forgiveness

The other day, while posting Ninepatch to the web, I noticed the current special topic ‘forgiveness can be difficult’.

‘No kidding!’ I thought and recalled times I’d struggled to give or get it. Even as I did, though, I knew that any ‘difficulty’ had been of my own making and usually came down to a conflict of egos..

You see, we humans are ego-centric creatures. Our egos – the voices in our heads that tell us ‘who’ we are and how we relate to the world – create our ‘reality’ through the stories they tell us, and we’re usually so focused on them that we’re blinded to the value of others. And, because our ego’s so valuable to us, we tend to spend most of our energy trying to protect or protect it onto others. Indeed, we’re compelled to do so by fear – the fear that if we can’t get them to accept our reality, or if we accept theirs – we’ll perish.

That’s why it’s so easy for us to ‘hurt’ and be ‘hurt’ by others and why we find it so hard to forgive. As ridiculous as psychologists sound when they talk about infantile thoughts, we all share the fear that damaging our ego will ‘ruin’ us, so we fight to protect it like our lives depend on it.

Most times, though, we don’t think of it in those terms. All we know is that our egos tell us that whenever we’re insulted we should feel ‘hurt’ or ‘lessened’ by it. Whether it’s our pride, a material object, our good health, or sense of well being, we feel something’s been taken from us and we want it back. Unfortunately, we usually know, too, that whatever ‘it’ is can’t possibly be returned in kind. So, we blame and resent our offenders, telling  ourselves we’re ‘right’ and they’re ‘wrong’… we’re ‘more’ and they’re ‘less’…  in a misguided attempt to heal our wounds or restore ourselves to ‘wholeness’. Unfortunately, this only feeds the blame and resentment and adds to our own anxiety.

Most times, we tell ourselves that if they’d just acknowledge the offence and apologize, we’d forgive them, but we also tend to believe that apologetic words and actions are just that… ‘acts’… and to negate their value. When you consider that our families, communities, and the media teach us that ‘forgiveness’ is a desirable but unattainable goal, it’s little wonder we struggle to give it.

If we were to look at things objectively, though, we’d see that the person offending us is so wrapped up in their own anxiety and so busy trying to convince us that their reality’s important that they can’t see they’re hurting us. We’d also see that the words they’re using are nothing but words and, as such, can’t hurt us. If we were to realize that, we might then free ourselves from the grip of our own egos and the emotions they use to control us long enough to see that we have a choice in how we react. We can choose to act like our offender and hurt them reflexively, or, we can choose to feel sorry for them for suffering so in the grip of their ego.

Recognizing similarities, feeling compassion for or giving value to another person, taming our ego, and reclaiming our power of ‘choice’ all sound ‘difficult’ but, objectively speaking, they’re simple matters of ‘perception’. They simply involve a change in perspective… a ‘mind-flip’. The truth of the matter, however, is that if we can change our perspective in this way, we can easily avoid giving or taking offence in the first place.

‘Yes’, I thought, as I finished posting the magazine to the web. ‘Forgiveness can be difficult…’ But, recognizing ‘ego’ for what it is and does frees you to put the energy you’d usually waste on it into enjoying life, and that’s an easy choice.

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