And so we come to the fourth book of the Sword of Truth Series. Wait weren’t the other books “Books for Conservatives”? Yes, yes they were, but the theme of this book more suits a spiritual lesson than a political one.
First, of course, my very brief synopsis that tries not give out spoilers for the whole series but still makes it seem like a book you should read. In this volume Richard and Kahlan have to deal with Emperor Jagang’s first major move against their kingdom: the releasing of a deadly plague that threatens to kill everyone in their kingdom. And the only way to stop it is to betray one another. It really sucks to be the hero sometimes.
But it is this threat of betrayal that leads directly into the book’s main theme, the Wizard’s Fourth Rule:
There is magic in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you give, but more so in the forgiveness you receive.
(Yes, there is a reason this is getting published on the same day as this week’s meditation).
The Sword of Truth Series is based quite heavily on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy (this will become really evident when we get to the 9th rule which it takes word for word from Atlas Shrugged) but in many ways Goodkind has created a philosophy somewhat superior to Rand’s beliefs in these books. Rand is famous for saying that there are only two ways to deal with people, through reason and through force. This sadly completely ignores the third way people interact with each other—through love. And it’s moments like this that show Goodkind knows much more than Rand.
As I suggested in the meditation for the week, forgiveness helps you out. Not forgiving someone for something often takes far more energy, far more time, far more effort in our lives than forgiving them and moving on. And it’s very refreshing to let it go and not carry that around anymore. In fact it’s almost cliché to list the psychological benefits to forgiving people even if you don’t tell them you have forgiven them, whereas holding onto grudges creates long term health problems from the constant stress. But more than the physical benefits, it is the spiritual benefits that this rule provides that are more important.
Whatever religious tradition you follow, there is likely a theme of forgiveness, of letting go of the past and moving on. The reason for this is that within every rational religious tradition is the idea that there is something of the divine within us. We sometimes do not live up to that, but forgiveness is the recognition that the divine within us is more important and more lasting than any mistake. Forgiveness lets you ignore the dark part of our lives and admit that those times are temporary and already past, that what exists now is only that part of the divine.
Forgive. Not necessarily forget, someone may screw up to the point where you can no longer trust them, but you can still forgive them even if you never trust them again. But you do need to sincerely forgive those around you because it is the only way to see yourself as something better than a collection of your mistakes, which we all have made. We probably all fall short of perfection in living up to this rule, but that doesn’t mean we should give up in trying to live up to it. Just forgive yourself the moments where you were not your best and move on.