“Inside each of us there is a noble heart. This heart is the source of our finest aspirations for ourselves and for the world.” ~ His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
The 17th Karmapa has written a book entitled, The Heart is Noble in which he talks about mistakes and forgiveness. He says patience allows us to relate constructively with our own mistakes and those of others when they occur.
What is called ‘confession‘ in most religious traditions in Tibetan literally means ‘parting with faults.‘ In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition it involves separating ourselves from harmful or negative activity.
If we have made a mistake or caused harm, it is ideal to admit our fault directly to the person or people involved or harmed. If that is not possible, at least this ‘parting with faults’ could be made with a trusted friend or third party. Voicing the error of our ways is a first genuine step in acknowledging and separating from a fault so that it does not become a habitual pattern.
But the matter is not closed with mere words.
It is important to generate the feeling of remorse—not guilt, but genuine remorse: “Such action was harmful. I do not want to do that again.”
Only then can we forgive ourselves and make a fresh start. By separating from the fault, we recognize that the action does not define who we are and we can leave it behind, rather than be haunted or plagued by it.
As the Karmapa says,
“The point is to create the conditions to make an authentic break with our mistakes….Once you have made the sincere and heartfelt determination to leave that conduct behind, there is no longer any need for self-reproach.”
Cultivating this ‘parting with faults’ and forgiving ourselves can be a way of training us to forgive others. But this does not mean condoning another’s past hurtful behavior.
But when people harm us, they also harm themselves and define themselves by their negative actions—whether they admit it or not. Their harmful ways are not in their best interest, to say the very least.
They are in fact also victims—victims of their own harmful behavior.
Recognizing this, allows us to open to the possibility of forgiving them, if they are brave enough to acknowledge, voice with remorse, and genuinely part with that behavior which caused harm.
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Ed: T. Lemieux/Kate Bartolotta