“Wow this is something I have been learning all my life. I must admit I have not been very good at it. We grow up hearing things like ‘To forgive is divine’ and we understand somehow, possibly, that there is something better, higher, more beneficial, spiritual about being able to forgive someone. Then we hear statements suck as ‘I forgive but I will never forget’ which indicates that somehow we will let an offending party off the hook, but not really. We will always remember the hurt, the pain, the offense, whatever it may be we won’t let that go but we will accept that you may be sorry and we will forgive. This implies a certain power we have over others. It states, ‘I am offended but I am a big enough person to not hold it against you, I absolve you of your responsibility but I will also always remember what you did.’
The question becomes, if you do not let go of it, if you always remember it, how can that not color or influence your actions toward the other person, and not only toward them, but what are you carrying around inside yourself that affects you, perhaps, in less than positive ways. You are carrying a slight or hurt around somehow keeping it alive even if on a back burner somewhere. If I you gave me a forty pound rock and I said ‘it’s okay I forgive you for the 40 pound rock but I will never forget it but will carry it with me always/ that is significant.
Since we are using this example of the rock how many “I’ll forgive you but won’t forget” episodes are in your life. It seems one is more than enough but what if you carried two 40lb rocks or three or more? Do you see how your life would be altered, literally weighed down because you are unwilling to let go? This does not seem the best choice or use of one’s time or life. It would seem that if one were to forgive one should absolutely forget.
Yes, this may be difficult. Most of us are not raised learning and acquiring the art and skill of forgiving and forgetting. It would seem to me, because I have been there, that reliving or replaying past negative times does nothing to help one live today. I understand that there may be an important lesson in what happened and one can extract that but to replay something repeatedly that causes one to feel less than glorious is self abuse, self torture and I think that should be stopped.
We are not taught well. We are not taught how to forgive ourselves and let go of or forget our past disappointments and upsets. Forgiving oneself honestly and completely makes the most sense, after all, we are all amateurs at being human. We did not come with an owner’s manual, we make our way by trial and error, we grope around blindly in the darkness of daily living unsure what the correct course of action is. For some reason however we hold ourselves accountable or blame ourselves for not being perfect, for not knowing or acting better when we didn’t and actually couldn’t because we didn’t have the information on how to think or act ‘correctly’ at the time it was needed.
We just did whatever we did and there were unwanted or unintended consequences for ourselves and we then blame ourselves for not being better than we were. This cycle of self blame is silly but one most of us have engaged in because we don’t really know any other way to be. We aren’t schooled in love and forgiveness and acceptance and allowing and receiving as perhaps we could and should be.
So we blame others and ourselves for problems we have during events and situations or circumstances. The fact is we blame. Then we somehow manage to say, ‘Okay, I will forgive you but I will never forget what you did’. I am not suggesting we should not hold people accountable for their actions I think we should. I think people need to take responsibility for their behaviors and actions especially when it causes harm in whatever manner to another. Then at some point there does come a time to forgive and let go of it. The idea of punishment is that it fits the “crime” and that it is just and for a particular duration and then punishment ends.
Punishment can’t end if one never lets go. It is the equivalent of the Scarlett Letter. Forever one is doomed to go through life with a reminder of the injury. That may seem fair to some and unjust to others. For me, that is how I had lived my life for a long time.
One day I thought about the story of Jesus on the cross. For some people this is an historical event and the basis of salvation for others a story or myth. I won’t take sides here, that is not my purpose and while some would blame me saying that “it doesn’t indeed matter”, I am only interested in the human side of the story in the context of this discussion. Whether it is or is not anything more than a story, for our purposes I believe we can learn something important from the record of the “alleged” event. That is how I proceed.
While on the cross, after being brutally tortured in unimaginable ways, and then further injured by being put on the cross Jesus uttered “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Again, I point out that I am leaving out any spiritual salvation messages regarding this and extract the meaning or significance of the sotry that dawned on me. Certainly, I am not the first to have this insight but for me it was a first just to have it.
Jesus forgave his tormenters, while in incredible pain and suffering he asked that they be forgiven for all of their actions against him (I assume). He forgave them all of their actions. He followed it up with “They know not what they do.” It seems he felt that they didn’t understand the immediate impact of their actions or the spiritual ramifications of their actions. Whatever he meant, any and all of it, he simply said “forgive them they know not what they do”.
One day that struck me hard. I thought, “Wow, IF Jesus, in that horrible moment could forgive how come I didn’t in my life?”
I have tormenters and tough times but no physical parallel to what he was going through at that moment. Whether historical or only a story to serve as an example by authors this example spoke deeply to me. He forgave them in the height of his misery. When they had done their worst and it was ongoing hell for him, in spite of all of this, he said forgive them.
The addition of “For they know not what they do” spoke loud to me too. He forgave and didn’t blame them. He didn’t say, “Forgive this ruthless bunch of uncaring horrific people who should know better …” he said, “They know not what they do” and I bet they did. When they were beating him and pounding nails into him, calling him names, torturing, tormenting, killing him I bet they knew exactly what they were doing and intending to do. Jesus, however, treated them as if they did not. This for me is the key.
He forgives and he holds blameless.
In fact, he went further to provide a reason for the forgiveness. They don’t know what they are doing so they should be forgiven. He says, don’t hold them accountable they are ignorant, they are unaware of their actions and the consequences of their actions. They don’t know what they are doing so forgive them.
I mean really? He not only forgave them but he provided an excuse for them. He justified his request by stating that they were ignorant thus entitled to be forgiven
It seems it did not matter to Jesus whether the reality was that they did or didn’t know what they were doing, what truly mattered was to forgive them.
I repeat. It seemed it didn’t matter at all why they did whatever they did to him, the point was to forgive them.
He excused them to the Father. He justified the request for forgiveness to the Father. “Forgive them they know not what they do” Frankly, they couldn’t know the ramifications whether there were any spiritual ones or not in this event. How could they? According to the story, the report, they thought they were doing the right thing by crucifying a pretended, a false messiah, a poser. Even if they didn’t believe that and they were simply bad ass and criminal, certainly they weren’t trying to mess with God.
My point is – Jesus’ forgiveness had nothing to do with what was in the hearts and minds of the people who hurt and were killing him, it was what was going on in Jesus’ heart and mind.
He forgave these people everything. Whether or not they were deserving in reality, he decieded they were. He let it go. He didn’t blame he excused them. I repeat, my thought was “WOW, if he could do this at such an incredibly horrific moment, why can’t I begin to do it in my daily life?”
This is why I am not discussing salvation or not . It is not because I do or don’t believe it is important but I am discussing an insight I had into a scripture, and whether it is non-fiction or only fiction doesn’t alter my insight. I hope the readers may understand where I come from on this point without further discussion of it. Said plainly, if it were nothing more than a fairy tale and absolutely nothing more I got a powerful life lesson from it and I am incredibly grateful.
There are, and there have been people who rub me the wrong way, I have tormenters, people who repeatedly caused me grief in my life, friends, relatives, strangers whom, for whatever reason, have done things to harm me mentally, emotionally, physically all for whom this lesson applies. I have harbored grudges, wished the worst on them, talked about these people to other people, about what a problem they were, thought about them, argued with myself over them and frequently found myself frustrated, angry, or sad because of my thoughts about them and our interactions.
Then Jesus words struck me. “Forgive them they know not what they do”. It doesn’t matter if they do or they don’t know what they do or are trying to do, it is my choice to excuse them.
In some ways they truly can’t know what they do. If one thinks of a television set in your family room or wherever it might be, what is on the screen is available information. Everything outside of the TV set screen is also present and available but not being considered. The focus is what is on the screen.
When news people film an incident they focus on the people or the event in the camera, but in life, this event is happening with all sorts of things around it that we never get to see. For example, if it occurs on a street corner, we may see the corner, the people involved, etc., and a few witnesses, but the camera never pulls back to reveal everyone else and everything else. The reporter speaks with a few but not with all the people. My point is that there is a context within a context. We don’t ever have access, at any time, to all the possible information. There are always things left outside of our awareness.
It has been said that consciousness is like a flashlight in a dark room, and that we can only pay attention to what is spotlighted in the beam. As it moves around the room we see more things it spotlights but we never see everything at once. This is my point. We don’t know everything even when we sometimes are convinced we do. We don’t really know what is in the hearts and minds of others though we act as if we do, we assume we know and we assign motives to others. Sometimes we are more accurate than other times and there are many instances when we are way off base.
What Jesus said and did took all that into account and made it not matter. He forgave and he excused. It is not about who he forgave and why they were doing what they were doing or why they needed forgiveness it was his act and his alone. He forgave and he excused. He forgave and let go. I thought, “if he can forgive at the worst moment I should be able to forgive in some of my moments.”
So I did. I thought about the people who I felt at odds with one by one. I imagined them and I forgave them. I thought “This person doesn’t know what they are doing and it doesn’t matter I forgive this person” and I showered the person with love. I began to feel grateful for the challenges I faced. I began to see these difficult interactions with difficult people as learning opportunities. As I did these things, in that moment, I realized it was an opportunity for me to let go as completely as I was able to. I forgave and began to appreciate the person/s.
An incredible transformation transpired. As a result, I am freer than ever, lighter, and able to move through life without getting caught up as much. When things happen, as I become aware of it, I think forgiveness and shower love. It is not always easy in the moment as I am still learning this.
At night or at other times I can do it when I’m not with the person face to face AND I am getting better during real time encounters. Jesus did it at the height of his suffering and I am learning that any instance it is an opportunity to forgive, to let go, be free, and to get grateful.
I now can appreciate the other person or the situation that arises and understand that if it is something I don’t like I actually have choices. For example I am much happier now than every in my life. This does not mean bad things don’t happen. They do, it rains on the good and bad the rich and poor alike. When less than glorious events occur I realize I don’t have to feel bad just because something bad has happened. I can feel happy if I want to.
Some people think I’m crazy. Why would you be happy about bad things? Let me be clear, I am not happy about bad things or bad people I am happy even when bad things happen or people come along and rain on the parade. I have a choice now about how I respond to bad things and people. I have a choice!
For example, If I am happy and something bad happens why must that dictate that I can no longer feel happy? Why must I feel bad? I know I used to let events affect me, and many people still do, but I have come to the conclusion that this is our conditioning from growing up with people who emphasize that the world around us, others or events should dictate our mood.
Then I look and see people with nothing incredibly happy. I see people who have lost the use of their arms, legs, eyes, ears, their entire body who are still outrageously happy. There are people who have suffered great injustices, or who have been held captive and yet they are happy. Then it dawned on me, maybe it is not dictated that we have to feel a bad when bad things happen. Maybe it is only because we have not learned that there ARE alternatives. Perhaps, we have choices we never exercise. If this is the case basically we are choiceless.
The moment comes when one realizes, “I can choose other alternatives, I can learn to fight my conditioning”, or le”I can learn to recondition my mind and my awareness”. From this awareness a new decision can be made.
The one I made was If I am happy, and something comes along that is less than glorious why would I ever decide to be unhappy? Why would I let it affect me that way? Why must I respond as some Pavlovian dog?
Maybe there is an actual reason, I am sure some can come up with a few or many, but for me I now began to think, “why not remain happy and handle the situation from that happy state?”
It makes more sense. When you are happy and energetic you have greater ease of access to your own personal resourcefulness. Your thinking is clearer so you are better equipped to handle bad times or crises when you are in an optimum state. When one is angry, bored, sad, or depressed it is not as easy to think clearly or have the energy required to change things. So I decided that I would choose to be happy.
Returning to the notion of forgiveness once I learned I could forgive and that I could even practice forgiveness in an ongoing situation, lots of positive changes occurred for me. I did feel happier, freer, and it became clear that if I was going to feel better it was directly related to what I thought and what I did.
What my thoughts are determine how I feel and behave. When I harbored grudges or saw the people as terrible people, or unwanted people in my life causing me grief, I wasn’t as happy or free. Once I realized if I wanted my life to change I realized I had to change things about me. I had to change how I thought, how I saw things, how I felt, how I acted, what I said.
As the saying goes, If it’s to be it is up to me”. So I decided I had to become the captain of my fate. I had to be the pilot of my plane, set my course and determine how I was going to get there. I had to take charge of how I thought and what I thought about during each day, each moment
I realized then that what we focus on we get. What we focus on we get back and we get more of it back because it actually expands and we become what we think about. If my thoughts are occupied with hurt, sadness, suffering, revenge, grudges, trying to scheme to get even, disappointment, failures, then I will feel bad. I will feel worse because thoughts attract like thoughts. When you think one negative thought about yourself you brain takes it as – “oh, you want this? Well here, let me give you some countless more examples of how your screwed up, or how you are not enough”. You know what, I no longer wanted that.
So I chose to focus on what I do want. What is it I want more of in my life right now and in my future? I realized that the thoughts one thinks today creates your present and your future so I chose to think the best thoughts about my present and my future.
Sure there are things I don’t like going on but I notice them and draw my attention to what I can find to like about that situation and to I seek to find the best feelings I can in the moment.
My goal is to feel the best I can throught out the day and not let anything impinge on it. This does not mean I ignore things or not deal with things, rather it means I steer my thoughts to aspects that are positive. It means looking for the silver lining in the dark clouds.
The way I have learned to do this is through gratefulness. I have learned to appreciate what I have and what I want. I have learned to be thankful for whatever happened in my past because brought me this far and I am still here. By adopting this mind set it re-codes all of my experiences as things that were necessary to move me along. I don’t even care whether this is accurate or not. It simply feels right.
I find I can appreciate anything and everything and this is where I return to the notion of forgiveness.
When I can forgive and really let go of these tormenting people is when I can appreciate them fully. When I can fully appreciate them then I can be free of the burden being angry or upset with them for any pain they caused me. If I can really appreciate different aspects of the person or the challenge they present then I can more easily feel grateful to them for what I am learning as a result. It is evolutionary and for me revolutionary.
Hence I can more easily forgive and forget. There is motive to forgive and forget. It allows me to live life with more freedom, with more love, peace, happiness, contentment and less angst, hostility and bondage. I suffer less and enjoy more when I let go and forgive. It really isn’t about the other person at all, in a lot of ways.
It occurred to me one day that my life was okay. It was not everything I wanted but it was okay. I had ups and downs all along the way and I was never truly happy. I thought from time to time I was. I learned how to be happier, and I became happier. Then at one point it occurred to me that I was great at getting what I didn’t want but not so good at getting what I did want. I went from one bad time to the next. I went through bad events, situations and disappointments wondering why I had such bad luck, when it suddenly occurred to me that maybe I had something to do with it.
I realized that my thoughts, what I thought, how I thought it, what I spent most of my time thinking, brought me to where I was. I realized that to continue to think the same or in similar ways would carry keep it the same way into my future. I realized then if I continued as I was nothing would change. I had to change something. So I decided to change my thinking.
Previously, I would have thought it was others that was the cause of my discomfort but now I saw that my own thinking was the issue.
So I began to determine what I wanted and focused on these things instead of what I didn’t want. I determined to find the small and large things that occur each day that I could celebrate, rejoice, appreciate, and once found to keep looking for more. I determined to find the best feelings I could find and find a way to feel even better. Celebration and gratitude really helped because once I started focusing on good things and really appreciating them I did start to feel much much better.
Then came forgiveness. I practice letting go. I started allowing things to be without trying to control them. I forgave, I let go, I excused.
It is an ongoing process. It never ends but it has become easier and more enjoyable and I am happier and more free now than ever.
I leaned important things about self forgiveness too.
When I would still get hooked into an argument or went off feeling less than glorious or when I found myself thinking thoughts I didn’t want to be thinking, those that seemed to return again and again while I struggled to gain control I would forgive and excuse myself.
I’d remind myself, “I am new to this, I am not perfect”. I made it a point to remember that I am and a beginner at it. I am learning and these challenges are important lessons. Then I found I can appreciate the opportunity to learn from and I can be different as a result. I forgive myself because I am not perfect, and I am evolving and I don’t have all the information.
I can’t see past the TV screen into all things. I trust that all things work together for good and that I am remaining positive, happy and free in spite of what goes on around me. I choose to be happy. AND I choose to be happy when I do something other than what I intended. When I screw up, I examine it , learn from it and benefit.
The Golden Rule states “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”
What I learned from the Golden Rule is I would hope others would forgive me for when I am a bone head or when I do wrong things. I hope they would get over it, let it go and forgive and completely accept me with my imperfections. I would hope that they would feel good about me and hold me in the highest possible esteem. I hope they would want me happy and healthy and wealthy and to have all good things. So how can I wish anything less to anyone else.
The wellness I derive is from silently wishing the best for the people in my life, the difficult people in my life and people I encounter. I attempt to “Do unto others” FIRST “ the way I want to considered and treated. That makes everything just so more pleasant. Because I again remind that what we think about we become, what we focus on we get, it expands and attracts more of the same. I want the very best so I offer the very best to others first.
I have learned to extend this to me as well. Why not? I am the other person as well. I wish for me all good things, all blessings, and forgiveness. “What we sow we reap”, and I want to reap the very best. I know the thoughts of yesterday brought me here. The thoughts today create my future. I want to have the most incredible future filled with love, happiness, joy, acceptance, all good things spiritual, emotional, mental and physical. So I keep on focusing on these things and what I am able to do to make my life wonderful.
Think the best thoughts, feel the best feelings, be free, forgive and forget, let go of anything that doesn’t create a better you and a better future. Celebrate and appreciate, enjoy and delight, and spread it to everyone including myself. It’s not always easy but it is possible. And it becomes a habit. A good habit to have. Once it is a habit it is far easier. Persistence pays off. You do get what you focus on and you do become what you think about.
Think about that!
My feeling is if Jesus at his worst moment could forgive, I should be able to in my daily life.
Even, if as some believe it was only a fairy tale, the example in the story is a potent one
If we follow some of the other statements on the cross we get – “Why have you forsaken me?” Which, as I think about it in this context, means that he, as a human, was alone in his suffering. He had no divine power to rescue him. No divine power to forgive. Yet, he forgave, As I think about it this makes it even more poignant an example. He accepted his situation and faced it all by himself
Many of us pray to be rescued or for some on or some thing to avenge us but it seems Jesus, in his last hours, felt the hopelessness we all do, perhaps even much worse than many of us do. He was Hopeless and helpless on the cross suffering yet he was forgiving and excusing those who put him there.
Then he states “Not my will but yours” meaning he accepted his fate, this condition, the inevitable. He allowed it he did not fight it. It was what it was.He did not resist.
Most of us attempt to change our circumstance when it gets uncomfortable rather than go through them. When possible that is not a bad choice. Still, we should learn something about acceptance, about allowing what is
I can hope and pray and fight and resist forever that a particular person leave me alone and I may never get that answered that way/ That may never happen. That person may still persist or an unwanted circumstance persist OR arise that is really terrible and hard to get through it.
Things are as they are, the people around us may never change no matter how we hope and pray, the circumstances may never get any better so what can one do. Fight for ever. Live with the stress.
One can be dismayed or unhappy or one can accept that is how it is and that it will never change, so why let it affect your happiness?. If it is going to go on, no matter what, why choose to be unhappy about it? Why not accept it, allow it and go about your life anyway choosing to be happy rather than distressed? It is your choice, after all.
I won’t say it is easy. Learning acceptance and non-resistance may be as difficult as learning to truly forgive and forget.
In fact, I never am saying this is easy but it gets easier as one does it and it certainly is possible to do. It is not impossible.
The question is whether you start today? If you never begin to take charge of yourself and make your life what you want it to be it will always be has it has been. As long as others and circumstances dictate how you think, feel and behave, and what you possess you will be a victim not a victor.
Times are tough, yet people in war torn countries, can be happy, there are happy people living in poverty while there are millionaires, made in every depression and economic upheaval, that are fat rich cats in ivory towers with everything one can imagine, who are miserable, depressed and angry. There are lottery winners who are unhappy or who end up loosing all their money and end up worse than before getting it.
There are people from everyday walks of life who have learned how to be happy. These people manage to inspire themselves and others. We should choose these as examples to emulate, if we chose any examples at all to follow.
There are those all around us who are negative and miserable regardless. We should realize “it” isn’t out there, “it” comes from within. The world, the events, the people that we think are the cause of our suffering and unhappiness will always be. Happiness comes from within us and it is how we think and respond to those. There are people suffering while held in captivity that give up and there are those who remain hopeful and optimistic.
When wee realize we have a choice then we have a decision to make. Either we keep doing what we are doing and things remain the same or we change what we are doing in order to get the changes we want to have. If you always think as you have always thought you get nothing new at all. When you change your thinking you can begin to entertain and find new things to explore. When each of us understand that we are the product, the end result, of what we think, then either we keep going as we have been or we change it. This is the decision we face.
Happiness is a choice as is forgiveness. Creating a future or living in the past is a choice. Letting go or harboring resentment is a choice. Enjoying or abhorring your present is a choice.
I have experienced a freedom and wonderful opportunities when I began practicing deliberate control of my thought and feelings.
decided to think the best of the situations, the people and myself. I began and continue to look for the best in my past, even the horrible times, to discover that I made it through those, and I was still here and that each moment back then was a stepping stone to now.
I decided to think about the best in my present and focus on discovering the wonderful things each day. I decided to focus on what I want to include in my future, what I’d like and what I’d like more of and how it feels to have these. These are ongoing decisions I have made and I make then each moment too.
My thoughts are not just about things or situations or people, but personal attributes about who and how I want to be now and in my future. I decided to be thankful for everything and everyone, regardless, and to shower the people in my life and those I encounter with love, peace, acceptance and joy. I decided to go first and forgive my self and others and to let go, to excuse and accept us as we are so I can move forward without carrying any baggage. I decided that whatever life throws to me to accept. I now look for the silver lining, I seek the best, and to find opportunity where I might have not thought to look. I decided to stay at it no matter what and to never quit. I am not claiming to be good at any of this, but my life has changed as a result. I mention myself only to state that I know for myself that this is now possible. I would never have thought that to be the case, but it is. I feel very blessed to finally awaken to these things, if only just a little.
Recently, there were some pretty tough challenges. I found myself falling back on these decisions and living from my new choices. I discovered myself delighted to realize I had come a long positive way in my journey and that I felt better and happy in spite of what went on around me. It was going to go on anyway why not go through it happy and trusting that things would work out for the best no matter what? I found myself at times thinking of some things that weren’t as productive as I like but I steered my thoughts to what I did want to think about. If the former returned I’d again steer my thinking to what I want instead. Sometimes it may seem like attempting to control a wild horse, but with patience, and peace and acceptance and forgiveness and acknowledgment and nurturing, I could do what I wanted to do. What would have been a struggle in years past was no struggle at all.
There were times that were more challenging than other times but through it all I knew I would find the best. Someone once said, “When the going gets tough the tough get going” which relates to this other saying, “When the going gets tough you get what you practice”.
If you persistently practice loving kindness, happiness, forgiveness, celebration you get it back when you need it. If you are never challenged you don’t learn how to have it in those trying times. Every moment becomes an opportunity to learn and better enjoy life.
After all it is, or may be, the only life we have. I decided I wanted to have a say in what kind of life it is going to be and determined to make it wonderful. It is! Even when the circumstances are not good life can still be wonderful. This is the point I became aware of and that I have been trying to make.
Jesus was in the worst of circumstances yet he was able to allow and forgive. When we learn to do as Jesus did our life does improve. Give it a try and then stick with it and you will discover so many marvelous benefits. No one can convince you, only you will convince yourself as you do when you discover these for yourself. I figure if Jesus could do it at the very worst in his life I ought to be able to do it in as many circumstances as possible. For me it has made an incredible difference. I am certain it will for you to.
Blessings and Peace.” Rex Sikes