Why is it so Hard to Forgive?
We attempt to achieve forgiveness through the wearing of many masks and hats. We wear the mask of a victim, a prosecutor, a witness, and a judge. We may even need a jury. We have created all the masks with the sole intent to convict. And the verdict is always the same: guilty on all counts. Now we must pass sentence, and the sentence is absolute.
Yet every time we see the person, we become sad, angry, insecure, violated, powerless… Although the sentence has been passed, in our eyes, it was never carried out. They are still free to roam the Earth and cause pain in others.
When will I get justice? Every time I think of the event, it eats away at my soul from the inside out.
If this sounds like you, you are not alone. Every time you remember an offense, you review the trial and the event then sears deeper and deeper into your consciousness, causing disruptions to every cell in your body as you wait for justice.
Imagine two children who get into a fight. These children are very angry, swearing they will hate each other forever. Their parents intervene and counsel the children, telling them there’s no reason to hate their friend. Instead, they should do the noble thing: apologize and forgive each other for their offenses.
Neither child wishes to apologize to the other or wants to forgive, but the parents are persistent. Reluctantly, they apologize and promise to forgive each other, but both walk away feeling bitter. Neither child feels as though they received justice; but both children know their parents will not be happy with them if they do not verbally express forgiveness, even though in their hearts there is no desire to let the offense go.
This has happened to all of us.
Over time, we are trained to verbally express forgiveness without examining our true feelings. We have learned to ignore and bury our emotions, and to forgive without emotion and any real intent. In essence, as a species, we have not yet practiced the dynamics of forgiveness. We do not examine what caused us to pass judgment. Forgiveness, as in most cases, has become an empty word.
It is much easier to proclaim forgiveness than to actually forgive.
In order to acknowledge this simple truth, one must begin the never-ending journey of self-observation. Forgiving, in its reality, can be quite an endeavor if one also seeks to broaden one’s horizons.
Attempting to forgive is the beginning of the journey.
If we are honest with ourselves, we will see with clarity that forgiving is quite difficult and for most, pretty close to impossible. In my line of work, I see many people who seek to be more forgiving. Within the first two meetings, I can usually tell who is serious and who is not. Those who are not serious will proclaim in the first or second session that they have overcome all their difficulties with forgiveness. Across the board, people who seem to get instant results always drop out and proclaim they have mastered forgiveness.
The true seekers, however, find another great truth within themselves: they have never forgiven anything of any significance, but instead have become very good at burying the events all together.
Only the group of true seekers are working toward being honest with themselves.
Over the decades, I have found that once we pass sentence on another, we truly sear the offense into our being – and the verdict, as well. This is why we can’t just “shake it off” or “get over it”. In a moment of weakness, depression or illness, the emotions of that event will inevitably leak through the box we put them in, and we relive the offense and trial all over again.
What do we do if we sincerely wish to forgive offenses, but find it impossible to do so?
We must examine our emotions. This can only be done by practicing honest observation of self over time, without shame or guilt. If we do this in our thoughts and meditations, approached with unprejudiced honesty, we will find that forgiveness is a difficult process. If we truly wish to purge ourselves of the pain of a perceived offense, then perhaps we should give up trying to forgive the past.
Instead, I have instructed my clients to work toward existing without malice. When you approach an offense in your life without malice, you diminish the effect of the judgment considerably. As you start practicing a non-malice existence within your thoughts, you will also find that you put fewer and fewer people on trial. It’s simply a side effect of not wishing malice on others. When you practice this on a regular basis, you may look back at a wrong committed against you years ago, but find that it no longer affects you in the negative. You now see that you have survived it, and you are wiser – and that the memory is no longer a burden. This is because you no longer seek malice toward the offender; therefore, you are no longer waiting for justice, and the event can be let go.
These may appear to be simple instructions, and they are. However, it is no easy matter to follow them. It requires dedication, tenacity, and a true desire to see truth within oneself so that you may be greater today than you were yesterday.
The need for forgiveness is simply a result of harsh judgments. Seek no malice toward another, and you will be free of forgiveness; you will be free of the need to forgive.
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