Forgiving is a value many of us have accepted because it is part of our cultural heritage. It is probably something we were taught about at a very young age before we developed any sophisticated understanding of morality, emotions, or human relationships. So do we really know what it means to forgive? Sometimes we may say, "Oh, I forgive you." When we mean, "Oh, I forgive you, you jerk. You aren't worth holding a grudge for." Or, "I forgive you. I know you can't help being such an obviously lower form of life." Sometimes we may think, "I forgive you this time, but do it again and you'll never know what hit you."

 Now that we are adults, perhaps we should re-examine our understanding of forgiveness in the light of all that we now know about people and about ourselves.

 What does it mean to forgive? Broken down into parts it means:

  1. I understand that humans are not perfect.
  2. I acknowledge your fallibility as a human being, just as I accept my own.
  3. I give up my attachment to the negative emotions I have created within myself in response to my understanding of your behavior.
  4. I wish to heal the break between us.
  5. I open my heart and extend my compassion to you.

Spend some time contemplating your feelings about someone you believe has wronged you. See if you can loosen up the emotional restrictions that you have developed in response to this percieved wrong. Work through the above list of the parts of forgiving as it applies to this person. Notice your reactions: your hesitations, your rationalizations, your emotions. When you observe a reaction that prevents you from moving along to the next step, sit with it awhile. Examine it closely. Then let go of it. Let the obstruction melt away like an icecube in the sun. In place of the darkness of resentment allow the light of compassion to fill you.

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© 1995-2002 Tom Barrett