The capacity for forgiveness is certainly one of the most noble traits we posess as human beings. Despite it commonly being lauded as such throughout the ages, there is however comparatively little examination of the effect an attitude of forgiveness can have on your daily life, both inner and outer.
Forgiveness is practical
Forgiveness is often framed as a moral quality, when it first and foremost a practical one. When we are unable to forgive someone who has wronged us, that person retains a kind of power into us, forcing their way into our thoughts. “If we spend our time cherishing negative thoughts about someone—jealousy, doubt or anger—then we are making that person our Guru“, aptly notes meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy. It is only through forgiveness that we can stop the effects of that action from staying with us long after the original hurt was caused.
Forgiveness allows us stop dwelling on the person who caused the wrong and to get on with our lives. Forgiveness is often not easy – and this article is certainly not intended to slight those who have had serious wrongs done to them and find themselves unable to forgive the wrongdoer. It is, however interesting to read the stories of those who have made that difficult journey to forgiveness – many of them describe facing a stark choice; either they could be consumed by anger and rage, or try to go beyond it and rebuild their lives.
For most of us, our forgiveness issues will center on less serious events – someone said something mean about us, or betrayed our trust in some way. In these cases, it helps to remember the times when you have also made the same mistakes – this helps us to feel and understand why they might have done what they did. You might still make a practical decision not to trust them again, but at least that decision can be taken in equanimity and devoid of anger and negativity.
Often we are our own worst critic, berating ourselves for every little mistake we make in the journey of life. This is often because we are comparing ourselves to some unreasonable standard of perfection instead of accepting who we are. Forgiving ourselves is part of accepting ourselves and knowing ourselves, and treating our failures as stepping stones that ultimately lead to our success and growth.
Interestingly enough, the more we can forgive ourselves for our own failing, the more likely we are to accept others for what they are also. Similarly, when you see someone always in the habit of criticizing others, you can be sure that they are just as hard on themselves too!!!
The concept of forgiveness can be very usefully deployed in your inner life, in your practice of prayer or meditation. In meditation, we connect ourselves to a deeper and vaster sense of reality, a reality which certainly does not share the values of judgment and criticism we see in the outer world. In this reality only one thing is important, and that is our progress to becoming a better, kinder and more loving human being.
One nice thing to add to your meditation practice (especially at the end of the day) is to invoke inner forgiveness. This does not mean telling yourself what a bad person you are. Instead, it means aspiring to grow beyond the vicious circle of habit that causes us to do things and then regret them later.
The more I meditate, the more I see that real outer changes only happen in my life when they are prefaced by a firm inner commitment. This practice cultivates that commitment to rise above repeating the same mistakes. A time will come when through this aspiration we finally gain the inner illumination and wisdom to detach ourself from whatever it is that causes us to make mistakes, and we gain a profound sense of satisfaction that we are indeed progressing in life’s journey.
Image: Sharani Robins, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries