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Understanding Forgiveness - Introduction

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

If peace is your priority, then forgiveness will be your only function.


This Weeks Video

I know this may seem too simple, but the key to forgiveness is to fully understand that all human motive for how one thinks, behaves, and emotes is either driven by the desire to extend love, or is a call for help. That’s it! Just two core motives. When perceived from that context, there are only two responses to these two motives; gratitude for the love extended, or compassion for the suffering of another. In either situation you maintain your inner peace. If inner peace is the thing that you value most, then forgiveness, as explained above, is your only function.

During 2022, I will be doing a series of blogs on what it takes to sustain inner peace as a whole-of-life reality, not just something that occurs from time to time, or rarely at all for that matter. As such, given the explanation I gave in the first paragraph (take a moment to read it again), these blogs will explore various facets of forgiveness and how to implement them into your day-to-day life.

Judgement is the block to forgiveness, and is what dissipates inner peace. In each moment, and with each experience that can potentially take us out of our peace, we have a choice, although most of us forget we have a choice because we live life so habitually. The choice is that we can either judge or forgive. Whatever we value most will determine our choice. If we value being right, or justified, or needing to be compensated, or vindicated, or not wanting to feel shame or guilt, we typically resort to judgement. If we want to have inner peace and the wellbeing that brings, then we would choose forgiveness.

As you may have guessed, or even experienced personally, forgiving but not forgetting doesn’t bring sustainable inner-peace. So it’s not true forgiveness. It might temper a situation momentarily, but it will always sit just under the surface, always there, capable of coming to the surface whenever circumstances dictate. Forgiveness is one of the more difficult concepts for the western mind to grasp. Part of the reason is our Judeo/Christian culture. The Christian scriptures teach that one should forgive seventy times seven. Even the Lord’s Prayer petitions God to “forgive us our trespasses”. So, with all of this talk of forgiveness we are taught, paradoxically, that we must live in fear of the judgement of God, totally dismissing the idea that God would also be applying the ‘490 times’ forgiveness model taught in the gospel of Luke.

We can’t even imagine the idea of forgiveness taught in the Sermon on the Mount which reads, “…Love you enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44) How could God ask that of us if that is not how he would treat us? The Church has promoted the idea of a punishing God who is all loving. No wonder forgiveness is so confusing.

Reacting to a situation is a habitual behaviour that stems from subconscious programs, many of which were developed before the age of seven. Judgement is the fruit of ignorance (being unaware). Forgiveness is the fruit of expanded awareness. Awareness is having the capacity to step back from our programming, our ignorance, and our habits, and more fully observe what is happening in the moment. This type of observation just looks at the ‘facts’ without any filters, without judgement or expectation. In this place of being aware, no meaning is attached to what one observes, other than the idea that what ever is happening reflects a call for help or the extension of love. Having this awareness can only result in either gratitude or compassion, which are the essence of forgiveness.

That said, if circumstances compromise the free-agency of another, then justice has the role of protecting one’s agency. Typical of the image portraying justice is a woman holding a sword and scales, and prior to the 15th century, was without a blindfold. In most medieval depictions of Justice, she would hold the scales over her abdomen, brining into context the idea of her having bowels of compassion when weighing up the evidence. However, she also held a sword, reflecting the idea of punishment. These juxtaposed symbols promoted the idea that punishment could be metered out, with mercy. This becomes easier to do when you understand that ‘bad’ behaviour is in fact a call for help.

The blog series for this year will explore the multi-faceted nature of forgiveness, and how being committed to adopting a forgiving approach to life qualifies one to enter the ‘Treasury of Light’, the pathway that follows on from the Dark Night of the Soul. This is the pathway that brings one to the place of enlightenment.

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