Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Grace of Forgiveness

-by Saturnine

"Love the creatures for the sake of God and not for themselves. You will never become angry or impatient if you love them for the sake of God. Humanity is not perfect. There are imperfections in every human being, and you will always become unhappy if you look toward the people themselves. But if you look toward God, you will love them and be kind to them, for the world of God is the world of perfection and complete mercy. Therefore, do not look at the shortcomings of anybody; see with the sight of forgiveness."
- `Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 92

Everybody makes mistakes. No one is perfect and we all make decisions from time to time that have negative consequences. Part of personal growth is getting over those mistakes and learning to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t easy and it is often difficult to know where to begin.

In the past few years, I have met an astounding number of Wiccans that get angry at just about everything and hold grudges like nobody’s business. It is with these people and in these groups that it is difficult for any outsider not to get a bad impression of Wiccans in general. As Wiccans, we are often so absorbed in the rule of “An’ Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will” that we overlook how anger and resentment can lead to harm.

Anger can lead to several problems in the body such as depression, increased heart rate, ulcers, and indigestion to name a few. It can also lead to the repression of individual growth which can be very harmful in the long run. We must remember that as Wiccans, many of us believe in past lives. Part of this belief is that we are here to learn from the mistakes of our pasts. We must also remember that everything is part of the Divine, including mistakes. When we get angry and hold a grudge against someone for their mistake, we are also holding it against the Divine. As Alexander Pope once said, "To err is human; to forgive, Divine."

There are three ways to deal with anger: repression, which is where you hold it all in; expression, where you communicate your feelings; and forgiveness. We will often say we forgive someone and even trick ourselves into thinking we forgive them, but continue to remember the hurt and pain and only “play nice” with them. Once you forgive, you have to mean it and stop dwelling. Think of all the negative energy that being angry raises. Think of the harm you can cause when all that negative energy is always around you.

Some psychologists tell us not to waste our time on anger as it is a futile feeling that often only affects us and not the wrong-doer. Whereas other psychologists, such as Dr. Laura Schlessinger, tell us that anger is a valid feeling and that forgiveness is a process. They recommend that we wait for the person who has wronged us to complete the following four steps, often referred to as the 4R’s of Forgiveness. The wrong-doer (which in some cases can even be oneself) must first take responsibility for their actions. Owning up to the crime and admitting that wrong has been done is the first step. The next step is remorse, in which the wrong-doer must feel bad about what they have done. It is important to note that feeling bad for being caught does not count as remorse. Remorse is the true feeling of guilt over causing someone else pain. The wrong-doer must then begin to repair the situation and try to make things better. And finally, repetition, in which the wrong-doer must commit to not repeating the offence and take steps to make sure the offence will not happen again.

So does this mean that only when a person has completed this process can we forgive them? Or once they have completed this process, all should automatically be forgiven? I think this takes an inward glance at oneself as the final step in this process. Think about how much time and energy you have spend being angry at this person. If you are no longer willing to waste the energy on being angry, then maybe you should think about forgiveness. It is important to note that just because you forgive that person, does not mean that your relationship with them should go back to the way it always was. It takes a lot of time for trust to build up and only an instant to tear it all down. Trust is an important aspect in Wicca. "Bide the Wiccan Laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust."(Lady Gwen Thompson & Adriana Porter) When working with others of the Craft we must be able to trust them with our secrets. We must also be able to trust and have faith that they are also working for the common good. When we lose that trust in a fellow Wiccan is often very difficult to work with them again in a magical setting. If the person who wronged you is a destructive influence in your life, maybe forgiveness is just the first step in letting your attachment to that person go.

Remember, forgiveness heals. It is a process we must all go through at some point in our lives in order to grow and learn. Forgiveness is freeing. It allows us to open up our minds, hearts and souls to better feelings. Forgiveness leads to humility. When we forgive, we are letting go of having to be the one who is right. It is closely linked to compassion and often extremely difficult to master. If you find yourself unable to forgive, try discussing it with someone. Storytelling and communication can often be very helpful when dealing with personal issues such as our most intense feelings. Forgiveness takes time, but I guarantee, you will begin to feel better once you let go of anger.

Let us think on these things.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

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