Why bother? You’ve been hurt, you’ve had something meaningful taken from you or worse, you’ve been downright abused. What does forgiving do for you?
Even if you desire to move beyond the dark of what’s occurred and let it be in the past, which is a fine desire for yourself, why should the person who set you in that place get a chance at moving forward too? Haven’t they gotten enough already?
These are all thoughts that naturally come up.
Let’s face it, true benevolent forgiveness is something that’s asked for in practically every religion, and if it came as easy as breathing they wouldn’t need to write about it so much.
Let’s start with the obvious ones, my fellow Jews. I say obvious because frankly almost all our holidays are around surviving an onslaught of people who decided no way to Yahweh. What are their insights into the question of “why”?
“Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand.” Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9.4
Christians have forgiveness at the core with Jesus forgiving everyone, even his transgressors. This belief goes all the way right down to his last words,
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
So right off the bat, whether you are a believer in either of these religions or not, there start to be the hints of why. It is as the knife analogy illustrates, a futile attempt to right a wrong just leads to greater and more pain — often for both self and other.
In case you need to hear it from additional sources, Buddha offers the following:
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned.”
“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”
OK, OK, so that’s one good reason to let go of anger and hurt, if for no other reason than to preserve your own basic well-being. But what of the person who started this? Is there any good reason to give them something for misbehaving?
Well, let’s switch gears for a second. Have you ever really thought about what forgiveness means? The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.”
I know this may seem like even more reason why NOT to forgive, I mean, if there were reservations about giving anything before, now that you know it originally meant a COMPLETE giving… that’s just crazy.
But what is it that is being so completely given?
If we really dig in, if we connect intellect and heart, self and other, what is it that’s missing? What in the big picture, regardless of the ever-changing circumstances, was it that occurred?
Was it not, at its core, an experience or an act that left you feeling less? Less than you were, less than perfect, less than human? Was not any offense you’ve ever experienced an attempt at taking away the full, rich bounty of being alive and the feeling of joy in that?
If to return to that is your goal, if, more than anything, you believe that the state of being free, alive and whole is one that you want, and if you wish for it to be limitless, can you really ever get to it, much less be immersed in it, if you can only conceive of it with boundaries and limitations?
If it’s off limits to those who fail might you not be worthy either?
Every slight, every pain, every transgression we experience is a reminder that we impact others, we give each other what is within us, often most deeply when we lose our way.
This is simply what it is to be human; we are receivers of a million different stations broadcasting the same basic desires, wants and fears in a cacophony of noise.
So in the end, if we want it all, if we want to have life completely given to us in all its richness, wouldn’t we be better off if we learned how to forgive, how to completely grant humanity to another and ourselves, how to tune into that place?
If nothing else just to know we’ve arrived. That this beautiful process exists and that we are filling up with its substance, leaving no room within us for our fears to root and flower anymore.
This post originally appeared at Spirituality for the Sarcastic
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