Why is forgiveness so difficult?
The other day I was getting ready to chide a friend about his lack of forgiveness in a situation. And just before I did, it suddenly became clear that I needed to forgive as well, even more so than my friend.
Carl Gustav Jung believed that when we react strongly to someone else’s behavior, it’s because we sense the potential for that same behavior in ourselves. We are all a mirror for one another.
The way I see it, forgiveness has three parts, three steps.
The first step is just acknowledging where we are, how we are feeling. One of my favorite sayings is that the beginning of magic is the acceptance of what is. Honestly, sometimes “what is” isn’t great. Sometimes our feelings are jagged, sometimes we feel wounded. It’s important to acknowledge that and not try to bury it or tamp it down.
The next step is to recognize the essential sameness, the connectedness we have with the one whose actions have caused these feelings to arise. This can be so difficult, to see our essential identity with someone who may have caused hardship or pain in our lives. But nevertheless, it exists.
The last step comes from something I heard a few years ago that has been so helpful: “Always assume positive intent.” Take that philosophy and multiple by fifty. This step is to seek to understand that the person who has hurt us is doing the very best that they can, in the very best way that they can, regardless of how ill-suited their actions might have been to the moment. This is not always easy understanding to obtain. But it is so true in nearly every case. True evil intent is actually very rare.
I look around and see so much combative behavior in our world. I know that families are torn apart by the issues of the day and of the last few years. And I believe that if we acknowledge where it hurts, seek to see our sameness, and ascribe worthwhile motives even when those actions have brought us pain, perhaps we will find for ourselves a measure of grace, a modicum of peace, and a little sanctuary in our hearts as we move through our days.
With love and gratitude,