Why Forgive?

Apr 20

David Beale, a long time spiritual friend from Perth, Australia, has a brilliant and penetrating mind. Years ago, he offered a wonderful analogy for understanding forgiveness:

The yin-yang, though symbolic, does sum up the harmony that averages to nothing when taken over a wide enough viewpoint. …. A hurricane that goes in both directions may in sequential time do lots of damage yet the net average is No Wind ….

David went on to note that to forgive, we must have a sense of both:

  1. It does not matter because it can and does add up to nothing; and
  2. In this physical life, we have an obligation to change both ourselves and the elements of disorder so that they balance and no longer bother us, “allowing us to enjoy our temporal existence with minimal disruption and maximum joy …. we are individuals growing in a limited environment so as to better enjoy a less limited environment. Forgiveness is part of the less-limited environment. (Emphasis supplied.)

In short, there is no need for forgiveness and yet every need for forgiveness. What in the world do I mean by that paradoxical statement?

In what sense is there no need for forgiveness?

Each of us physical human beings births onto this planet with limited perspectives, limited bodies, physical needs for food, water, and shelter, and emotional needs for love and belonging. Baby Mary cries because she is hungry or cold or has a bubble of air in her belly. Her perspective is limited to her own immediate needs. She doesn’t understand that Mommy may be exhausted from cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, and caring for her brothers and sisters. She knows nothing about the sixteen hours per day that Daddy spends in a coal mine to provide a few dollars to buy rice and beans. Maybe she doesn’t even know she is hungry or cold or needs to burp. She just knows she hurts. She cries because that is all she knows how to do. She has done the best she knows how with the limited resources she has. Mommy is doing the best she knows how. So is Daddy. There is no need to forgive any of them, even though they live in desperate poverty and pain. They are all doing the best they can with the resources they have.

In what sense is there every need for forgiveness?

As Mary matures through youth and adulthood, the pain continues to gnaw at her gut. Now she notices that not everyone is hungry or cold or without shelter. As she becomes aware of her external world, her pain turns to anger. She may resent those who have more food and better shelter. She may blame her parents for their lack of education or the fact that they haven’t always been able to respond to her needs. She may come to hate other children whose parents can afford to buy them nice clothes. Her boyfriend may leave her for another woman, betraying her trust. Her internal pain and external anger may generalize to labeling all men liars and cheats, even though she has had personal experiences with only one or a few. Worst of all, she may hate herself because she feels powerless.

Pain and anger are simply different forms of the same energy. Pain is negative energy directed inward. Anger is negative energy directed outward. It doesn’t really matter where the negative energy is directed. The challenge for each and every one of us is how to release the negative energy and transform it into positive energy, or at least into neutral, detached awareness.

Mary’s adult condition is the human condition that Buddhists call “suffering.” Suffering is not necessary and can be released. At this point in Mary’s life, there is every need to release suffering. There is every need for forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of many spiritual tools we’ve been given to transform our pain and anger into deep, personal, inner peace.

Why forgive? Certainly not because the other person deserves it. In their own misery, desperation, and low self-esteem, they may have done horrible, ugly things that felt like knives through our hearts. Perhaps they lied because they were ashamed to tell the truth. Perhaps they murdered. Perhaps they committed adultery or stole our physical possessions. Perhaps they were simply not present in their relationships with us.

Their actions were certainly not functional. We do need to pay attention to how others treat us and conduct themselves in their relationships with us. If we don’t notice what others do and how it makes us feel, we haven’t learned the relationship lessons we were intended to learn.

However, we never change the relationship by changing the other person. We change the relationship by changing ourselves.

Why then forgive? We forgive for ourselves. We forgive because forgiveness releases our own pain and anger, changes our relationship dynamics, and allows us to move forward in freedom and joy.

Holding onto pain, anger, and blame destroys each and every one of us. It makes us sick. It keeps us stuck. Anyone stuck in this negative energy and unable to let it go will eventually kill themselves as well as all the loving relationships that surround them and could support them. Being stuck in negative energy condemns you to a life lived in hell (using Christian words) or a life of suffering (using Buddhist words).

So why do we forgive? We forgive to shift our own energy from hell to heaven (Christian terminology). We forgive to release our own suffering (Buddhist terminology).

First, we forgive ourselves, knowing that we did the best we could with the resources we had. Then, we forgive others, knowing they did the same. Forgiveness does not mean staying in abusive, dysfunctional relationships. If we learn the lessons our pain and anger have taught us, we move out of abusive, dysfunctional relationships and seek out relationships that support us. When the abuser no longer has a victim, the abuse stops.

8 Responses to “Why Forgive?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think this was a very interesting post thanks for writing it!

  2. Ilene Cummings says:

    Marvelous, just marvelous. So simple and so pure. Thank you so much. It boils down to a choice, freedom or hell. It is just that simple.

  3. Cases says:

    Finally something that really make sense. Was looking for this in other sites but not anymore!

  4. kaos muslim says:

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  5. David Beale says:

    Thanks for the kind reference, Janet. I can’t remember writing that. It sounds like what a nice drink of wine would have done at the end of the day in an Internet discussion group circa 1995. A couple of weeks ago I wrote this on the same subject, forgiveness, also in a discussion group:
    By David Beale on Mar 20, 2011 at 8:36 AM
    Forgiveness implies absolution. Love works over past, present and future, for now to be ok. Our dilemmas are mutual. Let’s not play out our ancient wars both spiritually and physically. Let’s forgive ourselves and…we have to live with the Earth as our own body. We can live with other people as ourselves. We can live with Creation as an equal because that is the definition of infinite love considering each numbered percentage of infinity as equal to infinity.”

  6. mikerosss says:

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  7. Darlene Sanders Harris says:

    At the start of the true ugliness of divorce… these words made me cry with a pain that I have rechanneled into anger. I know that I need to work on releasing both these negative emotions in order to truly survive and move on.

  8. janet says:

    Dear Darlene,

    I can so identify with what you wrote.

    I, too, have been through the gut-wrenching pain and anger of divorce. I, too, experienced the feelings of not being appreciated, not being heard, and simply being used as a cook, babysitter, and maid. I watched as my dreams of a wonderfully-fulfilling partnership and healthy family got thrown into the mud and trampled on. It’s not a fun place to be. A good wife deserves so much more.

    Yes, the pain is excruciating, and the anger, justified. However, sitting in it forever simply blocks our ability to move on with our own purpose for being on the planet.

    So how do you move on? Here are some understandings that have helped me:

    1. I am not going to change anybody but myself.
    2. We both did the best we knew how at the time with the resources we had.
    3. He was working out his own masculinity issues in very dysfunctional ways that only brought pain into our marriage and family.
    3. My values are not his values.
    4. Our energies and paths are no longer aligned. We need to move in different directions.
    5. I can serve both of us best by letting go and moving on.

    Here are some questions that have helped me:

    1. What has this relationship taught me?
    2. What has this relationship given me?
    3. What values are essential to my own sense of integrity?
    4. Am I living these values every moment of every day to the best of my ability? If not, what am I afraid of?
    5. What do I require in a healthy relationship?
    6. What is my purpose on this planet and how can I fulfill it?

    Here are some action steps that have helped me:

    1. Make a decision to forgive. (This does not mean you condone what the other person has done. It does not necessarily mean that you go back into the relationship. It simply means that you are ready to release the past, mentally and emotionally, so you can fulfill your purpose on this planet in the present.)
    2. Think about why you are on this planet. (What is your purpose? What are your skills? What gives you joy?)
    3. Create a vision board.
    4. Write out affirmations and put them where you can read them every day.
    5. Notice the thoughts that are in your mind. (If they are negative, consciously choose to re-word them.)
    6. Notice the connection between your thoughts and emotions. When your thoughts are negative, how do you feel? You deserve to feel joy.
    6. Choose to change your story.
    7. Choose to stop focusing on what he did and start focusing on what you can do.

    With love,


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