Monday, August 11, 2008

The freedom of forgiveness

I had such a thought-provoking comment on my Forgiveness post from last week that I felt drawn to write a follow-up post on the subject. I'm re-posting the comment here as this blog lives in two places so not everyone would have had a chance to view the original. James said:

Forgiveness is an interesting concept. Such an easy word, but so difficult to master. I have recently turned to Taoism to find my way. In my readings, I have found that sometimes forgiveness is a selfish act. I had a friend do something very low down to me. I forgave him. We aren’t friends, we won’t hang out anytime soon, but the forgiveness was a selfish act, it was to make me feel better. It was to let the bad energy leave me. But recently, my wife and I have come under a lot of stress, which has turned into arguments. It is tough to forgive, because that kind of forgiveness can’t be selfish, it has to be giving. I have a hard time with that…hence the Taoist way. Hopefully I will be enlightened and learn.

James raises such a good point, that we can think of forgiveness as selfish because it makes us feel better. But forgiveness does far more than make you feel better--it creates healing (or at least an opening for healing) for both parties concerned. Forgiveness really isn't about the other person--it is your reaction to what occurred that created you being upset in the first place, and so really it is all about you clearing up your own energy around the situation and/or the person and releasing any negative buildup. However, that doesn't mean that the other person isn't affected by it. As Catherine Ponder says, "When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free." That link is a two-way street, usually with negative energy circulating between the two people involved even if they aren't interacting with each other. The more we hold on to our negative thoughts about what happened, the more negativity flows back and forth along that link. Once it has been dissolved, however, no matter who does the dissolving, both parties will reap the benefits of the forgiveness by no longer being caught in an endless loop of anger.

Now, sometimes it is easier to forgive when you think of it as being selfish. The other person hurt you and while you know you need to let the anger go so that you are no longer continuing to hurt yourself after the fact, you don't necessarily want to help the other person either. I think this might be a good time to point out that no matter what happens between two people, there are always two sides, two ways of perceiving what took place. Usually, our feelings of hurt don't come from the facts of the situation themselves, they come from the way we choose to interpret the facts. In the heat of strong emotion it may be difficult to recognize you have a choice about the interpretation, but the recognition of that choice is perhaps the most freeing realization you can ever have.

But no matter how you think about it, forgiveness is both selfish and giving. Whether you choose to forgive for your own energetic benefit or because your relationship with another requires you to be as loving and as giving as you can be, the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to forgive. Forgive yourself, forgive the other person, forgive the situation, forgive the person, just keep on forgiving until you genuinely feel like all of the roots of the anger have dissipated. Forgiveness is the quickest road to freedom there is. Namaste.

Photo: "A Brand New Day," originally uploaded by Hendra Saputra

Enjoying Learning to Fly? Stumble It to share with others looking for inspiration!

2 comments:

Fran said...

My favorite quote on this subject from the Tao te Ching is, "When I and enemy exist together, there is no room for my treasure." We are also called to remember to forgive ourselves, for many of us find it hard to be our own friend.

Jenn Sheridan said...

Absolutely! We usually harbor our strongest resentments against ourselves, even if they're hidden beneath our resentments of others. You could probably forgive yourself everyday for the rest of your life and still be in need of a little more forgiveness. But it's still worth starting where you are, starting today.