Good morning to all. Today, in the second installment of my 12-step program to introspective enlightenment (I swear, it only takes 12?), I’ll be exploring one of the most fascinating, frustrating, hurtful and healing actions human beings are responsible for.
They say it’s divine. The absence of it is said to eat away at your soul. It’s a power that the truly humble and good-hearted possess, the proud feel no need to ask for, and the soul-weary beg for.
Today I’m focusing on the need we have to forgive and be forgiven on a basic human level aside from social constructs or cultural influence. This isn’t about a deity’s forgiveness. It’s about our own. You could even argue that it’s about the divinity in each of us, and how we choose to grant or refuse it.
Forgiveness is a deep journey into the depths of what makes us human and separates us from animals because it has the potential to weaken us in terms of basic biological survival. It’s an ape eat ape world out there after all and every person for themselves is a philosophy many choose to live by. But when it comes to the survival of the mind and the higher consciousness.
Forgiveness is more than just divine, it is defining.
We all make mistakes. We cut that guy off in traffic because we were too distracted by the unexpected question of how babies come out of a mom’s tummy arising from the backseat. We missed that deadline. We snapped at that clerk, our child, our husband. We threw our work partner under the bus when it came to promotion time. We took credit that wasn’t ours. Sometimes it’s a malicious act, sometimes purely accidental, but if it’s one thing humans are outstanding at, it’s erring. We err on the side of caution; we err flagrantly and in costly ways. We all mess up. It’s a universal bond between all humans regardless of race, sex, cultural background, or country. But it’s what we do afterwards that is most fascinating.
You see, when these errors occur we are faced with a choice. A choice that our great ape relatives and other mammalian brethren don’t ever have to face because they lack the complex thought processes of present, future and past, and of emotional and psychological cause and effect. When we have made mistakes, when others make them; Do we forgive? Do we turn a cheek? Do we give leeway to falter and stumble? I guess it depends on the mistake. On the other person. On the day we’re having.
Do we forgive ourselves as easily as others?
What happens if we don’t forgive either ourselves or others?
What reasons drive us to make those decisions? And are they enough to justify those reasons?
As fellow humans, I don’t have to tell you about burden. Baggage. Regret. The things we wish we would have done or said differently. People we should have been kinder to. People we should have shared that harder part of our mind with. People and situations we should have let go of. People and situations we should have explored or taken risks on.
We carry around these weights of regret and masses of grudges, sometimes proudly. Sometimes without knowing we’re even holding on to them until they keep us from getting off the ground. This is what happens when we don’t forgive. We stockpile hurt. And it doesn’t just sit there like lead bricks in our mind and bellies, sometimes it multiplies, it grows and changes and jades us. It festers and makes its own scars. The inability to forgive ourselves and other people can actually wound us worse than the original transgression.
So how do we forgive? The answer, my friends, lies in the golden rule itself.
We are all aware of our own human failings, so to expect other humans to be above them is one of the greatest errors. Being able to see others as fallible, to recognize that things go wrong, (drivers get distracted and cut other drivers off, people lose tempers, children have unintentionally brutal honesty), is to see ourselves.
Don’t we wish others could cut us some slack on our off days? Sure, you betcha.
When it’s a bigger transgression, forgiveness is harder. It’s harder to forgive sins that wound deeper than just making us late or hurting our egos. It’s hard to forgive a physical beating or an affair. But as long as we hold on to the pain, we are perpetuating the hurt and keeping it alive.
Feeding it, grooming it, making it work and build the scars inside of us.
Forgiving doesn’t mean staying in a dangerous situation. Our health and survival should always be paramount. Forgiving means saying that what they did was wrong but I’m not going to spend my life making myself sick over it. I’m leaving it behind. I forgive you for being human, I forgive me for staying so long that I became damaged.
I forgive us.
Forgiveness moves us forward, on to what’s meant to be, on to what can be. If you’ve held a grudge, a grudge against the norm of human failing or universal happenstance, take a moment. Close your eyes and ask how this grudge, this unforgiving feeling is serving you.
Rest assured you can keep the lesson and still let go of the wound. So let go. Forgive. Give leeway to the guy cutting through the red light. Understand the tired mom who grouches at you in the store. Forgive the boss who overlooked you and use it as an opportunity to find your true place. Use the lesson to propel you forward and cut the begrudging ties that hold you back.
After all, it is divine.