I am committed to finding ways to endure hardship while remaining capable of love. This is my life’s work.
There is no greater achievement. It is the highest good we could possibly aspire to as human beings.
Imagine what this world would look like if everyone honed this capacity—if we were able to face our deepest sorrows and continue to cultivate our capacity for love.
We would transform the world.
One of the greatest tools in attaining this quality—to love in the face of sorrow—is forgiving those in our lives who have wronged us.
Without forgiveness, we grow bitter and scornful. The offenses and injustices seemingly committed against us build up within us. We take them as personal attacks on the most intimate aspects of who we are.
There is no need for this. Human life is complicated enough. We don’t need to make it any harder on ourselves.
Forgiveness means letting what doesn’t matter truly slide. We let go of our attachments to particular people and situations, dissolving the sense of self-righteousness that arises when we feel we are “up against it.”
In a strange way, we actually like to be wronged because it gives our ego a sense of importance—as though our lives and actions contain some larger consequence.
To forgive is to give those who harmed us the benefit of the doubt, releasing any resentment we might hold against them. This doesn’t mean we allow them to commit another offense. It has practically nothing to do with the person or situation at hand. It has to do with our own inner processing of the ways we feel hurt.
Put it this way: we cannot tend to our wounds when we are attacking those who caused them.
Forgiveness is a deeply empowering feeling because we’re able to let others off of the hook. It’s an expression of our free will—our latent capacity to transcend how we’ve been hurt in the name of the greater good. Every time we do this, we make the world a slightly kinder and less brutal place. We are acting out of love, rather than allowing the chip on our shoulder to turn into vengeance.
This is easier said than done, but what we perhaps underestimate is our power of setting an intention. If we decide, in spite of how we have been hurt or mistreated, that we are going to proceed from a place of forgiveness—a place of love—then we are much more likely to heal ourselves and move upon that reality.
The first step toward forgiveness, and true healing, is to set a loving intention.
I’ll use a personal experience to illustrate. I recently had a situation where I felt unjustly demonized by people who I love. The result was a sense of further alienation from the people I care about most. There is perhaps no worse feeling than this. I have felt deeply hurt, and this feeling could have been easily prevented with a simple conversation.
This is the reason crucifixion is the classic tragedy. Jesus was punished for his virtues, which is the greatest injustice that could possibly be committed. This is why his suffering supposedly saved the world—his willingness to endure the most undeserved penalty redeemed the inherent goodness of human beings. To maintain our goodness and virtue amidst the most unjust forms of suffering, we shine our light on the world.
After dwelling on this concept for a couple days, a strange thought occurred to me that filled me with a sense of joy and elation. I forgave them.
I’m not making myself into some kind of messiah, but surely this anecdote reflects my experience as well as the experience of many others who have been faced with such a task.
Regardless of what they believe me to be guilty of—however they perceive me to be deserving of their punishment—I have decided to turn the other cheek. I don’t want to harbor resentment, especially for people who I still believe to be both gracious and virtuous. I forgive them for doing wrong by me.
It was such a relief to truly feel this way, because leading up to my realization I had a deep sense of pain and a profound hatred for the people responsible for this. I still feel hurt and disrespected, but beneath it there exists a foundation of love and understanding. This makes me feel redeemed of the disdain and bitterness that came from my experience.
Life is tricky. We make mistakes. We harm the people that we love. We f*ck up and the only way to truly confront and contend with this fact is through being truthful, strong, and forgiving.
There is nothing more compelling than struggling with all of our soul on behalf of the good, and forgiveness is a powerful tool in remaining steadfast in this struggle. It is this quality of goodwill and generosity of spirit that allows us the strength to continue to love in spite of our suffering.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Tareck Raffoul
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Rammazina
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