The Initial Wrong
When one person commits a significant wrong against another, both souls are damaged by the same fire. People can be quite cruel, and some fires blaze long past the initial revelation of the wrong. If the friendship/relationship continues to hurt both people, the first step must always be to reach a healthy environment that is free of toxicity. Once that’s handled and raw emotions are allowed to quell, though, the next step must be figuring out how to get yourself to truly forgive the person who has wronged you. Many world religions preach forgiveness as a central doctrine; I will be pulling from The Bible and writings from The Dalai Lama in support of forgiveness, and to give suggestions on how to actualize it in life.
The Bible on Forgiveness
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Almost all people reading this blog have at some point recited this line from the middle of the Our Father. An okay number of readers probably say it on a weekly basis at church. This line implores followers to emulate God’s forgiveness and grace, but it also warns the hard-hearted and unforgiving. How one treats those who have wronged him, those whom one has nothing to gain from and a righteous anger for, truly shows if God’s grace is within him. If one is kind and forgiving, she can expect that in turn from God. If one is condemning and violent in his anger, he can expect that in turn from God. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus says “[b]ut I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.” In this teaching, Jesus asks the followers to go one step further and love those who wrong us; this prospect, without forgiveness, would be impossible. Jesus’ advice is the road map to grace and holiness; love all people, enemies and friends, and truly care for them. Rare is the undamaged soul that wrongs another, and plentiful are the broken who break others.
The Dalai Lama on Forgiveness
It is clear to see that God wants us to forgive. He not only wants this, but demands it of all those who wish to enter heaven. But anger is fiery and fierce, and it can crowd out many good intentions to forgive a person if your mindset isn’t properly altered. When putting the practice of forgiveness into action, it is wise to listen to the words of the 14th Dalai Lama. In his book How to Expand Love he expounds upon the topic of love at length. At the center of his teachings and meditations was the concept of rebirth. One was asked to imagine each person of significance in his life, whether it be friends, neutral persons, or enemies. In rebirth, each person has been all things to you at one point in the cycle. One is encouraged to meditate on the fact that all persons were at one time his mother, and he was theirs. All persons have at one time nurtured and raised you with the care and unconditional love of a mother. By proxy, you have felt the same love and devotion for all persons as your child countless times. In this way, enemies and neutral persons can be loved as if they are close friends. One can expand his circle of loving relationships to all humans, and eventually to all living beings since they are included in the cycle as well.
Putting it into Action
Once, through wisdom from religions and traditions, one realizes the freedom of living a forgiving life, another step exists. In order to remove all anger and bitterness from the process and allow one to be forgiving immediately after he is wronged, one must change his mindset about enemies as a whole. The Dalai Lama explains that one should be slightly joyful at having enemies. As his thinking goes, one must practice patience to reach enlightenment, and one must have enemies to practice patience. Therefore, one must have enemies to reach enlightenment. This is true also in Catholicism as one must have enemies to forgive in order to receive God’s grace and mercy. In Romans 12:21 it is said, “do not let evil defeat you, but defeat evil by doing good.” To allow anger to overcome ones self and to spite those who wrong you is letting evil defeat you. Instead, strive to defeat evil by showing God’s grace and forgiveness when trespassed against.