“To forgive is an act of compassion, […], it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.”–Marti Noxon
The 4th chakra deals with compassion and love. And one of these most important parts of compassion is the ability to forgive. There are two parts to forgiveness, one is understanding why you need to forgive others, the second is understanding the motives and intentions involved in any action that requires forgiveness.
I’m going to deal with this in two parts. One this week, one next week.
So the first part, why do we need to forgive others?
Think about most of the things you could forgive other people for. It’s not that they punched you in the face, or ran over your dog, or burned your house down. Yes things like that happen, but let’s be honest, most people’s lives are not soap operas with disasters and massive interpersonal drama and conflict occurring every two minutes.
No it’s the small things that we hold grudges over, that we despise in others. The small inconsiderate remark, the forgetting to ask if you wanted anything at the store, the ignoring what you said yesterday, the not responding to your emotional state which strikes you as inconsiderate. Think of all the little things that cause you to hate one person over another. There all these minor little things.
Not let me ask you, does everyone hate that person for the same reasons? Probably not. You dislike some people for certain behaviors they have…and other people hate other people for behaviors you find just ignorable. Why is that?
Let me give a personal example which comes from recent attempt to drum up publicity for this site by commenting on other people’s blogs.
A couple days ago I tried to respond to a Palin supporter on their blog. I argued that Palin is not a conservative. They responded by calling me an idiot leftist hack who was lying. I responded with a long detailed argument (with links and quotes to prove my point). I also made a statement about his lack of manners in insulting me in a previous comment without actually challenging me on a fact (because I always love being called a leftist…anyone who knows me ever think the word leftist would ever be applicable to me?). After sending the remark I realized I had poorly phrased the last comment about his lack of tact and sent a second response to clarify my comment. This rather cowardly person published my second comment, which out of context just made me sound dumb if not crazy, but not the first one. Oh then he once again went into a vicious attack on my character and how I was an idiot. Needless to say I had an emotional reaction that was less than positive. Had this person been within slapping distance…well you get the idea. It seemed so petty to edit the argument in a way that didn’t even acknowledge that there was possibly a valid argument. And if there is one thing that I hate it’s people who do not engage in rational argument but rather only rely on name calling.
But then I thought for a second. Yeah the man was clearly an idiot and a sad excuse for a human being. (And maybe, just maybe, the first comment somehow got lost in the internet and it’s not his fault for not posting it). But do I hate people who disagree with me? No. I have several friends who I probably don’t agree with them on almost anything political or religious. (One of the people Republicans and Reincarnation is dedicated to is a very liberal Christian, certainly not the target audience of the book). It’s the lack of reason in their argument, the pettiness, and the utter vitriol of their response.
And then upon further reflection, I realized these are qualities I dislike in myself. And that’s why I think I responded so harshly to seeing them in others. I am very proud that I have never insulted a person who has commented on my blog in the responses to their comments…but oh have I wanted to. I will attack arguments, I will disagree, but I have never just called someone who left a comment an idiot just because I disagree with them. But we know I have it in my statements against Obama and Krugman just to name two. It’s not one of the most pleasant parts of me and I try to keep it under control…and it’s seeing it let loose without any control that drives me insane. Have there been times when I would rather just ignore morons and not deal with their stupidity because they disagreed with me, as this person did to my comments. Yeah, I hope I have risen above that more than fallen victim to it, but the desire is there sometimes. To see someone so blatantly show that side without the grace to move past it infuriates me.
I hate lazy people, because all too often I see myself as quite lazy. I hate stupid people, because I sometimes go back and ask what the hell was I thinking. And it’s seeing these qualities I dislike in myself that I try to constantly beat down given free and complete reign over other people that annoys me to no end.
Now go back and look at all the people you dislike. Yes I’m sure within that group there are people you justifiably hate because of their evil beliefs and actions (we can all hate Nazis, communists, Islamists, and child molesters because these are people who willingly traffic in pure evil…ignore the examples of unadulterated evil, you don’t need to even consider forgiving these people until you get to Sainthood, and then it might just be considering it, not actually doing it), but focus on the people who aren’t evil incarnate. Who aren’t monsters, but you hate them. Now be honest…do you see in them things that you would like to get rid of in yourself? Do you see in them the parts of you that you would change only magnified? I would say that this assessment, that we dislike in others that which we dislike in ourselves, probably applies to the 90% of the people we dislike.
This is why you need to forgive them. Because you need to forgive yourself. Every time you hate someone for something that you hate in yourself it’s you saying you can’t forgive yourself all the mistakes you have made in the past. It’s treating these lapses in perfection as if they are something that cannot be overcome.
Now I know this is hard. I know we all read the Bible, or the teachings of Buddha, or the Bhagavad-Gita, or A Course in Miracles and read the passages on forgiveness and think, yeah that must be easy for those who are divine, the rest of us it’s not too easy to forgive. I understand that mentality, but you need to admit that it’s a mentality we need to move past.
So for this week let me suggest a half-way point.
Every time someone does something that infuriates you, that you think they should be slapped repeatedly for, first you need to take a moment and think, does it infuriate you because it’s putting a mirror to your own worst inclinations. If so, I promise yourself that right then and there most of your rage will dissipate. But the next thing you need to say to yourself, you don’t need to say it to them,
“I forgive you for being human and not always living up to perfection. I pity you that you let your worst inclinations rule you. I thank you for reminding me to always act in the direction of my best inclination and not my worst.”
Yeah there is a little condescension in that, but baby steps here–You don’t have to be a saint tomorrow. And as you do this, if each time you can remember to focus on your heart chakra and see it getting brighter with a bright jade green light so much the better.
You don’t have to say they’re right. You don’t even have to give them the satisfaction of hearing anything from you. Or you can still critique them, but make sure it is criticism to improve their behavior not just to berate them. (For instance if you think I’m not going to do a whole blog just dedicated to what an evil witch Sarah Palin is, you’re crazy…I just won’t email it to the idiot because that would serve no purpose).
Just try to forgive all the little trespasses against you this week. And forgive yourself if you forget to do it every time. You’re only human.