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The Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is connected to the Buddhist virtue of equanimity, a steadiness of mind that is the ground for wisdom and the protector of compassion. Forgiveness is related to the third Paramita of patience that helps us work with our own aggression and irritations. For when anger visits us and stays too long, it takes up residence in our heart as resentment. 

Most of us have been hurt by someone else. When that wound remains unhealed within your heart, it festers and often causes further wounds. It is common for people in such situations to experience depression, anxiety and feelings of low self-esteem. So the wound has a way of multiplying. First it takes up residence in your heart as a bitter pill; then toxic self-judgments get directed towards yourself. But the wound can continue to multiply compromising your health and the relationships of those you love.

Forgiveness is a choice. Because this may seem to be asking too much of you, I ask that you simply consider the possibility. Forgiveness is not about overlooking, dismissing or forgetting the injustice. It's about acknowledging it. Someone treated you in a manner you didn't deserve and your anger is fully justified.  

Once you are willing to entertain the possibility of forgiving someone, then the process of forgiveness is one of bearing witness and staying with your painful feelings. It's important to experience your emotions properly. Another part of the process is to reframe how you see the perpetrator. For up until now, you have probably viewed them through the narrow lens of the injustice they did to you. For instance, you may come to appreciate how this person has been wounded as well. Every person has buddha nature, which is another way of saying everyone has inherent self worth. Everyone deserves respect and love. 

Forgiveness is a process, and depending on the depth of your wound, may take some time. But if you persist you may eventually be able to sincerely wish this person no harm. You may actually be able to extend your love towards this person. Forgiveness is an act of mercy given to one who may not deserve it. 

Those who have forgiven in this way, report that they would never return to the prison of a resentful and bitter heart. They find new energy and purpose in their lives. They may even learn a deeper spiritual truth of finding meaning in suffering itself, not as a victim but as an empowered person with a large, brave and open heart.

Roshi Robert Althouse

 

Robert Althouse

Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, 38 Lake Street, Oak Park, IL, 60302