Forgiveness does not come easily for anyone but we all have the potential to be instruments of incredible compassion and forgiveness. If we really think about it, there probably isn’t anyone we are completely unable to forgive. Even for those who have disfigured humanity through vicious crimes, like murder, we possess a latent potential to feel sorry for them.
No one is incapable of forgiving and no one is unforgivable.
When we usually think about cultivating compassion, we are cultivating it for someone who is actually undergoing pain and suffering. But we also need to develop compassion for someone who may not be experiencing pain or suffering in the moment, but who is creating conditions for their own suffering in the future. Those who are committing atrocities — including murder — are creating their own fateful future that will bring very negative consequences, so there are serious reasons to feel a sense of concern for their well-being. When you develop this concern for their future, there is no place for anger and hatred to grow.
But like the saying goes, forgiving does not mean we forget. We should remember every negative incident, but because there is a possibility to develop hatred from it, we must make sure we don’t allow ourselves to be led in that direction — we must choose forgiveness. Not reacting to negativity with negativity does not mean we’re not responding to the negative acts, and not giving in to the negative emotions does not mean we allow ourselves to be harmed again. Forgiveness does not mean that we don’t seek justice or that the perpetrator should not be punished. There is a an important distinction between forgiveness and simply allowing others’ wrongdoing. People often think that forgiveness means you accept or approve the wrongdoing, but there is a difference between the actor and the action, between the person and what they’ve done. When a wrong action has transpired, it may be necessary to take an appropriate counteraction to bar it. But for the actor committing the wrong action, we can choose not to develop anger or hatred. This is where the power of forgiveness lies — not losing sight of the humanity of the person while responding to the wrong with clarity and firmness. We need to learn how to stand firm against the wrong not only to protect those who are being harmed but also to protect the person who is doing the harm because eventually they, too, will suffer. This is how it’s actually out of a sense of concern for their future well-being that we stop their wrongdoing in the present.
Forgiveness is the only way we can heal ourselves and be free from the past. In fact, without forgiveness, we remain bound to the person who harmed us. Without forgiveness, we are confined to the chains of bitterness — tied down, imprisoned, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness and that person will be in control of the joy we feel. But when we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and feelings. When we forgive, we become our own redeemer and we are free.
DAY 35. Love, Ro