The question of forgiving myself and others is one that I have pondered and am pleased that I have :-) The first thing that struck me when I began to give some ‘loving thought’ to this question was in terms of another question:
What does ‘forgiving myself’ (or forgiving another for that matter) really mean????
The concept of forgiveness is found in several religious traditions. The ones that I am most familiar with are the Christian, Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In the Christian tradition, for instance, forgiveness is part of The Lord’s Prayer: “…forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…”
As a child, I was quite sure what that meant: An all powerful and constantly judging God would forgive me for all the ‘bad’ things that I did but, in turn, I had to forgive my friends and brothers and sisters for all the bad things they had done to me.
As a child, that seemed to make enough sense to me. As an adult, however, it began to feel disturbing. You see, the idea of my being in a position of power or control over others or over myself so that I could chose to ‘forgive’ or not ‘forgive’ seemed to add to my already troubled state of mind. I felt great pressure to ‘forgive’, believing that if I didn’t, I would somehow be punished. I began to feel guilty when I did not feel like ‘forgiving’ and I felt bad about myself for being unable and/or unwilling to forgive.
In fact, these ‘secondary’ effects loomed so prominently in my mind that the actual ‘wrongdoing’ that had been committed (by myself or another) receded into the background along with its potentials for insight and healing! The less I was able to forgive, the worse I felt and the more preoccupied I became with the guilt of not forgiving. It had turned into a rather unpleasant cycle, reflecting the Buddha’s wisdom, “You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by it”!
When I started pulling apart the concept of ‘forgiveness’, I found that it came down to this:
Returning to a state of peace and harmony with myself and with others.
Recognizing that I was really seeking peace was a huge relief! That was something that I felt an instant desire for and it was a huge motivator. Once I was able to acknowledge to myself that all I really wanted was peace, I was able to review the ‘wrongdoing’ in terms of how my natural state of peace had been affected by it. This was a major shift in perception from ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to ‘peace/harmony and disharmony’.
It freed me from judgments and justifications about myself and others. It freed me from the need for blame and recompense. Instead, recognizing that I was really seeking the restoration of my ‘natural great peace’ (as the Buddhists refer to it) or ‘grace’ (as the Christians do) was such a positive motivator that I couldn’t wait to intend and allow peace within myself! And I did!
I did not concern myself with how that peace would come about and what actions I had to take. Rather, I kept my focus on the feelings of peace and joy that I desired trusting that I would be guided to whatever actions and behaviors were necessary. As you can imagine, it is hard, if not impossible, to feel bad when you are feeling peaceful and joyful!!!
In short, these are the things that have helped me ‘forgive’:
- Realizing that forgiveness is really about restoring peace within myself and with others
- It is far more useful and loving for me to view my actions in terms of whether they help me maintain inner peace or whether they disturb my peace rather than in terms of right/wrong, good/bad.
- Focusing on my desire for peace frees me from judgments and justifications about myself and others
- Intending and allowing peace paves the way for my wisdom mind/holy spirit to guide me in the actions and behaviors that are required
- When I am focused on peace, I am not focused on feeling bad, guilty or unloving!
May we all experience our natural great peace and return to it again and again! Lucy
Contact Lucy at email@example.com