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The greatest teacher is someone who is able to forgive.
There is nothing more sane or virtuous than forgiveness.
When we are lucky enough to have someone in our lives who is able to forgive us for what we have done to them, something within us knows that person has been sent into our lives in order to reflect our potential to do the same.
Even though it might seem incredibly difficult to forgive someone who has hurt us, something within us—a quiet whisper, you might say—knows that it is the right thing to do. For when we fail to forgive, we deny our own freedom, close ourselves off to the world, and limit our potential to receive the unimaginable beauty found within releasing the trespasses of others.
The biggest breakthrough, after all, often yields from the greatest pain.
That does not mean we should stand idle and meek in the face of someone who continually hurts us or others. Justice comes to all in many shapes and forms, and sometimes, we are the bearers. But when we behave from a place that is not able to recognize the pain in the person who has hurt us, and are immature in our response to certain atrocities, instead of eradicating the pain, it continues and we begin to scorn the world instead of understand it.
At the end of the day, what matters most is where we are standing—the place from which we look out at the world. The most mature perspective we can have with regard to forgiveness is that of Thich Nhat Hanh in his beautiful poem, “Please Call Me By My True Names,” based on his having witnessed the devastating effects of the Vietnam War first-hand:
“I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.”
No one gets out of here without a scratch or two. No one gets out of here without hurting and being hurt.
We may not be the sea pirate. We might be the 12-year-old girl. In order to forgive at the deepest level, though, we must try to occupy and understand both places as well as we can, without succumbing to empathic distress or numb idleness.
Here is a poem I wrote today about this extremely important topic.
It is visual, like a word painting, and short, like a devastating whisper. I hope it touches your heart.
Tonight, when the wind rushes
past your unstable house
with the roar of new beginnings
and slips beneath the red
when the night envelops earth,
softens the hard edges
and beats like a second
heart to wake an inner core,
when the air is cold but
and the heart unfolds in
remain clear of the storm coming
Gift yourself this moment
to forgive yourself and all those
who have hurt