The Fallacy of Forgiveness… and What Truly Sets You Free
To start, here’s the bottom line of the article that follows: You are already forgiven and there is nothing to forgive!
In Wikipedia forgiveness is defined as: “The renunciation or cessation of resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offence, disagreement, or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.”
I bold the word perceived in the above definition, as therein lies heart of the matter – it’s our perceptions that cause us to judge and our judgements that categorize something as forgivable or unforgivable.
When I was a young boy, our church minister preached forgiveness as a prerequisite to entering the golden gates to Heaven. “Turn the other cheek” we were told. We were taught that it’s necessary to forgive the wrongdoers in order to free ourselves from the pain of injustice. It was made clear what is “right” and what is “wrong”. Wrongdoing, we were told, requires forgiveness, or we’ll forever have to deal with the anguish that it ensues.
So just forgive and all will be fine. Is it really that simple?
Have you ever forgiven a wrongdoer 99%, but 1% of you just cannot accept what happened? That’s not forgiveness!
Forgiveness is borne out of understanding. This is the type of understanding that one gains from not being attached to any one point of view, but rather seeing the situation from all necessary points of view until you realize that in the greater scheme of things, there’s nothing wrong with the situation. Your map of reality is not the only one. Forgiveness is the privilege of an open mind and flexible points of view.
It’s also important to realize that people always do the best they can given their level of awareness at the time. We all behave according to what we perceive (believe), and our perceptions (beliefs) are conditioned into us from the moment of conception. Realizing this helps one to accept why people do what they do, and acceptance, like understanding, is a precursor to forgiveness.
Ultimately, it’s our perceptions that determine how we judge our experiences. And the good news is that our perceptions can and do change. The responsibility is ours to ensure that we’re changing outdated perceptions and creating new ones so that we’re able to reach the point of understanding that in and of itself facilitates forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn’t something that you do. Forgiveness is the natural byproduct of having the “right” perception.
While at the Dalai Lama’s temple I heard him talk about the Chinese occupation of Tibet with lightheartedness. The Tibetan people are being tortured for practicing Buddhism and many thousands including the Dalai Lama had to flee. His Holiness humourlessly eluded to the point that us Westerners would never have received the Tibetan Buddhist teachings had the Chinese not have forced them to flee and spread their message of peace around the world. When we don’t judge, we find the positive reason behind even the worst of incidents.
Essentially, if you haven’t yet forgiven someone for something, it means that you haven’t yet taken the initiative to change your perception about that situation. In which case, the only forgiveness that’s required is self forgiveness, as you’re the only one to blame for not letting go. However, there’s no positive value in judging yourself for not yet finding the perception that allows for forgiveness. Simply realize that the “buck stops with you”. Great freedom will arise from looking within with the intention to update your point of view so that you no longer judge the situation in a way that causes suffering.
If you don’t judge yourself or others in the first place, then there’s nothing to forgive.
I no longer judge my church minister for teaching about judgement. He was doing the best he could with his level of awareness at the time. I only have this to say to him: You are already forgiven and there is nothing to forgive!
Written by Jevon Dangeli – NLP Trainer & Coach
PS: The concept of this article forms part of The Relationship Resourcing audio programme.