I was hurt by someone years ago. Who it was or the situation doesn’t matter. Most of us know what it is to be deeply injured by someone. Fortunately, I knew if I didn’t forgive the offender, I would never be whole. I won’t say it was easy. Forgiveness took years.
Many people imagine reconciliation begins when the offender asks to be pardoned. It doesn’t. Waiting to hear the words, “I’m sorry,” gives the other person control. Forgiveness starts with the decision to look past the offense in the hope of personal healing. As writer Sunny Sea Gold points out, “forgiveness is a gift to yourself.” (“How to be a Better Forgiver,” Scientific American Mind, Nov/Dec, 2016 pg. 14.) Studies show depression and anxiety declines once the decision to forgive is made. The hard part is being patient with emotions that will conflict with that decision.
The world, as I see it, needs much forgiveness. I consider it one of the greatest forces we can unleash within a society. Anyone who reads my blog knows I have little patience for moral righteousness, though I’ve been guilty of it. I know the pain it causes; the walls it builds and the ugliness that follows.
Because I am an atheist, for me, goodness exists only when I do good. Truth exists only when I speak the truth. There is no god holding up a moral universe. Only me. Only you. Only all of us.
In our efforts to live with one another, one rule universally applies, the Golden Rule: I must forgive others if I wish to be forgiven, a tenant common to all major religions of the world. (Click)
Because it’s golden, the prize is difficult to attain. Yet, longing for it begins the journey.
A recent study from Oxford University shows, no matter how necessary the solution, when suffering will be the cost, people want to see decision makers “flinch before personally harming others.” (Ibid, pg. 15) That flinch displays a capacity to see oneself in others. Instinctively, we are drawn not to courage, or pragmatic leadership, or moral righteousness. We are drawn to compassion.