Struggling with forgiveness
Has it ever seemed really difficult to forgive yourself, or someone else? Have you ever berated yourself for just not being able to forgive?
I’d like to talk about what can make forgiveness – as we usually think about it – such a difficult process, and also look at how we might start to understand and embrace the path to true forgiveness, which is actually much more wonderful than anything we could ever imagine.
Clearing the misconceptions
The reason for our difficulties with forgiveness is that what we have been taught about it is not accurate, and so we have been trying to do something that is actually not possible. What’s inaccurate is that we think of it as an action, something that we can actually “do”.
We do not know that true forgiveness is not a “doing” thing.
This is a deep and painful misconception. We do not know that it is actually inherent in our deepest self, that it’s an inner spiritual state, a natural, immutable, eternal quality of Presence. We cannot “do” it, we can only “be” it. Most of us have lost touch with this knowledge, that our true, spiritual self exists in an indestructible state of forgiveness.
Because we are not in touch with this truth, there’s a certain way in which we have come to feel that we are both unforgiven and unforgivable. We sincerely believe that parts of us are bad and wrong. We feel ashamed of things we have done, thoughts we have had and emotions that have swept over us. We criticize and attack ourselves for our mistakes and missteps. And we do this not just to ourselves, but to those around us, especially those who seem to have hurt or wronged us in some way.
Then at some point we see the damage caused by our judgments, and we imagine that we might be able to bypass the inner judge by forgiving ourselves for the “wrong” things we have done. However, in this process, in our deep desire to forgive, we often use forgiveness to cover over and defend against the fact that underneath, we’re still feeling that we’re bad. In this way, it can largely protect us from the pain of our guilt, shame and blame, which may seem to disappear. But these difficult emotions remain buried and unresolved, and because they are unhealed, they move us further away from our true selves.
So in “forgiving”, we actually distance ourselves even more from the state of true forgiveness. But even though we have lost direct contact with the state of forgiveness, it seems as though the loss is not complete, and some part of us still remembers that wonderful state of grace. The shadow of that memory creates a very powerful pull to return to this particular aspect of our true nature. It’s one of the reasons that we often put so much focus on the need to forgive.
The process of true forgiveness
So how can we unfold into the true forgiveness that we have lost and still yearn for?
The first thing that’s needed is to stop trying to forgive, to stop trying to “do” it. Instead, we need to really acknowledge the parts of us that we judge as so bad and wrong. Rather than trying to forgive them, we need to do our best to bring compassion, acceptance and understanding to those places. As we do this, we start to relax inside. We find that the more we truly understand the reasons for our actions, the more our judgment naturally falls away. Once the judgment is gone, we see that the “bad” parts of us are simply wounded inner children and their angry, wounding defenders, and we start to feel compassion for them all. We see that our hurt places were never to blame for their wounds, and that there was actually never anything to forgive. We feel relaxed and compassionate, and the whole drama of sin and forgiveness begins to drop away.
We see how our love and understanding has truly healed us in a way that trying to forgive could never do. This is a wonderful place to rest, and deeply valuable in its own right. As we rest here, we may notice how much closer to spirit we have come. And sometimes we can unfold even further, into the place of true forgiveness, which is the ultimate resolution to our quest.
True forgiveness is a deep state of grace, and not easy to experience directly. But when we do unfold into its peace, we become aware that it arises with every moment of existence. We know that even as we do things that hurt ourselves or another, in the very same breath is forgiveness. We may act out of ignorance and fear, but those actions are simultaneously forgiven, and because of this, can never actually be evil, and paradoxically, do not need forgiveness. And yet it is eternally, boundlessly and simply present as part of the mystery and love of our true nature.
We understand that we don’t have to do anything to exist in forgiveness, because it is ultimately who we are.
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