Is Forgiveness Conditional? Exercising Compassion for All

Is forgiveness easy? Sometimes, sure. You cut in front of me in traffic, and I choose to forgive you and move on. You eat the fries off my plate, you may get the stink eye, but I choose to forgive you, and move on. But forgiveness can also be tough. You abuse me, wound me, and I choose to exercise compassion for your situation, and I will forgive you, and move on, but it may take longer this time.

 

By Indira Grace

Forgiveness. It can be so hard when someone has wronged us.

Yet, when we wrong another, we want the forgiveness to be swift, that we may move forward with a clean slate. Why is it that when we are wronged, we want to continually punish the other person, but when we are the one who wrongs, we want to be forgiven? And, if we are not ready to forgive someone, how long must they wait for it to be forgiven? How long must we?

I have been watching the news with Michael Vick recently, in the various media we are privy to these days. There are people on both sides of the spectrum, with arguments that are valid, yet it has me asking, “When do we finally forgive him?”

I have two friends who are on either side of the Michael Vick opinion spectrum. I asked the one who is anti-Michael Vick the question and she said, “When he actually means it when he says he’s sorry.”

I’m not trying to rile anyone up here, but why do we get to decide that someone else means it? When I asked my friend, who is on the other end of the spectrum what she thought, she said, “In our world, he did the things that should be done when someone wrongs someone else. He paid his “debt” to society, which is what we ask of anyone who commits a crime.” Upon further research, I discovered, that he has become an animal rights activist and has backed legislation for tougher penalties against animal abusers. Yet, this doesn’t seem to be enough for a lot of people.

Do not get me wrong. I’ve read the horrors that he committed against dogs.

My stomach turned. My heart broke. I have two dogs of my own and, when I think of them suffering that way, I am almost inconsolable in my sadness and rage. And, yes, there is a part of me, the small, human part that wants him to suffer, just as those sweet, innocent dogs did. But, at what point do I choose to embrace my power of compassion and forgiveness?  At what point do I do the hard thing and walk my talk? Right here and right now. The proverbial buck stops here.

Among some of the more pressing questions that are surrounding these kinds of situations, “When is enough punishment enough?  How much does someone need to be punished before we choose to feel peace around a situation? Why do we feel it necessary to determine the magnitude of another person’s punishment based on our perceived degree of suffering? Why must we feel like another must lose any source of joy in their lives because they did wrong things?”

I have seen, and personally used, so many excuses as to why grudges should be held, but, if I am true to myself, my beliefs, and my vows, forgiveness must happen.

Even if I wish for another to suffer more, I am not forgiving. Even if I want them to suffer outside of my sight, locked away in some far-off prison, I am not forgiving. As Carrie said to Miranda, after Steve cheated on her, in Sex and the City, “It’s forgiveness.” There is nothing else to say. You either choose the way of peace and forgiveness or you choose to keep poisoning yourself, expecting the other person to die. There are no in-betweens here.

Is forgiveness easy? Sometimes, sure.

You cut in front of me in traffic, and I choose to forgive you and move on. You eat the fries off my plate, you may get the stink eye, but I choose to forgive you, and move on. But forgiveness can also be tough. You abuse me, wound me, and I choose to exercise compassion for your situation, and I will forgive you, and move on, but it may take longer this time. You kill someone I love and, again, I choose to exercise compassion and forgive you, though I may have to do a lot of soul searching for that complete release of anger. (Don’t test me on this; I’ve done it twice.) Yet, no matter the difficulty, it can and must be done, if we are to be authentic to our divinity.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that there are no variations in the size of a miracle, and I would go further to say that there are no variations in the size of a “sin.” Looking at miracles first; someone finding $50 is the equivalent to curing cancer, in the mind of Creation. There is no distinction, as both are done with the same faith. In our minds, there is great distinction, but our minds are limited and jaded and judgmental.

$50 may save someone’s life, as they may have been on the verge of starvation and now have enough food to make it a few days. Now, let’s apply this same belief system to “sin.” Is killing someone the same as stealing something? Yes. Yes, it is, in the mind of Creation. Something has been taken. It is only in our minds that we create more around that simple concept.

We create suffering and stories about the life of the person and what they are missing out on, our perceptions of what we think their lives should have been. But Creation isn’t interested in our stories. It is interested in our energy. If we continuously perpetuate suffering around perceived losses, we will continuously perpetuate suffering and loss. And we, and only we, are responsible for that energy.

Standing in our authentic selves, our Divine Natures, can be lonely.

As I write this, I am already creating fear and drama around people who will misinterpret this message as me saying that I support Michael Vick’s abuse of animals, based on their need to see him suffer for the rest of his life, and my belief that forgiveness and second chances are imperative if we are to be compassionate beings. We are taught, no matter our faith, that forgiveness is our responsibility. And in no dogma does it ever say that forgiveness is conditional, based on how sorry the person is or was, or how much suffering they have done.

I took my refuge vows some years back, and I take those vows as seriously as the breath I breathe.

The first vow is not to kill any living creature. Had Michael Vick been a Buddhist, who took his vows, this one would have clearly been broken. But he isn’t and he didn’t.  But I did, and part of not killing any living creature is to not kill myself with the poison of holding grudges and not killing another’s opportunity to live their lives and earn a living, doing what is theirs to do.

It can be a lonely place, standing in one’s vows and beliefs, but the alternative, at least for me, is not an option.

So, I forgive.

I took my refuge vows some years back, and I take those vows as seriously as the breath I breathe. ~ Indira Grace Click To Tweet

 

Photo: Flickr

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

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Indira Grace