Until recently I had not thought that much about forgiveness. Firstly because I have been fortunate in that very few of my human beings have hurt me that much. Secondly, I have been a master at distancing myself from those – a few that – have caused me pain. Thirdly, I have always thought that forgiveness lets the bad guys off and so gives them an incentive to go and do that again – to me or to others.
For a week or so this month anger, frustration, despair and confusion gripped me tightly. The working day was not so bad as I was absorbed in tasks that consumed me mentally. Yet, these feelings, these states of mind would grasp me in the evenings. And all because I had created a story called Betrayal: I played the part of the wronged person and some of the people who are closest to me were the betrayers.
Being versed in existential philosophy I recognised I had a choice. Continue with the Betrayal story and thus keep creating anger, frustration, confusion and despair. Or to create a new story. And whilst I was in this search I happened to read Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book is subtitled “Buddhist Wisdom for cooling the flames”. The book gave me access to stories that inspired me to step into the ‘shoes of the other’ and to get that if I was feeling hurt, they were feeling hurt. If I was wrapped up in a story of Betrayal then they were wrapped up in their own story.
So the question arose: who goes first? Who says I am folding up my story and putting it on the fire?
So I chose forgiveness: I forgave everyone including myself. Did that make the lives of the people I was angry with easier? Yes. Were they the only people to benefit? No. Were they the main beneficiaries? No.
What I found is that the main beneficiary of this act of forgiveness is me. Yes, me. Anger, frustration, confusion and despair have flown leaving only peace of mind. I am at peace with the world and the world is at peace with me: no need to ready the sword to cut others nor the shield to defend myself from others.
So I can honestly say that forgiveness is a gift that I gave myself.
As I human like you I can confidently state that forgiveness is a gift that you give yourself. Even when you choose to break from someone – you can do it in a way that bears no grudges of the past. In a way that leaves you overflowing with a peaceful mind.