[Editor’s note: The author, Nancy Tubbs, is a member of an A Search for God Study Group, and an A.R.E. member.]
God forgives us to the extent that we forgive others. So we know, karmically, that forgiveness is crucial. And while we might try outwardly to let things go, the remembrance of the offense itself can continue to revolve in our minds.
So what do we do? How do we forgive and forget?
- We look at our emotions. An inability to forgive is linked to anger and injured pride. Someone else has done something and it has hurt our feelings!
- Hurt feelings are the quintessential example of the conscious ego part of ourselves that separates us from God. It is our pride that is damaged, that part of us that says, “No one has the right to treat me this way!”
- Pride separates us from God. Allowing our pride to run rampant locks karmic debt into place within our souls. So no matter what it was that happened, that thing that no one had a right to do – it’s going to keep happening if we don’t figure out how to really forgive.
- We look at what was done and ask ourselves why. Why did the other person behave the way that they did? Were their feelings hurt? Were they afraid? Did they misunderstand the situation? Had we somehow, without knowing it, hurt their feelings? What would we have done in their situation?
- On the cross, Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him, because “they know not what they do.” He recognized their lack of spiritual knowledge. He knew that at some point, in some lifetime, he had had that same lack, and that same fear of the unknown that comes from new spiritual teachings. He knew that his own knowledge in his current lifetime exceeded that of those around him, and that he was going to have to drag the world, kicking and screaming, into a new spiritual awareness. And he knew that it would cost him his physical life. In order to be who and what he was, his forgiveness on the cross had to be more than just words. It had to be real.
- Forgiveness is born of empathy, and empathy has the ability to understand and identify with the shortcomings of others. Only in understanding why people act the way they do, and in realizing our own tendency to act, and react, in the same ways, are we able to find the compassion to realize that we are capable of the very same thing that we condemn in others. With that understanding and compassion comes the ability to forgive and forget.
- What we let go of, in order to forgive, is not so much the knowledge of what the other person has done. We are not being called upon to be overly magnanimous because we are such saintly people What we are letting go of is our own anger and hurt pride. When we can let those go, the forgiveness occurs without effort.
- Patience, the patience with which we possess our souls, is a byproduct of humility. It is humility which reminds us that we are not here because we have somehow deserved to be, but rather by God’s grace and love. We are not guaranteed to be treated in some deserving way, due no doubt to that magnanimous state of sainthood we’d all like to imagine we possess! We have, each and every one of us, made so many mistakes in so many lifetimes that remembering, and being held accountable for, each and every one would be too overwhelming to contemplate. Fortunately, we are not held to account for each and every offense. We are simply expected to learn how to forgive those same offenses in others. When we can do that, our own offenses are forgiven and we, like Jesus, are living in the Christ Consciousness. Which is another way of saying, we have entered a state of Grace. Forgiveness is how we overcome karmic debt.
So here are my seven steps to forgiveness:
- I pray and ask God for help with the situation.
- I try to look at the situation honestly, without blame, until an understanding of the other person’s feelings and motivations becomes apparent.
- I ask myself if there was a misunderstanding, or if I might have hurt the other person’s feelings.
- I ask myself if I am angry or hurt, and if I am, does it come from pride or ego.
- I talk to God again, and ask for help to let go of my own hurt pride, or my own anger.
- I ask God to forgive me for any lack of humility on my part.
- I ask God to help me to forgive and forget.
After these steps, I put the situation out of my mind, leaving it in God’s more than capable hands. This is what works for me.