Saying For Today: The ego may resist this truth, for the ego oft wants to cling to hurt, play the victim, and thinking that somehow hurts the other and not oneself; consequently, unforgiveness is irrational, and forgiveness is rational.
Today's Saying: We have been taught forgiveness is difficult. How did we learn this? From whom? We learned it from significant others who suffered by withholding forgiveness, so denying our true nature. Then, we pass along the message. Everything, however, of our nature is natural. What if we changed our minds and started living with the truth that forgiveness is as natural and easy as breathing? And fear is at the root of this unforgiveness, is it not, for we are always motivated most by fear or love? If I resist forgiving, what do I fear will change by forgiving? The ego may resist this truth, for the ego oft wants to cling to hurt, play the victim, and thinking that somehow hurts the other and not oneself; consequently, unforgiveness is irrational, and forgiveness is rational.
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In his memoir The Abbot's Shoes, Peter Robertson shares an experience of forgiveness after he had entered a Cistercian monastery in his early twenties.
I remember one particularly painful occasion when I had worked myself into a complete lather and agony of scrupulosity. I knelt down at the door of my [novice] master's study; going around in ever-diminishing circles, trying to communicate what I feared was about to catapult me out of the monastery or into Hell. Finally he interrupted and declared (a little impatiently), "I don't really know what you're talking about, but God knows and He forgives you."
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It is often another fallible human's word, one who, like us, has failed in her eyes and knows the joy of forgiveness afterward, which awakens forgiveness within us. In the human speaking forgiveness, the other and the Other share in the act of liberating, healing grace.
This forgiveness is so, for the Light embodies itself in the human community. Spirit speaks forth forgiveness through beings attuned to divine Love - only Love effects forgiveness. Hence, speaking forgiveness is one way we, the human family, minister Grace for each other. We are sacraments, one for the other.
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The early Jesus followers presented a radical, revolutionary idea concerning this grace of forgiveness when it identified all members of the Body of Christ as a priesthood of priests. However, the Church has generally ignored this teaching (i.e., Protestantism) or posited an elite priesthood (i.e., Catholicism) as the sole intermediaries of forgiveness. Yet, every Jesus follower was seen as a priest in the early Jesus community - so go-between between Heaven and earth.
One of the most telling texts about this priesthood of forgiveness is in the Christian Scriptures, Gospel of John 20.23 (NRSV): "If you forgive [release, let go] the sins [lit., miss the mark; hence, mistake, failure, error, a coming up short] of any, they are forgiven them [released from them]; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
The interdependency of the human community is such a single body that we can profoundly influence others' release from moral error or the retaining of it. The letting go or keeping is so for not only are we acting in mutuality within the human community, but Spirit collaborates with us.
And the word of forgiveness need not always be that we speak with the tongue. The presence of persons' spirit-attuned mediates grace, communicating love that contributes to another finding within herself the same love to let go and move on from the clinging to her past.
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In the Gospel sense, a person herself is not forgiven; rather, the mistake is forgiven. Hence, the error falls away from the one who committed it; her letting go and the mistake falling away is one act. So, contrary to what we usually hear, we are not forgiven; our shortcomings are forgiven.
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All we have said today agrees with the Lord's Prayer, or Our Father, where one prays, as Jesus taught, "Release us from our missings-of-the-mark [against others], as we release others from their missings-of-the-mark against us" (Gospel of Luke 11.4), or "Release us from our debts [against others], as we release others of their debts against us" (Gospel of Matthew 6.12). Here, again, forgiveness is seen as an act of grace within the community, not merely coming to it from a Source outside the community. Also, notice, the Prayer is a communal prayer, not a private prayer, even if we pray it apart from others. Forgiveness and grace-in-community are one. There is no private religion with a private way to forgiveness, for acting as an island apart is counter to our nature.
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One could ask, "But what if I find it impossible to forgive the action of someone?" Likely, most of us have felt this at times. I certainly have. I have known both the sense of an inability to forgive and, at least once in my life, after being deeply hurt, of not even wanting to forgive. In fact, if we cannot seem to forgive, a part of us does not want to forgive. What have I learned from this? Do not judge yourself for this. Grace arises when we allow the space for grace. Acknowledge the ineptness or refusal to forgive. Acknowledge this stems from fear and pain, that your deeper nature, love, is to forgive freely. And in the absence of forgiving, act in love toward the other anyway.
You may wish to pray for the forgiveness before you feel ready to forgive; that is, pray as though you forgive before you do. Therefore, you are speaking forth what you wish to materialize. Another way of offering forgiveness in advance is a visualization whereby you and the other person meet. In this relaxed state, you speak forgiveness to the other.
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Remember, we in ourselves do not have the power to forgive anything; we are channels of a forgiveness that comes to us all as a gift. One of the greatest gifts you can give another is to allow yourself to be a sacramental means of release from the very act that left you wounded with a sense of being betrayed. And, in offering forgiveness, you find forgiveness, too.
The edge of hope that constantly invades the seasoned grounds of despair, the faith that keeps watch at the doors through which pass all the labors of my life and heart for what is right and true, the impulse to forgive and to seek forgiveness even when the injury is sharp and clear—these and countless other things make me know that by day and by night my life is surrounded by the love of God.
*Howard Thurman. Meditations of the Heart.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2021
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on wisdom traditions, predominantly Christian, Buddhist, and Sufi, with extensive notes on the poetry's teachings and imagery.