"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
In this article I would like to ponder the notion of forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? Why is it considered by many to be a virtue?
I will start by suggesting that a common understanding of forgiveness is something like this: somebody has done something 'wrong' or 'bad' to you in some way. Even though you have every right to be agrieved, you have decided to let them off. They were wrong and bad, but you are a magnanimous old thing and you are going to let them off the hook. Maybe you will wait until they say sorry first. Yes. That's a good idea. Wait until they say sorry. Then they will 'deserve' forgiveness. Let's wait until they crawl a bit first. They are clearly inferior to magnanimous and lovely you, but if they crawl and fawn a bit, you will do them the favour of letting them off. Until then, you will seeth with anger at the terrible wrong that they have done to you. You will also spend a number of weeks telling anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in a conversation with you all about the terrible wrong that has been done to you and how terribly lovely you are and how you would never do such a thing to anyone and how could they possibly be so bad and wrong.
Maybe I am exaggerating a bit for a little comic effect, but I am sure many will recognise something in there.
Now I want to look at the origin of the word 'forgive'. It derives from the Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) word 'forgiefan'. In Old English, the word 'for' means 'completely' and the word 'giefan' means, not too surprisingly, 'give'.
So the word originally meant 'to give completely'.
I think that if we bear that in mind, we can get a much more healthy understanding of the value of forgiveness. I would like to suggest that forgiveness is pretty much synonymous with unconditional love. Giving completely, without any notion of wanting something in return.
"Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
'You owe Me.'
Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky."
If we approach the world with a complete giving approach, then it is very difficult to get into a situation in which someone has 'wronged' you. You do not have any expectations of other people. Nobody owes you anything. You do not even bother keeping account of what others do or do not do. Stuff happens, then it is gone, forgotten. It is a new moment. The past is irrelevant. You approach each new moment in a completely giving manner, unconditionally, for no reason.
Anger or grudge bearing just cannot arise with this approach. It is not that someone does something 'wrong' and then you 'let them off'. You simply do not have any judgement at all for other people. There is no right and wrong. You are entirely responsible for your life and your feelings and you never make any attempt to offload this responsibility onto others.
I would like to suggest that if you have never tried it, you will discover that such an approach leads to effortless, unconditional happiness. You don't have to wait for people to be 'nice' or 'good' to you before you can be happy. You are happy as a matter of course because you don't invent problems by shifting blame and responsibility onto others or onto fate or circumstance.
Looked at in this sense, all the judgement, blame, repentance, guilt, superiority and inferiority are removed from the notion of forgiveness and it becomes very simple, as Life always does when we stop making it complicated with our thoughts.
Forgiveness is simply a state of complete giving, a state of unconditional love and happiness.
"A lover never keeps accounts."
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