All of us need forgiveness. No matter what your religion or belief system, everyone needs to understand how forgiveness works in their lives. Paganism and Christianity, even atheists can find truth in the power of forgiveness. So let us see what is the real meaning, behind a word that we hear so often.
"What could you want forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you, and more." - from A Course in Miracles
That is a quote from a book that many people in Phoenix meet to discuss locally, as do others in Arizona and around the world. The book itself is not as important as the messages within it, those are universal and are found in the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita and many other sacred texts globally. One of the primary messages taught in all forms of spirituality is forgiveness.
So what is forgiveness and how does learning to use it help us, as individuals?
Learning how to forgive helps with your emotional growth, but also is a stepping stone to living a more fulfilling life. The art of forgiveness is something that can take time to learn and master. It is one of the keys to achieving true happiness in life overall, yet must be learned through attaining unconditional acceptance of our personal reality and the complicated circumstances in it. The road to learning how to forgive can be difficult, but the rewards are worthwhile overall.
Your view of reality is often based on emotional bias. This is not just true for you, but for every other human being that we meet. Our view of our individual realities are egocentric in nature, even when we interact with others in daily life. Every action we take has ramifications, consequences and will provoke reactions in the others that are around us. Yet we take every experience from a personal viewpoint and respond to it emotionally. When we experience something that is highly emotionally charged, it is a human tendency to distort the reality of those events. Our happiest and saddest experiences are not as good or bad as remembered. In fact, what we take as very personal and emotional events in life, often are very normal from an outside perspective. Your ability to forgive others and yourself, depends greatly on emotional maturity, as an individual.
Forgiveness must begin and end with acceptance.
Many of us have been taught to forgive and forget, but this statement is often misunderstood. What is really important is to forgive, so that we learn to accept the circumstances we have been through. Once we truly accept our circumstances, then it is possible to forgive those involved in them. Acceptance is the main goal of finding the ability to forgive others. By accepting circumstances as they truly are, we no longer are viewing things from a narrow or subjective point of view. Viewing things from a wider scope of understanding helps us resolve our internal conflicts, thus forgiving begins by finding a way to acceptance.
Forgiveness requires that we love unconditionally.
The ability to have unconditional love is uniquely tied to being able to forgive. When we love others unconditionally, we are able to choose to stay or leave more easily. Having unconditional love also allows us to be just, or offer counsel with tough love and do it without guilt. Until we are honest with others about our feeling towards them, it is impossible to heal the wounds from our interpersonal actions or conflicts. This is why unconditional love is a key component in our ability to forgive, because being honest about our feelings facilitates forgiveness. Essentially, by being able to admit how we truly feel about someone allows us to know what it is we need to forgive.
Using both of these ideas in our lives creates the opportunity for emotional growth.
Through true acceptance of our circumstances and unconditional love, we can accurately define what it is we need to forgive. Your interpretation of what has been done to wrong maybe simple or complex. Forgiveness of a debt for instance might be as simple as writing it off, having it exchanged for some service in your life, having the debt worked off by the person or it might require more drastic reconciliation. Forgiveness of an action is usually a more complex issue, especially if we feel wronged by someone we loved. Both situations are aided by using acceptance and unconditional love as our guidelines, but this requires that we grow emotionally in either case.
Forgiveness for others, often must be accompanied by forgiving ourselves.
We may find ourselves able to forgive others for their transgressions, yet a new set of complications suddenly occur within us emotionally. Often the reason we find it hard to forgive others has much to do with our inner conflicts. Your self image can be torn, by allowing someone to injure you personally and why you feel it happened. If you feel guilty about allowing yourself to be wronged or injured, then the conflict is within you. You actually blame yourself for how someone else and their actions impacted your life. If this is true, then it is important to find the ability to forgive yourself.
Remember that feelings are not permanent, they are transitory in nature.
Emotional reactions are very intense in the moment, but that intensity will change and alter itself with time. It is the reality of your life circumstances that needs to be forgiven, so that the emotional aspects can be healed. Once the emotional impact has been addressed, then it is possible to view the reality of any even with clear judgement. The power of forgiveness is great, once we are able to see what is true. This is why learning to forgive is such a tremendous thing for anyone. It demonstrates that we have come to grips with our emotional life, but also shows that we have the ability to discern what is reality from what is fantasy. Our human tendency to exaggerate the emotional content of our memory, this is what keeps us from being able to forgive ourselves and others.
There are many ways in which learning how to forgive helps with your emotional growth, so it must be done without rushing ourselves. All emotional growth happens at the pace that is appropriate for each person, but it can never be forced to happen. It will take as long as it does, this is always true.
Becoming more emotionally mature comes from life experience, having relationships with others and learning to be independent in life. The journeys that lead to your emotional growth are uniquely yours, but not so different from the other people around you. That is what makes forgiveness possible, the fact that all of us are alike in one universal way. That we are all unique and special individuals, so we all are deserving of acceptance, unconditional love and therefore we also deserve forgiveness.
These are somethings to consider today and over time. Sometimes we are told to forgive and forget, but the real magic is simply in the power of forgiving. Forgiving others and forgiving ourselves.