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Understanding Forgiveness - Part 1

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

Love Your Enemies


This Weeks Video

There is a saying that declares, “What you resist persists”. A resistive consciousness gives permission for what we resist to perpetuate. Mahatma Gandhi championed what he called satyagraha, what the West called passive resistance. Gandhi insisted it was more about love and firmness (non-violent) serving as a “synonym for force”. Inspired by Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, Gandhi became an advocate for using non-resistance to overcome institutionalised violence, a lesson that has current relevancy.

The key word in Gandhi’s approach was love. He literally described it as, “Force which was born of love.” Tolstoy revered the Sermon on the Mount, as did Gandhi, which was the foundation to this seemingly passive approach to resistance. It was the words, “resist not evil” and the examples that followed, which inspired the likes of Tolstoy, Gandhi and Thoreau, who in turn were inspired by the early 19th Century writers and teachers of the same ilk (Fox, Garrison and Ballou).

To be able to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, freely lend, love your enemies, bless those that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those that persecute you, requires a state of consciousness, that in the context of how we approach life today, is counter-intuitive. The majority of these tenets were seen as acts of mercy, a fundamental component of the Beatitudes found in the Sermon on the Mount:- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Mercy in this context is an act of forgiveness, demonstrated by the various avenues listed above. It can be extrapolated that fundamental to non-resistance is the cognitive engagement in maintaining a consciousness of forgiveness. This is the real meaning of love force. It’s the commitment to forgiveness as a way of life, in other words, that state of consciousness where forgiveness is a loving choice and not an exercise of discipline.

Imagine being naturally inclined to always love your enemies. You ask, “Is that even possible?” It seems that it is, along with extending blessings to those who curse you, doing good to those who hate you etc. For this state of consciousness to exist, one has to understand the true nature of forgiveness, and valuing inner-peace above valuing justification or vindication. So what does loving one’s enemy look like?

Right from the outset I can clearly state that it is not being in a state of victimhood. You can’t sustain the idea of being a victim and be forgiving at the same time. It appears that we live at a time where justifying ones state of victimhood makes you a hero, a champion of the oppressed. It seems that any contriteness fails to be a salve for the victim, but in fact perpetuates, and even embellishes their victimhood. Their anger and judgement grows, fuelled by others who also identify with that experience of victimhood. Our Western society has validated victimhood, and now accepted by a critical mass, it appears to have fuelled an emerging reality of global victimhood.

Forgiveness doesn’t deny that bad things happen! The fact is, people become our enemies because they have done mean and hurtful things. Yes, those things did occur and yes, some of those things were traumatic. Forgiveness doesn’t deny what happened, or let someone off the hook who perpetuated the offence. Forgiveness is choosing to relate to the what, and the who of the offence in a way that restores and sustains your personal inner peace. It was bad enough that the event and/or the person hurt you once (or in some cases on many repeated occasions) but, in our state of victimhood we perpetuate the offence, which continues to rob us of the joy and peace that could otherwise be our reality.

Choosing to love your enemy is not about being loving towards them, it’s about choosing to be self-loving. Anger, in all of its forms, unresolved grief, shame, and fear not only poison our thinking but also severely compromises our health and wellbeing. Exchanging victimhood with forgiveness is the gift of healing that you give yourself. Loving your enemy frees your mind, your emotions and your body, and more importantly your soul, to live your life in the most fulfilling and purposeful way you choose.

To ‘love’ your enemies asks you to shift your focus from the thing that caused you pain and suffering to seeking to understand what would make it possible for this person to treat you in the way that they have. It’s about asking the question, “What could this person tell me that would help me understand why they are the way they are?” As you might imagine, there is no way that you could hurt another if you were in a loving space. It seems that in many cases, the motive for hurting another is to minimise ones personal suffering, real or imagined. Just like you, they have been wounded, have been the victim of someone else’s abuse or behaviour that has resulted in them feeling loveless and unlovable. I know this is hard to understand but their behaviour was in fact a call for help. It’s hard to see abuse as a call for help, but that’s what it really is. This is more strongly justified when we realise that who appears as the adult is still very much a child (consciously speaking) in an adult body.

Aristotle was said to have observed, “Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” It can be extrapolated that the adult who gives offence is in fact the programming and perceptions of the seven-year-old being played out in adulthood. Who offends is the child who never gained the sense of their own worth such that they end up ‘seeing the world as they are and not as it is’.

The programming of our formative years becomes the framework of how we relate to life in our adult years. It’s fair to say that unless your were taught how to live life with peace as your priority, then it will be the furtherest thing from your mind. In the majority of cases, we are driven by a narrative that is mostly about scarcity, especially in regards to self-empowerment, love and acceptance, finances, and success and achievement. Having developed a belief system about who we are in the context of our narrative, we then (unconsciously) invite the world to turn up in a way that perpetuates our narrative, which includes those people who ‘hurt’ us.

In the end, it’s this simple. If someone (including you) is not extending love, then it’s a (subconscious) call for help. Since for the majority of us, our narrative is scarcity based, our behaviour, and the behaviour of others is typically a call for help. Given this understanding, we can shift our focus from being a victim to being forgiving, without disregarding our hurt and suffering or any justice that must be metered out.

As much as loving your enemies can serve them, the person it serves most is you. Forgiveness is the salve that brings you healing, where judgement and anger in all of its forms keeps picking at the scabs, keeps the wound open. If peace is your priority, then forgiveness is your only option!

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