Forgiveness

Continuing with the weekly themes, I thought forgiveness would be a most fitting focus. In this highly contentious time we all must find some way to reconcile, if there should be any chance of unity. I would have thought that a life-threatening pandemic would have done that, but I was woefully mistaken. I believe that there are two doorways to deep unification and integration: Great Suffering or Great Love (and often both simultaneously). Well, we have tried the great suffering route. Perhaps it’s time to try Great Love.

What would the path of Great Love look like? Well, I think that it would begin with learning how to practice forgiveness. I have mentioned this before and it bears repeating that a practice is the whole-hearted returning to an ideal regularly enough that it becomes second nature. In the beginning a practice may seem like and feel like a routine, but if it becomes the routine itself, it is no more transformative for the soul than brushing your teeth. You see, most of us have tethered our “practice” to the thing we do and not the ideal associated with it. With that in mind, I would invite that the ideal for the practice of forgiveness be the concept of Great Love. And interestingly, if that happens to be the ideal, it will also become the litmus test as to whether the practice is working. 

There is a caveat, though. I mentioned it earlier that love and suffering are often experienced simultaneously. Well, as we go deeper into the practices, you may at times experience suffering, which usually feels like humiliation to the ego. You see, the Great Suffering of my ego (humiliation) is what leads me to be vulnerable enough to experience the ideal of Great Love. It’s as if I must feel the pain if I am ever to feel the grace. Most people quit when they begin to experience the discomfort of the “routine” and forget completely about the ideal. I encourage you to recommit to the ideal of Great Love even when the “routine” feels like the path of Great Suffering. Because, you see, they are the same door after all.

Now we go into the work of the practice. There are two approaches that are distinct and equally important. First is the practice of forgiveness as it relates to an individual. The second is as it relates to an institution. The practices applied to each are quite different. Determining our resentments and the object of our anger is the first step in the practice of forgiveness. This is often very challenging to do as our society does not openly embrace the emotion of anger. And because of that, anger seems to seep and ooze out in unhealthy ways. 

This week in class, we will explore practices as they relate to the individual. They are powerful! I hope that you can join us especially if you are facing Great Suffering. But, I’d like to explore here what to do when the anger is justified. 

If I feel that someone has done harm to me, I become justifiably upset. I use the tools of the practice of forgiveness to release myself from the resentment and I find a use for my anger rather than deny it.  Remembering that the ideal behind forgiveness is Great Love, I then turn my thoughts to how I can actively prevent what I perceive as an injustice to me from happening again. And not just to me, but to anyone. That is activism. I believe that the practice of forgiveness as it relates to an institution is called activism. 

Activism can come in many forms. Becoming an activist is a direct way for each of us to heal ourselves, our communities, and our institutions. One of the most effective ways for the individual to practice forgiveness in activism is through the power of the vote. If you have not done so already, I strongly encourage you to go vote. It is the beginning of the process or practice of forgiveness. And, no matter what direction the election goes, we will then look for the next opportunity in activism that will help heal ourselves, our communities and our institutions. 

I hope that you will join me this week as we explore the ways to practice forgiveness as it relates to the individual.

Much love and many blessings!

Tom