Forgiveness

We all do or say things at times that we regret afterward. Perhaps from thoughtlessness, impatience, or our own tightly held opinions. In one moment of anger or upset, we can hurt another with our words or actions. When we apologize later, we long for forgiveness. To sweep clean all pain, conflict, or guilt and begin again with compassion and kindness. Perhaps this is a universal wish, humanity’s greatest prayer, on so many levels.

Many years ago, when I was still in college, my dad and I had an argument over something, and in my anger, I said things that I immediately felt terrible about. Later, I went to him in tears and said how sorry I was, asking him not to hate me for my insensitive outburst. His answer was such a beautiful example of a parent’s unconditional love: “I could never hate you. It doesn’t matter what you say to me—I will always love you.” All my life, I have held his words in my heart as one of the most generous, tender gifts he ever gave me. Truly a guiding star of wisdom and kindness.

As we live our lives, we may repeatedly stumble over our own inability to see circumstances or individuals from a wider lens. So often, our minds convince us we are “right” and others “wrong.” We lash out in anger at another’s opinion or we stand in judgment of their behavior. Yet, if we knew their life story from the inside, we might suddenly see everything differently. A friend’s irritability may stem from a family member’s illness, that we know nothing of. A stranger’s rudeness may be a domino effect from someone else being rude to them. Others’ opinions and attitudes often arise from their life circumstances. If we pause for a moment, we can give them the benefit of the doubt and respond from empathy instead of antipathy.

No one is always upbeat and friendly, kind and generous. We forget our best intentions and say or do something that we wish we hadn’t. That moment is the perfect opportunity to remember the power of forgiveness. To be vulnerable enough to admit our mistakes and ask to be forgiven. And then to forgive others (and ourselves) as well. To let go of grievances and grudges and choose peace instead. If we could do that, so many of the walls between us would begin to crumble.

Much of the world is currently divided by conflict and adherence to single-minded views based in fear: defense against the threat of the “other.”  As individuals, we may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but we can each live our lives in ways that may ultimately affect the whole. If we drop habitual defenses and live from acceptance and love instead of suspicion or hatred, then so much could begin to be healed on this planet. See another soul, not an adversary. No matter what someone says or does, hold them in your heart. Forgiveness is pure love; it is pure giving, and it touches the entire web of life.

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