A couple of days ago I was reminded that whisking away old hurts doesn’t solve the underlying issue. It only prolongs it. Stuffing our negative emotions back down our own throats, puts them right back onto the shelving of our subconscious mental store house. The cure is forgiveness. But that is easier said than done.
Dr. Joseph Murphy, metaphysics teacher, stated: “Forgiveness is love in action. Without love in our hearts, we stumble and fall.” This sounds reasonable and lovely, however, forgiving an apparent ‘wrong’ seems to be a daunting task, and therefore we continue to nurture this seed of pain until it grows into a giant weed, and yes – we stumble and fall all over again.
James Allen, another one of my favorite metaphysical writers, states an interesting viewpoint. He said:
“Why this continual retaliation and forgiveness? Why this tormenting anger against another and then this repentance and forgiveness? Is not forgiveness the taking back of one’s anger, the giving up of one’s resentment; and if anger and resentment are good and necessary why repent of them and give them up? If it is so beautiful, so sweet, so peaceful to get rid of all feelings of bitterness and utterly and wholly to forgive, would it be not more beautiful and sweet and peaceful never to grow bitter at all, never to know anger, never to resent as evil the actions of another, but always to live in the experience of that pure, calm, blissful love which is known when an act of forgiveness is done, and all unruly passion toward another is put away?
If another has done me wrong is not my hatred toward him wrong, and can one wrong right another? Moreover, has he by his wrong really injured me, or has he injured himself? Am I not injured by my own wrong rather than by this? Why, then, do I grow angry? Why do I resent, retaliate, and engage in bitter thoughts? Is it not because my pride is piqued or my vanity wounded or my selfishness thwarted? Is it not because my blind animal passions are aroused and allowed to subdue my better nature? Seeing that I am hurt by another person’s attitude toward me because of my own pride or vanity or ungoverned and unpurified passions, would it be better to look to the wrong in myself rather than the wrong in another, to get rid of pride and vanity and passion, and so avoid being hurt at all?”
So my question is: why do we get into a fight with another person in the first place? Even if someone attacks us, why do we react rather than turning the other cheek? By reacting and dwelling on our hurt feelings we only exaggerate the problem and multiply the negative emotions. We are the ones entertaining the hurt and the anger; we are the ones suffering the consequences. Why not stop?
This question is especially important in relationships, where two people have come together as partners. These two people have sincerely committed to each other. They promised to love each other for better or worse. But then, one day, one or both of the partners make a mistake. They fear retaliation and start to muddle the truth. The lies eventually explode. It feels mighty personal, betrayal at its best.
Let’s take the extreme issue of adultery. Oh, it feels awfully personal at the time. A breach of trust occurs and the full annihilation of intimacy. The female gender, especially, tends to blame herself. “Was I not good enough, sexy enough, smart enough?”, “What did I do to cause this?” she asks herself, instead of realizing that it really was the insecurity, or lack of self-worth, in the husband that caused him to stray. Yes, there are men (and women) who make cheating a sport, an ego-booster. Being of a vain nature perhaps, they gloat in the art of conquering. However, this need to conquer only shows and attests to their low self-esteem. They are desperately trying to find ways to make themselves feel better. Unfortunately they are not considering the pain they are causing and are left feeling empty, as wrong doings cannot fill your heart with joy.
Of course there are also the unspeakable crimes of child abuse and many other so-called unforgivable sins. There is the habitual liar. The one who tells you either what you want to hear, or what brings him the most benefit (believe me not for long), or worst case scenario, the addict, who will say whatever it takes to get the dollars necessary to feed his addiction. We all have seen addicts of all kinds and the terrible heartaches they cause to their spouse, their children, and most family members. Can we forgive all of this? Should we? And if the answer is yes – can we?
Let’s start at the beginning. I obviously used extreme examples to make a point. I was not talking about the smaller things which are easier forgiven, and we can’t even call it forgiveness because they most likely are petty in nature. For example, someone said something that hurt our feelings and so on. Hurt feelings come from taking things personally and we do it all the time. We think it’s all about us, don’t we? We think that the other person is out to hurt or attack us, instead of realizing that their actions toward us reflect their issues and pains. It’s really about them.
So where does forgiveness come in? What is there to forgive? Is it our own lack of self-worth that needs a shot in the arm? Is it our doubts and fears of failure, loneliness, and insecurities that need healing? What do we have to forgive and whom? Do I forgive myself or the other? Or both?
In my work with students I have listened to several cases of abuse during their childhood by their parents; some physically and some mentally. Even though I can empathize with the person who was abused, I must remind you that once you reach adulthood, you have a choice. You are not a victim anymore. Your parents acted the only way they knew how to act - good or bad – mostly from an ignorant basis. Now it is up to you to shed the baggage, dust yourself off, and grow up. Most of all, do not to repeat the “sins of our fathers”.
We must forgive all and any so-called wrong doings. Why? Because it is you and I who will suffer if we continue to hold on to the grudges and pains we feel. It is us who will develop physical ills like arthritis or stiffness of any kind, caused by resentment. It is us who will experience an inharmonious and unhappy state of mind until our bitterness is solved. It is not worth it! We all deserve to be happy and live the life we imagined for ourselves. Forgiveness must be part of this life!