Forgiveness Day, a worldwide initiative observed by many faiths, nations and organizations was on Sunday, August 3 this year.
The definition of forgiveness I like best I found at Do One Thing for a Better World, which states:
“Forgiveness is not glossing over a problem or excusing it without consequences, or letting someone continue to treat you badly. It’s always important to first get out of a dangerous situation, such as a violent or abusive relationship. Forgiveness does not have to include reconciliation, where both sides work to create a healthy and peaceful ongoing relationship. Forgiveness is a personal decision to not allow anger, hurt and resentment to control your life, and to forgive someone who has wronged you, even if they don’t deserve it.”
Forgiveness as spiritual practice is an ancient concept and highly effective in transforming consciousness and healing broken hearts. It has been a part of what I do and who I am for many years, and the freedom I have found in its process has liberated me in more ways than I can say. Many who know my personal history have asked asked how I can maintain a mostly sunny or musing outlook on life, and lightness.
It is said forgiveness is not for the one who sinned, but the one sinned against, and this is true.
The handful of folks who really did harm to me with intention are, frankly, beyond help, and my forgiveness isn’t going to transform them in this lifetime. They’d better hope we get more than one shot at this. It seems like some people are nothing more than karma-making machines. It has been a lasting relief for me to step off that karma machine, and to let go.
Forgiveness is, in its essence, the truest relief.
When meditating on forgiveness, the most painful person to focus on is myself. The hurt I have put on myself through self-criticism, shame and making decisions based in fear makes me sad. Some do themselves far more harm than I have done to myself, and for them I feel so much compassion because I understand the impulse. Self-harm is a way to express deep sorrow. Forgiving ourselves is a difficult journey indeed.
I wonder what would happen if, on days like Forgiveness Day this past Sunday, everyone simply forgave themselves of every sin—real or perceived—and lived in the self-concept of loving hope.
What would happen if people in seemingly intractable struggles agreed to just stop fighting and then forgive each other, if, for no other reason, than they want to live peacefully within themselves?
What if forgiveness became the practice of a daily prayer for all seven billion of us?
Imagine what this world would look like in 20 years if everyone forgave over a weekend. Now that would be a revolution.
I know it won’t happen, because there is a tipping point in the soul where certain accomplishments are beyond reach for some. However, it’s better to reach for untouchable light than wallow in darkness. Better to try and improve than surrender and get worse.
Forgiveness, like all spiritual practice, is just that: practice. But what a revolutionary practice it is.
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Apprentice Editor: Jamie Khoo/Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo: Courtney Emery/Flickr Creative Commons