“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus as he was nailed to the cross
person is not afraid of a tyrant but is kind to him. The law of
compassion tells us that we cannot be kind to those of whom we are
afraid. Forgiveness is the virtue of the brave.”
“Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.”
Have you ever said something hurtful or done something which you later asked yourself, “Why did I do that?” Have you recalled stories about someone who did some wrongful act to society or individual and later said, “I don’t know why I did it,” or “Voices told me to do this?” These situations happen all the time. Even as we try hard to change our behavior, taking a serious path towards more awareness, we may find that out of nowhere we display hurtful actions once again and are seemingly taking these directions from some other command. Then we find we have placed ourselves in a perpetual circle of guilt. Why does this happen?
How many times have we held resentments towards others who may have hurt us physically or emotionally? We relive the experience over and over and each time we convince ourselves that this person was wrong to be so hurtful and we build our resentment ever greater until we feel a deep burning anger inside. Why do we do this?
“How many times do we pay for one mistake? The answer is thousands of times. The human is the only animal on earth that pays a thousand times for the same mistake. The rest of the animals pay once for every mistake they make. But, not us. We have a powerful memory. We make a mistake, we judge ourselves, we find ourselves guilty, and we punish ourselves. If justice exists, then that was enough; we don’t need to do it again. But every time we remember, we judge ourselves again, we are guilty again, and we punish ourselves again, and again and again…
How many times do we make our spouse, our children, or our parents pay for the same mistake? Every time we remember the mistake, we blame them again and send them all the emotional poison we feel at the injustice, and then we make them pay again for the same mistake. Is that justice?”
– Don Miguel Ruiz – The Four Agreements
As I’ve discussed before we humans have been created with two identities: The ego and the Self. What we often refer to as I, me or mine is often aligned with the ego. However, our true I is the Self or Soul. The ego is attracted to and connects us with the world of physical form and the five senses. The Self is that of God. It is perfect, wise and all knowing. The Self is joyous, loving and creative.
The physical world of duality along with the ego was created in part to experience that which we are not and to remind us of our true Self. (For more on this see my blog post ‘How We Create Our World’ and the book “Conversations with God,” by Neale Donald Walsh). This world was created as part of our self-realization process. In the world of form we tend to find ourselves much more aligned with our ego than our Self, even though at times we may recognize that we are something much greater than our ego. In the world of form we have given the ego much power.
All of us struggle with the ongoing conflict between our ego and Self which is why even those of us who have committed to the self-realization process and spiritual growth encounter the rise of the ego in the most unlikely circumstances. Through self-realization we try to understand and love the ego, though we work to establish appropriate boundaries allowing the Self to lead our lives. This means we reject the thoughts which are attracted to the ego (Physical wants, money, power, accumulation of things, control, greed, fear, pain) and focus on those thoughts which are aligned with the Self (Love, selflessness, joy, kindness, generosity, fearlessness, tolerance).
The ego has its role to play in the world of physical form and can help us wade through many challenges of this world as we continue on our Path. However, left unbridled the ego will take over our lives and lead us astray of the goal of self-realization causing much pain and suffering to ourselves and others. The ego is neither good nor bad. It has its purpose and with awareness we can create a cooperative partnership and understanding between the ego and the Self remembering that the Self is our true essence.
This is a struggle every human being is engaged in and while each person’s awareness of this reality is different all must be tolerated as they proceed down their own path towards self-realization and enlightenment. Everyone’s path is different and everyone does achieve enlightenment at some point through this eternal journey. Along the way people experience fear, hurt and pain which is a reminder of how challenging and determined the path towards self-realization is. The Apostle Paul recognizes this struggle, “The good that I would I do not and the evil that I would not I do.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr addresses this struggle in his speech on Love and Forgiveness May 5, 1964, “This strange dichotomy, this tension within human nature is one of the tragic themes of man’s earthly pilgrimage.”
Forgiveness is the power of the Self to overcome and transcend this struggle. When we forgive we strip the ego of its power over us and reject all thoughts and negative energies of fear, anger and hate. We understand that the actions or words of those who seemingly harm us are not coming from the individual’s essence, but from their ego. We understand the struggle and with forgiveness show this person love with the hope that they will remember their true essence and eventually raise their Self above their ego.
Likewise we forgive ourselves when we harm others for these same reasons. And, as we progress on our Path and our ego continues to fight back with unwanted actions or words, we will hopefully find that as we become more enlightened these ego outbursts become less and less.
Remember that forgiveness is not absolution. While we or even society may absolve someone of punishment through forgiveness, the Universal Laws (Do unto others as you would unto yourself. What goes around comes around.) are still in play. However, forgiveness breaks the vicious circle of negative thoughts which Don Miguel Ruiz describes in the quote above from his book, “The Four Agreements.” Recalling how we create our realities with the focused attention on our thoughts, we can see the importance of forgiveness in helping us create a more loving world we were placed here to do.
Always remember that our true essence is the Self/Love. Nothing that we encounter in the world of physical form can change this. We have free will, we are immortal, God loves us unconditionally and whatever hurt or pain we experience is temporary. Even if our pain lasts a lifetime because we have not become aware of our true power to create, it will not last eternally. Whether we choose to forgive or not God will always forgive us and those we may have chosen not to. While we bear the consequences of our actions through the Universal Laws, we have the power to choose Love at any time. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.”
Wishing you all a Happy Holiday Season full of love, joy and forgiveness.