Can we begin to imagine a politics of forgiveness?
We’ve had the politics of one-upmanship, deception and belligerence for so long that we may assume this way of doing things is human nature.
If we believe that we must ﬁght against our own nature to change our politics, then peace, justice and human equality become romantic ideals that can never be achieved—although they can still be used as excuses for more war and sacriﬁce.
The extent to which we think world peace is possible is precisely the extent to which we think our own minds can someday be peaceful through and through. If we cannot comprehend why wars are fought over territories, national pride, or religious beliefs, then we need look no further than our ﬁght for a parking space, the struggle to succeed against our competitors, or the aggressive ministry to convert one more soul to our church.
But human nature encompasses more than our destructive habits; it also has within it the potential for surrender. If we think of surrender as raising the white ﬂag before our enemies, nothing within us will change.
The surrender that matters is giving up the belief that we have any enemies. It doesn’t matter whether humanity achieves that surrender tomorrow or a thousand years from now; simply remembering to make the attempt whenever possible is what will eventually undo the world as we know it.
How could our politics begin to express forgiveness? Imagine politicians debating publicly in order to learn from each other and educate the public, striving to outdo each other only on the attempt to make sure all parties have been fairly heard. Imagine the media hesitating in its rush to judgment of people and events—hesitating in order to place their reporting in the context of the most profound questions of human consciousness and moral evolution. Imagine our country’s diplomatic envoys arguing for peace in international venues by admitting our warring history and tendencies ﬁrst.
Are these radical departures from politics-as-usual really beyond human nature?
Not if they are within our imagining—and if we can couple our imagination with an intense desire to end the human habit of alienation.
Forgiveness is one of the most undersold propositions of all time. When you ﬁrst begin to grasp the potential of forgiveness, you will cheerfully trade all prior investments in aggression for the peace of its action.
Forgiveness blossoms at a certain moment in time, when you are ripe and ready to release some of the dead past. It is the intent to forgive that actually speeds up time, collapsing old schedules of suffering and bringing unimagined possibilities inestimably nearer.
Forgiveness uniﬁes one’s own awareness and will unite the consciousness of all humankind, which has been so long shattered into opposing egos, cultures, religions, and ideologies. Yet forgiveness also allows a creative diversity of ideas within one’s own mind and instills a passionate tolerance of others’ opinions and beliefs. Forgiveness will eventually preside over the raucous house-of-commons of the human soul, leading it with rigorous benevolence toward home.
Anger exiles hope to the mind’s dark and stuffy attic, cluttered with nostalgic curiosities. Forgiveness clears a space in the mind where hope ﬁnds enough room to devise practical strategies of change.
Forgiveness sends a healing message much further than you might believe. As you develop a forgiving demeanor you become an automatic transmitter within the network of human consciousness—changing minds less by your words than by your example, saving souls less by your program than by your presence.
A conviction is a strong and ﬁxed belief; to be convicted is to be found guilty of something. There is more than a semantic connection between belief and guilt. Whenever we believe we know something for sure in this uncertain, paradoxical world, we will be perilously close to convicting ourselves or others of unpardonable crimes. Forgiveness gradually and carefully relieves us of our dependence on believing, increasingly enabling us just to be. Then our actions can arise from an instinctive wisdom that draws from our practical knowledge, yet transcends our limited grasp of truth.
Forgiveness is a curious paradox of accepting everything just as it is while working tirelessly for a complete upheaval in our behavior and consciousness. Some activists believe we must be constantly aggrieved to set right the injustices of the world—that good anger corrects bad anger. But an enlightened activism respectfully acknowledges all anger and sorrow while demonstrating the superior strategy of mercy, pooling ever deeper within and rhythmically ﬂowing without. The most effective and lasting actions arise from profound stillness and radical clarity.
Ultimately, forgiveness means letting go of this world, a darkened, fractured glass through which we see love only dimly. As our frightened grip on all that is temporary relaxes, we will increasingly ﬁnd our authentic strength in that which is timeless, boundless, inexhaustible, and omnipresent. Heaven is learned, not simply entered with religion’s passport.
As forgiveness liberates your energy, you may be moved to sing, dance, write, make art, or otherwise celebrate. Don’t let your day job get in the way.
As forgiveness liberates your thinking, you may ﬁnd yourself looking beyond the world-wearying drives of self-promotion and competition. Congratulations! Now you are consciously evolving, no longer running the treadmill of humanity’s favorite follies. Now you will be led by inspiration everywhere you are needed.
Excerpted from The Way of Forgiveness. Photos by D. Patrick Miller.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
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