Is Forgiveness That Important?

    Whether you are walking your spiritual path or simply trying to be mentally and emotionally healthy, it’s likely that you’ll run into the idea that forgiveness is essential. Why is that?

    To understand that, it can be helpful to explore the opposite of forgiveness, which is “judgment.” When we judge ourselves or someone else, we apply a standard of “wrongness” to what we or they have done. Not only that, but we give our judgments a strong negative emotional charge. Not only is what was done unacceptable, but it was “inexcusably bad.” Judgment demands punishment, retribution, or revenge depending on the level of anger with which we infuse our judgment.

    The problem with this outlook is that it tends to perpetuate more of the same. Judgment tends to fuel more judgment, anger, and retribution. Rather than creating healing or reconciliation, it perpetuates conflict. As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

    In contrast, forgives is an inner shift in perspective that creates healing, reconciliation, and growth. It brings new elements to the situation. When we forgive ourselves or another, we are not saying that what happened or what was done was “good, right, acceptable, or desirable” in any way. We acknowledge the hurt and pain that happened and what caused that suffering.

    Yet instead of holding onto that suffering, holding a grudge, or seeking retribution, we decide to end the pain in ourselves first. When we forgive, it is an internal act that releases us from patterns of suffering. Forgiveness frees up energy that was held in the conflict, shifts the quality of that energy to love, and then extends that love outward.

    We decide not to perpetuate suffering but to counter it with love and understanding. When we forgive, we let go of holding onto the past and we enter into love in the present so that we create a brighter future. We decide it is better to love than to cause more suffering. We decide to look for solutions that are truly in the best interests of all concerned rather than simply supporting the fears that underlie self-interest.

    There may be some idea that forgiveness is weak, but it actually demands more inner strength, courage, and skill than judgment and retribution—which are easy reactions that create more suffering. Forgiveness transforms suffering into new possibilities. If we are to move forward as a global civilization, it will be because we forgive ourselves and each other and act from love and wisdom. It won’t be because the “good guys” defeated the “bad guys.”


    Kevin Schoeninger

    P.S. At Spiritual Growth Monthly we explore the inner shifts that enable us to transcend our normal reactions and rise to new possibilities

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