In this article I will be discussing one of the most important things everyone has to do, to forgive. It was once written: “To err is human, to forgive is divine” – Alexander Pope. Why is it that forgiveness is viewed as such a difficult and burdensome task? Why is it that people must learn to forgive, whereas other experiences such as joy and love seem to come more naturally? The concept of forgiveness is spoken of in a very simple way but is in fact a complex concept that takes practice to master.
Forgiveness is challenging because when we are faced with a situation where we feel someone has done wrong to us we are often faced with a difficult challenge of morality. Events in life that require forgiveness are often situations of deep hurt where we are faced with questions of good and evil, questions which contain a strong sense of who we are, and how we should treat others. No one expects to be betrayed, but when betrayal occurs it leaves people shocked in a way that they look for answers as to why it happened and try to find ways to prevent it from occurring again. The difficulty in forgiving has not to do with this search for answers. The difficulty lies in what answers are found.
People who have suffered severe betrayal often find their lives ruined. If not because of the direct actions of the betrayer, they find themselves unable to move on with life, stuck without an answer as to why their pain occurred. This stuckness is the core of all non-forgiveness. This is a remarkably common feature in our society. I have met very few people who are not “stuck” on at least one thing in their life. Everyone has something to complain about. To experience this is common, but the ramifications are immense. It is normal to feel that you must understand how or why a horrible event occurred or is still occurring. Yet people often cannot break free from this intense need to know why they were hurt so badly. This need to understand why is what creates a stuck person. Because the person cannot explain their pain they tend to become less forgiving and usually create automatic protective behaviors to avoid ever experiencing the same pain again. The need to explain why atrocities occur in the world, without finding answers, seems to be the main reason they keep occurring.
For a person stuck without an answer they feel they need, their whole life can be consumed by their pain ultimately result in a degradation of morality, personality, and most of all a decaying of their happiness. This can and has destroyed countless lives over the course of human history on earth. The solution to moving on from these bad circumstances comes through a process that takes you to a deeper level of an understanding of life, but may not give you those exact answers you so desperately want in order to move on with your life and be well.
Every one tries to live by a set of rules which we call morals. When someone breaks these rules the reaction is usually anger or hate. But anger or hate do not fix the problem. They do not correct the injury, nor will they convince anyone that your rules are correct. Unfortunately our perspectives are too limited. Whether you are faced with a lying salesman, a friend who won’t give you back the ten dollars he owes you, or you have been ruined by a former friend, the answer to moving on in life is always the same. There is no way any of us could fully understand and totally fathom the universe in which we live. There are nearly an infinite number of things we will never understand in our lives here. This knowledge must be applied when a person does you wrong. It always appears that we understand others, we know their character, what kind of person they are, but the truth is that extremely bad decisions usually have little to no thought involved in them. This means there is not much of an answer to find for you. To look at why a person did wrong would be just as arduous as picking up a stone and trying to solve how this stone ended up in this exact place and is this size and this weight at this time. To seek these answers is not only futile, but it doesn’t help you forgive and continue with your life.
The second and most important step to forgive is to accept reality as it is. This is so simple an action that most cannot do it at all. It will require a reduction of your ego and much practice to manage this regularly. What is done is simply to recall an event where you were wronged. Then to simply acknowledge that what happened was what happened. The event could have happened an infinite number of different ways, but it did not. They occurred this way, not some other way. Who are you to second guess the world? How could you possibly know that things should be better or different? You may not be wrong about your morals, but you are wrong to be angry over some one else’s choices. What could you ever gain by being angry about something you have no control over? You can know consciously that things could be better or could have been better and not use it as a means to create hatred. The ironic thing is, that once a person let’s go of negativity and accepts such things, they gain a deeper understanding of why they occur. In other words, we want answers in order to forgive, but in order to get the answers we must forgive first.
By allowing things to be the way that they are allows you to choose what you will do. By rejecting an event as wrong in any way is to argue with reality. This does not appear to be the case when other people have wronged us, however we all have free will. We may all choose our beliefs and actions. The truth is that what we believe should happen doesn’t happen because we do not know what should or should not happen. Things are already, right now, exactly as they should be. How could this be false? Everything that occurs in the universe has a natural balance and equilibrium to it.
Every decision we make determines the natural consequences that come with that decision. Bad choices lead to bad consequences. Good choices lead to good consequences. In the long run this is always true, although in the short term it often cannot be seen.
In the long run you can only lose by maintaining your anger towards someone. You will lose out on life experiences, on opportunities, and for every thing you do not accept you will lose a little bit more happiness. Coming from a person who has had to forgive a lot, I advise you to seriously consider if it is worth it to hold on to anger or to accept that someone else made a poor decision that hurt you. You can accept that something bad happened and let go of the emotional attachment. You don’t have to make the same decision as they did and at the least you won’t lose any more in your life than you have already. Hanging onto anger can only destroy. Letting go of pain sets you free to live how you choose. When you are free you may choose to seek the end of all ends, which we call happiness. Good luck in your challenges, and remember that the goal is not to be right or wrong, the goal is to be well.