Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ecology of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is the highest form of human ecology. When we forgive we are cleaning up the toxic waste of our relationships, or at least we are doing our part to restore what may have become a waste dump.  Of course the person or person we forgive may have work to do, but we have no control over anything except our own waste dump.

But the clean up we do is very deep: we don't only forgive the offender, we must forgive ourselves for standing in the way of hurt, and ultimately we must forgive God for allowing the world to bump along imperfectly in its orbit -- and for not allowing us to be the cog in the center of perfection.  Our Creator will not choose between the offender and the offended.

Have you ever had two friends who are feuding and wanted to invite both of them to a celebration at your home? If you invite them both, you might face the situation I did years ago when two of my friends reunited long enough to share their rage that I would invite them both to my party.  Didn't I appreciate the seriousness of their estrangement?  Couldn't I choose one of them and let the other go?

I guess that's the same thing I feel when I'm hurt. I begin to blame God for unconditionally loving the offender without punishing him or her. I might turn away from comfort God offers, because the comfort is not exclusive. 

In order to begin to forgive the person who hurt me, I have to free myself from the need to be set apart as The Wronged One.  It must be enough that God is saving a portion of this unconditional love for the moment I might hurt another.  It must be enough to be free of the tug and ache of resentment. 

Here are some quotes about forgiveness:

From the TAO TE CHING, as translated by Feng & English: 
After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain
But does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part,
But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfill their obligations.
The Tao of Heaven is impartial.
It stays with good men all the time.

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many are forgiven, for she loved much.  But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.(Jesus)

From Alan Paton:
When a deep injury is done us, we never recover until we forgive.

From Oscar Wilde:
Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.

What have you learned about forgiveness?

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