Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's Easy

It's easy for people to say "forgive," or "love your enemies." It's easy to make a hand-lettering project or a meme out of these sorts of expressions. But it's hard to actually practice them.

Gurus and pastors, friends, parents, mentors, sometimes shrinks will tell you that you need to forgive. But your feelings tell you otherwise. Your experiences tell you that you've been wronged, and that your anger is just. Those people who wronged you deserve all your ill-will, if nothing else.

But suppose your thought leans towards the obsessive side of the spectrum. You can focus so keenly on an idea, an event or a situation that you accidentally reach a kind of formless objectivity, suspending your own judgement about things, free of any sort of influence other than pure insight. These moments can give you greater clarity on the relationship, a gestalt, a holistic vision of the good as well as the bad, the roles that everyone played, the backgrounds and upbringings and so on.

Of course you recognize your own failings, your own weaknesses, fragility, pain, your own humanity. But with the distance of objectivity, with emotional detachment (an admittedly fleeting state of mind), you also somehow see the pain of the other person. You are able to see their sufferings, their weaknesses, their humanity. And it doesn't look much different from yours. You grasp a basic understanding of the connection between their suffering and their behavior. You discover that the only possible sensible feeling you could have towards this person, this object of your anger or hatred, this enemy, given the circumstances of everything they've been through with you, is compassion.

Even then, living according to this realization isn't necessarily easy. The thoughts of how they hurt you can flood back in. You're cold or abrasive to them, callous, uncaring. You regret your treatment of them, they who are probably just as wounded as anyone else, yourself included.

How can you deal with these potentially damaging emotions? Does the person involved know what your beef with them is? If you haven't done so already, perhaps you should find a way to say whatever you have to say to them in as polite a way as possible, guided by the principle of ahimsa (non-injury or non-violence). Express the anger forcefully through exercise and creative activity. And strive to make personal dealings with this person or persons align with the same beliefs - that they are deserving of compassion and that you will not harm them with your words or actions.

With these things in mind, maybe it's not so hard to learn and practice forgiveness.