“I’ll Forgive You, You Miserable Bastard.” Forgiveness That Hurts or Works.

Via on Apr 6, 2011

Forgiveness as a new view

Imagine you are stuck in traffic. You find yourself in a rage at the driver of the car stopped up ahead. He’s causing this whole mess! And then you are lifted up, as if in a helicopter. You see an accident a mile ahead. You have a new view. You now look at the driver ahead, who, a moment ago you hated. You shake your head and smile.

This is how true, liberating, forgiveness works. It happens quickly and completely. Your new view of the situation is based on truth, not on a mistake.

Most of us have no idea how to forgive. We keep doing it over and over the wrong way. And we get the same temporary sick satisfaction, but no lasting happiness or liberating sense of freedom.

The ego’s version of forgiveness

 

The ego wants to be “good” and so it has its own method of forgiving. One of the ego’s favorite ways to “forgive” might sound something like this:

“I will forgive you, you miserable bastard, because I am the bigger person. I’m the lordly one. I grant thee, you poor lesser soul, my forgiveness.

Or this:

“I will just let it go.” (This one actually sounds spiritual.)

In both cases, there is no real forgiveness. The offending person is still “guilty.” The forgiver will attempt to let go of what “really” happened. But how can he? It really happened and no pledge to just let it go can change that. All that was really accomplished is the “forgiving” ego inflated itself in smugness and fortified its judgment.  Now these egos can look spiritual and wear a halo.

If you break it down, the ego is designed to judge, justify judgment, and unfortunately, then condemn. It starts with judgement, yes, but notice the role played by the justification of judgement. Justification is like welding a coat of steel armor over the judgment. It protects the judgment by declaring, “I am right.” This is a closed and heavily guarded system. It’s pretty much foolproof. Looking into both examples, the forgiver’s judgment is still “right,” and justified. If you look closely, the condemnation is quietly, proudly, there too.

I am right

There is no forgiveness in either of these approaches, only a temporary feeling that, under examination, might be called superiority, manipulation, or control. Someone loses so the ego can win. It’s kind of sick. This is the best the ego can offer: a sick satisfaction.

So, the ego has constructed a convincing, heavily defended, anti-forgiveness system that looks like forgiveness and feels a little “good.”  What do we do?

 

Drop the whole ego judgement system.

 

It can’t be fixed or prettied up. It can’t help itself. It simply cannot forgive.

Forgiveness that works begins with the acknowledgement that you don’t really understand the situation. It is the admission that maybe there is something out of your view, something you don’t see right now. It’s a willingness to remove the armor of justification.   Will you leave your judgement unprotected?  It’s the most courageous and rewarding act in this world.   Will you allow the possibility that your judgement is wrong?

Many stop here, deeply afraid that this admission will diminish their identity, their very being.  But long as you believe you are “right” or you “know,” you remain spiritually arrogant and ignorant.  Would you give up your self to know your Self?   Would you insist that your hatred for the driver of the car up ahead is justified?

When you relinquish this point of view and admit that you may not know everything about a situation, you become available to new insights beyond your eyes’ tiny view, beyond your sketchy memory of “what happened,” and beyond your instant, irrevocable and conclusive judgment. Simply put, “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know” makes the tiniest of cracks in the armor. Insight, compassion and understanding, waiting since time began for this opening, shine through.

You could call it intuition, your higher self, or divine inspiration. It doesn’t matter what you call it. We waste time arguing over words. Words are symbols of symbols. We argue way out there, at the remote border of a symbol of a symbol, missing the meaning that is right here when we say I don’t know. We get insight when we drop all the insane arguments, and just say I don’t know. We get a new view of the situation. This is forgiveness that forgives, frees and uplifts. This is forgiveness that clears away all obstacles to Love.

Is a mistake a sin?  Is it a sin to be afraid?

You may now see mistakes you made and realize you were just afraid when you made them. This doesn’t condemn the ego, (that would just be more ego), it just shines a light of compassion and understanding in there.

Is it a sin to be afraid? You may see what was unforgivable in yourself and in others as simply mistakes made from fear. Would you condemn another person for being afraid — just as you are sometimes? Could you see that all our actions born in fear -no matter what they look like, are really a cry for help? Would you condemn another for asking for your help? (Here we may be forgiving our own projection.)

This kind of insight will automatically transform all of your relationships, if you are willing. You may get hung up believing that there are some people (even you) who are simply unforgivable. This is like saying:

“I would rather hold on to my tiny view and keep hating the driver stopped ahead rather than know the truth.”

You can always change your mind. Just go back to the beginning and acknowledge that you don’t really understand the situation. Make an opening for insight. So many of us carry our burdens for years unnecessarily. Forgiveness is always right here if you are willing to make a little opening for it by just allowing the possibility that you don’t really understand the situation.

In that instant, a day, a week, whenever you are ready, you will have a new vision of the situation.  Ignorance disappears automatically.  Real forgiveness is easy if you are willing to admit you don’t have insight into what happened.

The only limit

Our insights will expand to the point where going further might scare us.  Our higher mind would never increase our fear; our lower mind is in charge of that!  There is a lot of insight possible.

View of the whole world

And as the helicopter goes higher, you will understand more.  To get a really good vantage point, you’d actually need a rocket ship. And from this rocket ship, you’d hear quite a din:  sirens wailing, people laughing, machine guns spraying, babies crying, earthquakes shuddering, an airliner zooming, and dogs barking.  The whole world.

You might see that everyone in the world is afraid.

We are all afraid that people won’t like us, that we are not good enough, and that we are somehow fundamentally unsafe. Underneath that, we are all afraid because we don’t really know what we are, or what we are supposed to do here. Below even that, we are afraid because we may vaguely sense that something is wrong here, and we may even feel a hint of guilt about it.

Everyone is in some kind of traffic jam

World as a traffic jam

Despite this, we might put on our happy game face and act like all is well and that we are successful. But underneath, we are all afraid. Everyone is in some kind traffic jam.  Some live lives of outright desperation. Some, to quote Thoreau, live lives of quiet desperation. It doesn’t matter. All degrees of unforgiveness block our path. The slightest unease blocks love exactly the same as full-on rage.

We are all looking for the perfect safety of love and the perfect worthiness of love, but we just don’t know how to find it. And lost in our fear, we strike out in every imaginable way. Now, seeing the world this way, you could have a new vision.

You may see that ALL BEINGS are simply lost in fear just like you. You may be overwhelmed by compassion for their struggle. This is forgiveness of the chaos of the world.  It is pure Love. It can happen instantly. It may seem a pretty far stretch from hating the driver a few cars ahead, but the experience is there when you are ready to give up your own eyes’ tiny view, your short horizon. Your remaining fragments of unforgiveness might just disappear in this insight. It would indeed be hard to hold onto harsh judgments of others now.

Quantum Forgiveness

 

Beyond this, you may be lifted up right out of time and space. Some people call this Quantum Forgiveness. “Quantum” might not be the best word, but it gives you a sense that maybe physicists are right: Time and Space are an illusion.  This view is also called non-dualism.  Not-two.  For most of us right now, this view is just outside of our experience and remains a mere intellectual exercise.

It is a shocking new view. However, those who have glimpsed it, tell that it is ecstatic. It is sometimes described as waking up from a nightmare (this world) and saying, “Oh, it was just a dream. Nothing happened.” As Buddha and many yogic texts say, “all is illusion.” What others did to me never happened in Reality. There was never anything to forgive. In this view, some people call the one reality Love, -all we are really seeking here.  Forgiveness based on a new view clears a path to it.

About Philip Urso

Yoga Teacher Philip Urso loves to train yoga teachers how to teach exhilarating and unscripted vinyasa yoga classes. He co-founded Live Love Teach Yoga Teacher Training School with fellow yoga teachers Deborah Williamson and Stacy Dockins. His two 5-star podcasts on iTunes — A Crash Course in Miracles and Yoga Classes, Live Love Teach — have over two million downloads. Philip studies the dynamics of love and fear and teaches practical, reliable and lasting methods for choosing between the two. His Elephant Journal column explores these very themes. More info at PhilipUrso.com

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31 Responses to ““I’ll Forgive You, You Miserable Bastard.” Forgiveness That Hurts or Works.”

  1. I agree with a small portion of this post. Some of that in the end is my path to forgiveness. However, the earlier part of this post holds very little water for many situations.

    I can forgive the human being who raped and tortured me because they are a human being. I can send loving kindness to them because they are a human being just like me. We are the same and deserving of love. As are all beings.

    I do not see that there is an “I don’t know” situation in much else beyond a trite everyday example like the one in the post. If I’m projecting hatred at someone because they’re delaying me in traffic that’s not even something I need to forgive them for. My anger has nothing to with them. If I project that hatred, then it’s myself whom I must be gentle with. The example seems pure ego in thinking that such a tiny person could be the center of any of the world seen from the helicopter. No one would care about your forgiveness or fear but yourself.

  2. Priscilla Wood says:

    One of the best articles I have ever read, liberating and refresing to read this. Thank you.

  3. KathiK says:

    omg, love the knight in armor photo. : )

  4. Joe Sparks says:

    There is nothing wrong with any human being except the results of mistreatment. Only mistreatment makes humans into problems. Stop mistreatment and problems will be stopped. Everyone one of us has been hurt since birth. No one was there for us when we were little. We need to go back for our little ones, who were helpless, powerless, vulnerable to hurts. We expected people to be there for us and gave up because no one could be there for us. We never got a chance to heal from these early hurts, our thinking and perspective has been limited. We need to go back and fight for ourselves, to regain back our humanness. We are powerful, intelligent, loving and caring beyond measure. Only the old unhealed hurts make us feel powerless, like when we were little. We are feeling old confusions, you cannot think well when you are hurting. WE must reclaim our power. It is alot of work! But you are worth every effort you put into yourself.
    Reality supports our cheerfulness. For all is well and on its torturous journey to being even better.

  5. This article is AWESOME!!
    Thank you so much!!

  6. I like this highly provocative post, Philip. I think I could only agree with it with some significant qualifiers, but I like the way it makes me think.

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

    • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

      I'm interested in the qualifiers. Love to learn more!

      • Just that in some cases everything IS known, and real intention harm HAS been done in a way that both people understand. In cases like these, it would quite artificial and untruthful to pretend otherwise.

        But that doesn't mean there still can't be deep forgiveness. It just means it would be counter-productive to even try to follow your advice above.

        I guess I see a spectrum of situations, each requiring some different nuances.

        • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

          Not sure I understand. I'm not suggesting pretending- that is what ego does. ("The forgiver will attempt to let go of what “really” happened. But how can he? It really happened and no pledge to just let it go can change that…")

          I am suggesting that forgiveness comes through a spectrum of insights from understanding fearful motivation (self and others), understanding that everyone is afraid no matter how they appear, and even from possibly a non-dual experience. Insights are more likely to happen when the forgiver is willing to drop all judgment by allowing the possibility that "I don't really know." If there is justification, it is not likely the forgiver will be open to to be new insight. So ego, judgment, justification, keep the forgiver stuck, and often, believing that pretending is forgiveness.

          Are you suggesting that where everything is known, harm is done intentionally, new insight would not be helpful? Could you give an example?

          • I can see the usefulness of your approach in some situations.

            But in many other situations where you have two people who want to just come back together and put the transgression behind them, where they both know what happened, and the transgressor is sorry, over-intellectualization and digging for "new insights" is probably counter-productive.

            In some situations where the conditions are right, a simple apology and simple forgiveness and let's move on is preferable to over-thinking and trying to ascend to a new spiritual realm.

            Like I said–a spectrum of possibilities. Just my opinion.

            Good article. Thanks.

            Bob W. Yoga Editor
            Elephant Yoga on Facebook
            Twitter

          • Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

            Yes, I see that-

            Almost like nothing there to forgive, understanding, compassion is already there. No one is stuck in grievance, unforgiveness, or guilt. It's already done. (Assuming no one IS pretending!)

  7. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  8. Lele says:

    I love your writing as much as I love your power vinyasa podcasts! Please! Do more of both!

  9. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the new Elephant Yoga homepage.

  10. Philip–this post resonated completely with me as I'm in the midst of trying to forgive someone and move forward so I can stop suffering… ruminating about the what really happened and what if's. What happened "to me" was far worse than a driver making me mad and hurt me deeply. I found your post very helpful. Thank you!

  11. [...] Just one human’s compassion can touch the sky or move a mountain. Imagine a group, an entire society. A [...]

  12. Dace says:

    Forgiving asks for enormous power and courage. We have to realize that forgiving is like leaving a heavy, painful baggage behind. Sometimes we want to keep that baggage because there are dear things and the pride and self respect is involved. But the fact is that self respect only grows when we accept total responsibility for ourselves. Self respect goes hand in hand with forgiveness.

  13. Philip Urso Philip Urso says:

    Another insight: What would it be like to complete forgiveness? Practically speaking, what would it feel like, through increasing insights, to no longer experience guilt or grievance? On one or several levels, would the boundaries that keep us separate, alone, isolated and lonely, just disappear? How might that feel?

    • James Vincent Knowles jamesvincentknowles says:

      like total love. safe. completely comfortable and excited for all possibilities. it would feel incredibly great. namaste

  14. David says:

    I think forgiveness is drastically overrated. Something happens and you have a negative reaction. You seek to blame others for this. This gives limited comfort and then you pass judgment on your reaction. You are then uncomfortable with this and seek to "forgive" the wrongs of others / absolve your self of this harsh judgment. Really isn’t what you are trying achieve here a matter of passing a judgment to others for you own reactions that we feel makes us look better?

  15. David says:

    What I mean to say is….
    Holding your self responsible for your own reactions seems more sensible than holding other responsible in a more magnanimous way.

  16. [...] “I’ll Forgive You, You Miserable Bastard.” Forgiveness That Hurts or Works. [...]

  17. Just reposted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

    Braja Sorensen
    Lost & Found in India
    Editor, Elephant Spirituality
    Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

  18. As has been already stated by a few others this may work in the scenario described but that is a sham of a scenario to utilize in cases of real transgression.
    Actually, it's ironic, as it seems the "traffic" scenario is used a LOT in the new age spirituality arena. My estranged wife attempted to use it also, when demanding I forgive her, while offering no form of apology or restitution to speak of.
    (Of course she would also use the most insulting racial slurs toward me, in anger, yet demand compliments as well…)
    Her scenario, since she found her truth in yoga, was that if someone cut you off in traffic without using a turn signal, you should not be angry at that person.
    My response was the turn signal is there for a reason : COMMUNICATION
    If that person communicated their intention, there would be no reason for me to be angry the person has just endangered my life at a high rate of speed.

    Communications is necessary in all good and successful relationships (as well as the thing she refused to do, and had even written in the journals she left behind that she would no longer make an effort to do this [probably because communication for her was always an attempt to manipulate me to her way, which rarely if ever worked, and was thus not HONEST communication....] )

    The point is that in such benign examples there is obviously no need to care about forgiveness or apology. You will not see that person again anyway, and it is just you letting off steam while stuck in traffic to no one at all. In a way, it probably saves you from a heart attack that could come from bottling it all up (read the history of Marpa one day….)

    I am not going to attempt to speak for Bob, but I will say what I think he was trying to say (while also attempting to remain "positive", which anyone reading my responses will no I have no time for such fluffery) :

    If it is known, as it is in most cases, that there was malice of forethought in an action and you have a right to be angry, forgiveness does not come easy, if at all, especially if no effort has been made by the transgressor to atone for actions toward the "victim".

    What then?

    Your explanation seems to say that they can do whatever, you MUST forgive them because it's the right thing to do, for yourself (which I disagree with, and will direct you to a post by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whom I have never agreed with until now, here: http://www.wnd.com/2003/10/21257/ and here: http://users.livejournal.com/dr_laura_/1397.html , to illustrate my point further) which seems to do nothing but foster a sense of self entitlement and no accountability that I have seen run RAMPANT in the yoga and spirituality communities as of late.

    So everyone is afraid?
    So what?
    Does that excuse abuse, rape, murder, theft, bullying, etc?

    In these cases, even if the situation is not completely known, there is really nothing to know except you are being tormented by someone that feels they have the right to torment you, and, such as in the case of my wife, you are just supposed to forgive them because that is what spirituality and buddhism says needs to be done (these are new "new age" interpretations, by the way, and not what the vedas and scriptures actually say.)

    Thus, this misunderstanding of how "forgiveness", "unconditional love" and "judging/judgement" (another thing I detest having been "demonized" by the new age spirituality community, as judging/judgement is actually necessary for self protection and human survival) is creating and supporting more harm than good.

    Of course, this is my opinion, garnered from experience.

  19. Broken up for retention:
    As has been already stated by a few others this may work in the scenario described but that is a sham of a scenario to utilize in cases of real transgression.
    Actually, it's ironic, as it seems the "traffic" scenario is used a LOT in the new age spirituality arena. My estranged wife attempted to use it also, when demanding I forgive her, while offering no form of apology or restitution to speak of.
    (Of course she would also use the most insulting racial slurs toward me, in anger, yet demand compliments as well…)
    Her scenario, since she found her truth in yoga, was that if someone cut you off in traffic without using a turn signal, you should not be angry at that person.
    My response was the turn signal is there for a reason : COMMUNICATION
    If that person communicated their intention, there would be no reason for me to be angry the person has just endangered my life at a high rate of speed.

    • Communications is necessary in all good and successful relationships (as well as the thing she refused to do, and had even written in the journals she left behind that she would no longer make an effort to do this [probably because communication for her was always an attempt to manipulate me to her way, which rarely if ever worked, and was thus not HONEST communication....] )

      The point is that in such benign examples there is obviously no need to care about forgiveness or apology. You will not see that person again anyway, and it is just you letting off steam while stuck in traffic to no one at all. In a way, it probably saves you from a heart attack that could come from bottling it all up (read the history of Marpa one day….)

      I am not going to attempt to speak for Bob, but I will say what I think he was trying to say (while also attempting to remain "positive", which anyone reading my responses will no I have no time for such fluffery) :

      • If it is known, as it is in most cases, that there was malice of forethought in an action and you have a right to be angry, forgiveness does not come easy, if at all, especially if no effort has been made by the transgressor to atone for actions toward the "victim".

        What then?

        Your explanation seems to say that they can do whatever, you MUST forgive them because it's the right thing to do, for yourself (which I disagree with, and will direct you to a post by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whom I have never agreed with until now, here: http://www.wnd.com/2003/10/21257/ and here: http://users.livejournal.com/dr_laura_/1397.html , to illustrate my point further) which seems to do nothing but foster a sense of self entitlement and no accountability that I have seen run RAMPANT in the yoga and spirituality communities as of late.

        So everyone is afraid?
        So what?
        Does that excuse abuse, rape, murder, theft, bullying, etc?

  20. In these cases, even if the situation is not completely known, there is really nothing to know except you are being tormented by someone that feels they have the right to torment you, and, such as in the case of my wife, you are just supposed to forgive them because that is what spirituality and buddhism says needs to be done (these are new "new age" interpretations, by the way, and not what the vedas and scriptures actually say.)

    Thus, this misunderstanding of how "forgiveness", "unconditional love" and "judging/judgement" (another thing I detest having been "demonized" by the new age spirituality community, as judging/judgement is actually necessary for self protection and human survival) is creating and supporting more harm than good.

    Of course, this is my opinion, garnered from experience.

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