What is forgiveness?

For many years, I’ve been told by my parents, my teachers, Buddhist monks, and many authors of self-help / spiritual books that forgiveness is the key to everything, including personal growth, happiness, inner peace and peace of mind. It seems that without forgiveness we are destined to be horrible people and live in a state of misery.

It has always made sense to me why forgiveness was so important because I could easily see that the person most affected by my anger, hatred, resentment and all the other emotions that came with not forgiving, was me. As much as I’d like to think that holding a grudge would make the other person feel bad for what they did and serve as a lesson for them, I realized that the pain I was putting myself through in that hope simply wasn’t worth it.

Then there’s the bit that people also say, which is that forgiveness of others only comes after self-forgiveness.

Years ago, at a Buddhist weekend retreat, we were guided through a forgiveness mediation which in summary started by:

1) imagining someone you would like to forgive and placing them into your heart while you said to yourself that you forgave them for what they had done to you;
2) then you imagined someone that you felt needed to forgive you and you imagined them in your heart and asked them for forgiveness;
3) then the meditation ended by putting yourself in your own heart and asking yourself for forgiveness.

Understanding the importance of forgiveness, I thought it was a nice exercise but I always felt I was missing something that they weren’t telling me. How was it that I was supposed to “put” people in my heart? Clearly, simply by imagining them in my heart wasn’t going to be enough.

So, how does one forgive?

What helped me start to understand this back then was the idea that everyone is doing the best that they can, given what they know in that moment. I am aware that people can easily turn this into an excuse, but I always understood that there was truth behind these words. Even though, I didn’t exactly know what that truth was, I had some intellectual idea of what it meant.

The other day I was listening to one of my teachers, Sandy Krot, and she was talking about how the level of service we provide the people we work with is so much greater when we help them understand how forgiveness works compared to simply telling them that forgiveness is a good thing to do. I was curious to hear more from her about this and what she shared made perfect sense to me. Her words were like a confirmation of what I had recently started to experience for myself but hadn’t yet tried to put into words.

What she said was not that different from what I’ve been sharing with you regarding the importance of Thought and its relationship to our experience of life.

What I have been seeing more and more lately is that, as people start getting their own insights into the principles behind life, they begin to recognize how easily they themselves get tricked by the outside-in illusion. Which is to say, that they innocently find themselves feeling that the source for their feelings is coming from something or someone outside of themselves.

The more people see this outside-in illusion for themselves and begin to recognize how often they are mistakenly trapped into believing something feels like it’s outside-in, they begin to recognize the same innocence in other people as well.

Every one of us is always feeling and reacting to the quality of thought associated to our level of consciousness in any given moment in time. And, when we perceive a threat and believe it to be real, we all do what we can to defend ourselves against it.

Going back to what Sandy Krot said to me. She said that once she had the insight that all her feelings came from the inside and that no one else was responsible for them, she found that forgiveness was a “no brainer” and that there was “nothing to forgive”.

And, that is what I think true forgiveness is; when we feel there isn’t anything to forgive.

Until next time, may the four winds continue to help guide your way.

Lots of love,
Daniel