Sacred writings usually show God as a forgiving God. The unity of the religions each show a different side of Divinity. When I was a child, I tried to grasp forgiveness. I was suspicious of why I should forgive. I had and have an alert which goes off in the face of hypocrisy and injustice. They are the two things which I cannot tolerate. So, of course, the Universe gives me opportunities to practice forgiveness. Practice brings a healing to yourself. This is something most people don’t realize: forgiving another heals us.
Buddha told a story of a man who had been slighted and who was angry with justice. Buddha stated that the man decided he was going to remain angry. Time passed and he held on tightly to his anger. It began to worm itself into his heart and soul. He became a different man. He was bitter, resentful and filled with hatred. Buddha says that anger that we hold on to is like holding onto a hot piece of charcoal in our hands. The anger tightens the hold the hand has on the burning charcoal. The result is that you are left with a terrible burnt palm. The anger has left you scarred and damaged. The person who needs to be forgiven has no idea that anything has happened. Whether he feels sorry or not for the original action, has no effect on the outcome. The only thing that would change the situation would be the words, I forgive you.
In the Torah, there are instances of Moses talking with G-d and reminding him that he promised to forgive his people. “Pardon the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. G-d’s answer was I have pardoned according to your word.” These words of forgiveness by G-d become the central theme of the Jewish High Holidays. These holidays are coming up in September. Because of God’s forgiveness the Jewish people, despite its shortcomings, exists to this very day.
This is relevant to today because we so often hear news stories where forgiveness is the major point. I remember when the Pope forgave Ali Mehmet who shot him in Rome. It raised tremendous controversy. Studies actually show that it is more life-changing to forgive than to be forgiven. There are many stories, though, of people who are forgiven changing their lives and becomiing the person they were meant to be.
One such story, is about an idealistic California college student who won a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to South Africa to assist the anti-apartheid movement; she went there and was murdered by a black mob during a riot. Her parents grieved for years, then decided that they should honor the work that their daughter had been so dedicated to. So they quit their jobs, sold their home and walked away from their comfortable middle class life. Eventually, the parents met two of their daughter’s killers. The two men, who have been pardoned, tried to atone for their actions by doing public service for a foundation the parents established in their daughter’s name. The parents forgave the two killers and they became friends, and the young men now call the mother, “Mom.”
Forgiving what has been done to you, and offering forgiveness for what you have done to another, is a concept that needs to be remembered and chosen in today’s world. It is a life-changing experience to decide to forgive. It is an important act to do in your life. It is one of the things we have moved away from in this so-called modern world. We have also left behind generosity, compassion, kindness, and gentleness. When we begin to put these concepts back into our lives, we will be on the road to peace. Peace within ourselves and throughout the entire world.
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Photographed and copyrighted by Barbara Mattio 2012. Sunset in the Caribbean.