Go Past Forgiveness

Forgiveness, too often, is like a commodity, with very little worth, bartered with and withheld, dispensed and held on to, given and received, in a way that cheapens what it might be. Honestly, I might even consider it an illusion. Some smoke and mirror trick that Penn and Teller might know. We think we possess it, because we tell others we “forgive them”. We think we need it, and can attain it, because we ask others, and even the Divine, to be forgiven.

We preach to our youth and convince our elders, that this life is spent with nothing more than overcoming “original sin”. Before we go off on this Christian practice, the buddhists speak of overcoming Karma, Kabbalists advise working out tikkun, all in an effort to convince others that they, right now, are less than what they are and in need of correction. Am I saying there are no such things? I am unsure (believe it or not, we have the right not to have opinions). If there are such things, forgiveness may not be the solution.

If I offer someone forgiveness, I feel better. Whether they feel better or not is up to them. If someone asks me for forgiveness, it gives me the sense that I have some sort of control over a person. We have heard that it is best to “forgive and forget”. There are some who say “forgive, but do not forget, and make better choices”. If you must forgive, my suggestion is that you “forgive and focus”. Focus on something else. Something with goodness inside. We are like small children at Christmas, who open a gift that our parents planned for, saved up for, and took the time to wrap, and then we play with the box. We forget about the toy.

It is not that our parents give up and throw the toy in the trash. They know our attention will come back to the toy later. Regardless of our new found enthusiasm for the box the toy came packaged in, the toy is of worth, and can be enjoyed later. The toys are like our lessons in life. Forgiveness is like the box that caught our undivided attention for a moment. It makes us feel important, it sparks our imagination, and it is fun, but eventually, it will be discarded. So forgive (play all you want with what you think that is), but focus (come back to the toy, the lesson, later).

And like children, there are so many sparkly things that catch our eye. When we feel good, we forgive everyone. When we realize that life is made only of this moment, it is easy not to dwell in the past. Our problem is our tendency to revisit passed offenses when we have a bad day, or something goes wrong. I am not suggesting that we distract ourselves in order to forgive others, but we do need to be aware that if we were to realize what a blessing our breath is, we would not be so concerned with how Susan did not invite us to coffee with other friends, or Mark broke our lawnmower and returned it without offering a repair, or heaven forbid, the Parker family did not invite us for vacation this year.

My question becomes, “Who, or what, other than God, can focus more on the blessings in this life and those in it?”.

We are taught that God demands that we be forgiven. And sadly, that is often times the end of our education. That is the end goal for a relationship with our Creator. And worse than this, is the blasphemous idea that one group, or religion, or teacher, has the only solution to this problem. We, as humans, generate mental lists of actions or in-actions for which we believe we (and others) need forgiveness. We judge ourselves and others on what we have been taught is either sacred and profane. We interpret our dissatisfaction as a mandate from the Divine. All the while, my suspicion is, The Divine has it’s attention focused on what his next lily will look like, or if that bird that was just born in Kalamazoo, Michigan will have food for the day.

We buy and sell forgiveness, with money, miracle water, emotional bribes, and created stories of how we were deeply offended. Whether God demands we be forgiven is God’s business, and yours, but I suspect we have created an industry out of humanity’s desire to be at peace. Is it snake oil? It can be. I am baffled by the notion that God can be so easily offended, and even that the Creator of this vast universe could be offended at all. Especially by something as simple as what we eat, what we drink, or by who we choose to love.

My teacher always said, and whispers it still today, “If someone asks you to carry their burden a mile, carry it two miles”. “If someone asks for your coat, give them your shirt, also”. I have never heard him advise me to build a sanctuary or a basketball court. I have also never heard him ask me to convince someone they are less, in the eyes of the Creator, than I am. One time, I swear I heard him say, “you are in God, and God is in you”. My teacher said so many things.

If forgiveness is a necessity, please understand that you are only given it, to dispense it. It is not something you want to hold onto. Give it not only to those who ask for it, not only to those you believe need it, and not only those who have offended you, but to everyone you meet. Do it without words and disguised as a smile, or a kind word, or an anonymous gift. Do it by speaking well of a person when that person is not there. Plant its seed and walk away, leaving others to enjoy its growth.

When I enjoy a salad, I do not say to myself, this is the best carrot surrounded by other stuff that I have had in a while. I call it a salad. Forgiveness is a whole, big bunch of, a lot like, that carrot. The salad is Love. Enjoy Love and you will have forgiveness. Share Love and forgiveness will be included. We are taught so much about the carrot and we understand so little about the salad. It is not so much that we do not need forgiveness, but it is that it is included in Love. That teacher I mentioned earlier also said, “Love one another”. That, for me, is the starting point. Forgiveness is just a very small chapter in the book of Love the Creator wrote in your heart.

 


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