I was traveling recently, and I encountered a gentleman on his spiritual path, as we all are. At least three times over two days, we got into a conversation about forgiveness. This man’s opinion is that there is no such thing as forgiveness. His argument is that everything we experience is a lesson. If we have to forgive a situation, it implies that there something about the situation that should not have happened, or that we are choosing to be a victim. The example he gave to argue his point was that you would never forgive a teacher for teaching you!
As I thought about his observations, they made sense on the surface, but I couldn’t help but think that he might have been making an assumption that was leading to incorrect reasoning – an assumption about the definition of forgiveness itself. If one accepts “forgiveness” as the absolution of one’s errors, or “letting someone get away with something,” one could easily draw the same conclusions as this man, resulting in misperceptions.
The act of forgiving isn’t the same as forgetting or relaxing one’s moral values. It is about letting go – making a conscious decision not to let the “baggage” of the situation weigh you down. It doesn’t make the situation go away, it simply changes the way we choose to react to it.
Because of his assumption, the man went on to explain almost this exact process of letting go as a replacement for forgiveness. I pointed out to him that the “letting go” IS forgiveness, not an alternative. As we often do, this gentleman resisted the idea that he might be incorrect. He didn’t accept this alternative, because his existing belief was set in his mind.
The third time we had the conversation about forgiveness, I think he finally started seeing the logic that instead of replacing the idea of forgiveness, one can replace the definition of forgiveness itself – enabling an understanding of what forgiveness really is!
I honestly do not know if this man chose to change his thoughts, or if he is still traveling around telling people that forgiveness is a waste of time. I can be thankful that the whole interaction solidified my understanding of what forgiveness is. In the end, it all came down to semantics.
When there is something that you don’t like – something that someone has said or done that triggered a negative reaction in you, you are not a victim. You are a spiritual being who can choose to rise above the negative human reaction and see things more spiritually. You can’t change the past, no matter how much you might like to. You can’t change what another person does or chooses to do. The only thing you can change is how you react to the situation. Nothing can harm you unless you allow it to happen!
This is where the phrase “Let go and let GOD” comes from. Forgiveness is not absolution. You aren’t telling a person that what they did was okay or acceptable. You aren’t pretending that it didn’t happen. You aren’t denying its severity. You are simply telling the universe that you are choosing to react objectively to the situation and more importantly, you are leaving the past in the past! Reliving past situations that trigger negative reactions simply causes the scenario to live on.
I equate it to storing all of your bad experiences in a big steamer trunk. The more negative feelings you harbor regarding your past, the heavier the trunk gets. That trunk is chained to you and you can’t release it. Your only choices are to continue carrying this ever-growing weight, or to lighten the load! All you have to do is take things out of the trunk and leave them behind where they can’t burden you anymore!
Better yet, think of those experiences as balloons. Instead of feeling the need to hold the box closed, open it wide, and let them simply float away, never to be seen again. Forgiveness allows the past to die (or float away!), and opens the door for new, more positive experiences to manifest in your life!
When something happens that you perceive as “bad,” instead of becoming angry or fearful or doubtful or any other kind of adverse reaction, just say “Thank you!” See the situation that has been presented to you, not as a nuisance, but as a learning experience that will help you learn and grow. These lessons will make you a stronger, better person, and the rest will take care of itself!