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Saturday, September 29, 2012


Forgive and forget; that's my motto. Now… what was I going to say? I forgot. Oh yes!
Holding on to anger, resentment, or vengeance is the equivalent of carrying a red-hot coal in our hand waiting for the opportunity to throw it at the person or persons who has hurt or injured you. The end result is that the unforgiving person burns their hand rather severely, and is more often than not frustrated when upon throwing the red-hot coal at the offending individual, they miss. This is the definition of “bummer”.
As Evan Hodkins [8] has noted, "Hatred is a self-administered noose." "The reciprocity of repugnance accomplishes a ritual of 'antagonistic bonding'. What seems like revulsion is actually glue. The tar-baby metaphor applies. The more Brier Rabbit punches and kicks in order to remove himself from the gooey manikin, the more inextricably he becomes ensnared.
"Pierre Teilhard de Chardin captured this dynamic succinctly -- 'Every new war, embarked upon by the nations for the purpose of detaching themselves from one another, merely results in their being bound and mingled togetehr in a more inextricable knot. the more we seek to thrust each other away, the more do we interpenetrate...' As George William Russel observed: 'By the intensity of hatred, nations create in themselves the characteristics they imagine in their enemies.' Anger is an unconscious effort to recover self-esteem, smugness is victimhood elevated to holiness, while war is the medicine we swallow for restoring wounded pride."
"Islamic fundamentalism displays the same brand of stubborn rigidities and haughty exclusivity that we observe in Orthodox Judaism, or, for that matter, conservative Christianity. The same affliction is evidenced across the board. They are kissing cousins, locked in a nasty embrace of ironic camaraderie."
"Fundamentalism happens when spirit is raped by power. But, alas, the fanatical zeal for domination betrays the magnitude of underlying anxieties. Sympathetically speaking, these folks are canaries in the mindshaft, unwitting barometers informing us as to the nature and degree of cultural disintegration. When faced with chaos, fundamentalism inevitably finds repression preferable to creative turmoil. The security of black and white thinking affords a fear-based alternative. As Gurdjieff reminds us: the most dangerous persons on earth are those who, with moral certitude, resolutely aver that violence is capable of attaining 'the final solution'. This is Hitler in his finest hour. More evil is executed in the spirit of self-serving rectitude than evil, if left to its own devices, could ever invent."
"Allies love us but do not tell us the truth about ourselves. They support our illusions... and contribute zilch to our spiritual unfoldment. Enemies do not love us yet tell us uncomfortable truths." "Enemies deliver unbearable truths in inelegant packages. For this reason, it is practically impossible to learn from them. Our pride will not allow it. For those who honor enemies as spiritual teachers, however, the lessons are priceless, the wisdom is deep, and the transformations -- oh my -- are exceedingly bountiful."
"Conquest offers a temporary aphrodisiac, and the perils of inward transformation are conveniently averted."
"Always remember -- the more invective our self-righteousness, the stinkier our shadow. Whatever I cannot forgive, I am doomed to commit. I can never forgive the other at the same level of consciousness at which I was wounded. I must outgrow myself. And that is why forgiveness is so ridiculously rare. The real jihad is always within. Until that quintessential inner peace is consummated, we shall incessantly recruit outer enemies upon which to run our movies. The bigger the shadow, the more enemies a nation or individual will require. Any person -- or country for that matter -- who is still uncertain about their true identity, desperately needs 'the despicable other'."
"Enemies show up when cultures or individuals get lost or stultified. An opponent always awaits us at the point of spiritual degradation. Should we allow our hatred to eat us, the enemy serves as parasite, radically siphoning our last drop of human vitality."
"On the other hand, if we greet the unlovely one with alchemistic enthusiasm, then we can easily borrow energy from our adversary and employ it to catapult us to the next leel of transformation. Sometimes, without this oppositional fuel -- this extra slug of vinegar -- we just can't manage to awaken from our malaise. Welcome this dark angel of evolution as cosmic ass-kicker and we'll all be roused. Alchemy teaches that enemies are bridges not barricades, doors not walls."
And thus if our enemies are our motivators, then forgiveness becomes the obvious first step (and perhaps gratitude the next step). The advantages of the first step are legion.
“Research shows that forgiveness correlates with physical and emotional health. Spiritual traditions encourage the practice of forgiveness. It seems likely that ‘positive' emotions such as forgiveness nurture a path toward greater health and a deeper consciousness of connection, while other emotions such as resentment block or forestall movement along that path.” [1]
“All our positive emotions, such as love, affection, empathy, compassion, pity, and sympathy, are in a huge tug-of-war with the negative emotions such as unforgiveness.” “To win the tug-of-war requires hard emotional work.” “When we're tortured by unforgiveness and finally are able to grant forgiveness, a transforming surprise occurs. Forgiving is like a flood of light at sunrise. Darkness has covered the sky, but the sun suddenly peeks over the horizon, illuminating giant clouds that stretch above the horizon. Billowy clouds are lit with orange, red, and purple. The sky is afire with colors. This is the relief of forgiveness after wrestling with unforgiveness.” [2]
Wow! That sounds great! Forgiveness sounds like a mind-blowing psychedelic affair, but without the drugs and later withdrawal. One is tempted to run out and be offended just in order to slip into forgiveness in order to reconnect with the fireworks. Forgiveness is the best thing since sliced bread. This is really good stuff. Of course… the S.O.B. is still an asshole, right? Of course right. But a forgiven S.O.B.
(11/1/05) To be more specific, how about forgiving the members of various faiths and religions -- such as Dominionists -- who happily commit every imaginable crime on the pretense of "defending the faith". Does that sound challening. Actually it's much easier when one realizes that insanity is a perfectly good defense.
Forgiveness is the American way. Everything from the American view of bankruptcy to its national pastime to a plethora of movies with amnesia as part of the plot constantly reminds us of the second chance, the clean slate, or the shot at redemption. “ America is the land of amnesia, a frictionless meritocracy where anybody can start over at any time and work his way to the top, and every baseball team can show up on opening day with an undefeated record. It's not a mental problem; it's a national tradition.” “Maybe that's why we think we can go overseas and build brand-new nations from scratch – hey, that's how we did it, right? Wipe the slate clean and reprogram the patient.” [3]
This sounds suspiciously like the movie, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” If your life has included events which have traumatized you, why not reprogram the mind by having all the memories removed. This is the new and improved method of getting that old romance or lover out of your mind. The curious part is that the movie may be only the hint of what is to come. There is now therapeutic forgettingto help trauma victims endure their memories.
The problem is that virtual brain surgery to cut out unpleasant memories never gets to the heart of the matter (pardon the pun). There is no evidence, for example, to show that a bad memory is sufficient to remove the essentially homeopathic vibrations within the brain which may be still causing physical problems. Forgiveness, letting go of the ego-centric need to get even, and abiding by the now time-honored truth, Get Ye Over It , has much more to recommend as a therapeutic device. Remember the “the sun suddenly peeking over the horizon, illuminating giant clouds that stretch above the horizon, billowy clouds lit with orange, red, and purple, the sky afire with colors?” Where are you going to get that with invasive reprogramming?
Admittedly we may need conflict as something to keep the juices flowing. Perhaps it's our need for drama – scripts where we have all the ingredients of a plot, including the climax and the aftermath where everyone is forgiven and we even applaud the villains when they come out to take their bow for a brilliant performance. The plot thickens even more when we consider the possibility that all the drama was scripted before we came into this incarnation, and that the good guys and the villains were all agreed on their respective roles. The emphasis should be our connections, instead of our divisiveness.
Evolution, for example, is more collaborative than competitive. Gnosis – knowledge and understanding – requires the cooperation of both hearts and minds. [4] “If all we know of reality, of ourselves, is information, and information is infinitely malleable, how can we be sure it hasn't been corrupted? What if we all have amnesia, and we've just forgotten that we have it?” [3] Not unlike the thesis of the Matrix movies, we may be living in a dreamland where we've forgotten the now hidden agendas. But instead of buying into the drama – ala the Matrix movies – we need only recognize that everything is connected, and thus there is no need for Scapegoatology or Woundology. We may not have all the facts, all the information, but we can forgive anyway. After all, wisdom is based on humility.” [4]
If you, on the other hand, really believe you're right and they're wrong – dualistic sort of thinking guaranteed to keep you in deep do-do… forgiveness becomes a real challenge. In which case, you may need a how-to primer, such as one thoughtfully provided by Fred Luskin:
“You forgive by challenging the rigid rules you have for other people's behavior and by focusing on the good things in your life as opposed to the bad. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or denying that painful things occurred. Forgiveness is the powerful assertion that bad things will not ruin your today even through they may have spoiled your past.” [5]
This, of course, assumes that what spoiled your past was a bad thing, i.e. maybe it was just part of the timing! Maybe the information has been corrupted. Perhaps you don't know everything – including being able to discriminate between “right” and “wrong”.
Mr. Luskin [5] then provides a four step forgiveness process. In the first stage: “You experience a loss in your life, feel angry or hurt, and tend to justify your negative emotions.” “You blame the person committing the wrong for how you are feeling. [This of course, gives them a lot of power over you !] It is their action and not your choice of response that you determine to be the cause of your distress.” This sounds a great deal like Scapegoatology, but then again, all of this good stuff is connected. Duh! [But I forgive you for forgetting.]
“The second stage emerges when, after feeling upset with someone for a while, you realize that your hurt and anger do not feel good. You become concerned about your emotional balance as well as your physical health. Some people, after feeling upset for a while, begin to think about how to repair the damage to the relationship. Others simply decide that they have thought about a past grievance enough and it is time to move on.” “You may try to see the problem from the other person's point of view, or you may decide to minimize the problem by saying it was no big deal.”
“In the third stage of becoming a forgiving person, you remember how good it felt that last time you were able to forgive.” “This third stage comes after you have seen the results of forgiveness in action and choose to let go of the new interpersonal grievance quickly.” In the fourth stage, “you simply become a forgiving person. It comes as you make the decision to forgive first and let many troubling things go. At this point forgiveness means you take the opportunity to forgive whenever you can. You understand how common it is to be hurt.” [5]
Note that when one person continually hurts you – or is in a process where you feel unable to extract yourself from their ability to wound you – the fourth stage takes on new meanings of difficulty. The question then becomes one of letting go of whatever is nagging at you (based on the other person's continuing actions) or taking positive action to solve the problem.
“At all stages you have the choice to forgive. At the second stage you choose forgiveness once in order to hurt less. At the third you choose it daily to hurt less. At the fourth stage you become forgiving so your choice is already made.” [5]
There are a couple of other critical factors. On the one hand, “forgiveness is not an act for once and for all, but a primary key in a continuous process of turning inward and practicing inner observation.” You often need to ask yourself what is it about yourself that allows someone else to hurt you. Any refusal or inability to forgive is frequently “rooted in a victim consciousness.” When the source of a misfortune is placed outward, there is a refusal to even consider looking inward. [6]
Forgiveness is an essential attribute of physical as well as mental and emotional health.
“All traumas first of all settle deeply in our organs where they affect our energy flows. They can be dissolved only with patience and gentleness towards oneself. Only when internal energy is accumulating can it flow outward. In the Taoist tradition, the strength-ening of the organs has a vital role to play in mitigating and achieving control over the negative emotions. Forgiving does not mean that the wound needs to be closed. It may remain, but it is no longer active in generating toxins and preventing positive emotions from growing.” “Only the charge, which activates toxins, needs to be defused.” [6]
Forgiveness takes on a whole new dimension when one considers the recent years of turmoil in the Republic of South Africa . Nonetheless, Desmond Tutu makes good sense:
“Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin, but it is a loss that liberates the victim.” “Have your forgiven those who held you prisoner of war? I will never forgive them, replies the other. His mate says, then it seems they still have you in prison, don't they?” “Does the victim depend on the culprit's contrition and confession as the precondition for being able to forgive? There is no question that, of course, such a confession is a very great help to the one who wants to forgive; but it is not absolutely indispensable.” “If the victim could only forgive when the culprit confessed, then the victim would be locked into the culprit's whim, locked into victimhood [Woundology!], whatever her own attitude or intention. That would be palpably unjust…” [7]
Keep in mind that seeking Justice can be an overrated activity. The “eye for an eye” motif tends to leave everyone blind.
“[When] the wrongdoer [does confess] and the victim [does forgive], it does not mean that is the end of the process. Most frequently, the wrong has affected the victim in tangible, material ways. Apartheid provided the Whites with enormous benefits and privileges, leaving its victims deprived and exploited. If someone steals my pen and then asks me to forgive him, unless he returns my pen, the sincerity of his contrition and confession will be considered to be nil. Confession, forgiveness, and reparation, wherever feasible, form part of a continuum…” [7]
Accordingly, while I am happy to forgive you for all of your many transgressions, I am expecting some impressive form of compensation being provided by you for my benefit. It's only fair. Or extortion… whichever.
“Right now I'm having amnesia and déjà vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before.” [3] Serves me right.