The Soul of Forgiveness

ghandi-quote-on-forgivenessThe lack of forgiveness is like a spiritual melanoma—if it is not attended to, it can physically as well as emotionally take a person out. Forgiveness is the warrior’s way of finding peace, whether it is between two people or within oneself. I recently viewed again Ken Burns’ 1990 documentary, The Civil War, and was struck at how on the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg, the old veterans from both sides of the battle appeared in uniform to honor the occasion. At one point the Rebels stood on the opposite side of a stone wall from the Yankees. Each side poked fun at themselves as well as their old enemies by pretending to shoot them with their fingers. The entire enactment ended with the men laughing, shaking each other’s hands and embracing their past foes. The ritual theatricalized not only the brutality of the war that they had suffered through, but their courage to live at peace with each other once the war was ended. Out of that horrific war came a unification for the North and South to no longer be divided from each other, but to be now identified solely as one nation under God—the United States of America. It must have taken great courage for those veterans to forgive one another, but they did. And I am sure it took a great deal of time and personal inventory to do so, but here we are one hundred and fifty years later reaping the benefits of their sacrifices, living in a land of peace.

Child holding a flower
Child holding a flower

So how does one go about forgiving? The playwright August Wilson had this to say: “Confront the dark parts of yourself and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” 

Often we have been so unforgiving for such a long time that we have forgotten what it is we are unable to forgive. Thus the first challenge is to be clear about what it is that one needs to find forgiveness for. The next step is to figure out why that event has so much emotional baggage attached to it. In other words, why has this situation or circumstance seemed so difficult to forgive unlike the many others one has forgiven in the past? Finally, it is important to be willing to challenge oneself to look at the person, event or situation from as many different perspectives as possible so as to glean a deeper understanding of the issue. The depth psychologist C.G. Jung suggests that rather than trying to forgive, the best thing one can do is stand as if on a mountain top and look at all sides of the problem. From that understanding can come knowledge, and from knowledge wisdom, and ultimately from wisdom peace.

“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.” 
― Mark Twain