Therapist and Philosopher, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving him a comment below…