Forgiveness and Acceptance
There are things in our experience that are truly unacceptable. Bereavement, permanent loss of health, painful divorce, or other devastating losses. These situations are just too big, too overwhelming for us to accept them at face value. Suggesting that anyone can or should take and forgive them without any insight is a disservice to that person and to the whole idea of forgiveness itself. Do forgiveness and acceptance go hand-in-hand?
But that creates a huge problem right at the beginning of our practice. Acceptance is the key to forgiveness, and forgiveness is the key to peace. Yet here I am saying that some things are not acceptable while accepting is vital to inner peace.
Squaring of this Circle
It is squared by understanding what we can accept in these situations. And that is never the situation but our feelings about the situation. By dropping the mental image of the problem we carry in our minds and focusing instead on our feelings about them, we have moved acceptance practice from the impossible to the challenging.
Accepting feelings and not facts is not a retreat from the situation. It is meeting the case where its most intimate and immediate reality is within our feelings. Surprisingly, the more we can focus on accepting our feelings rather than the external form that triggers them, the more our accepted practice becomes effective.
We are dealing with the issue where it matters: on an intuitive, gut, and automatic level. In short, in our feelings.
What something is to us, on our most profound level, is what it makes us feel. By dropping the external image and facts of the situation and focusing on accepting our feelings instead, we find, over time, that the outward form of our issues becomes less intimidating. We become steadier in the face of what was once overwhelming. These external situations are correlated directly to our acceptance of the feelings they inflicted on us.
All the constant, compulsive thoughts and feelings around the issue are, over time and practice, relinquished without aggression, force, or resistance. Instead, they are lost in the love and compassion we bring to them (on the level of our feelings) as wounds in need of healing rather than enemies in need of destruction. This is the level where we truly begin to forgive.
Of course, it took time and repeated application when the pain ran deep. But there is an immediate sense of ‘possible’ when we drop the image of the external situation and focus on our feelings instead, as challenging as they may initially be.
After a while, acceptance becomes an inspired rather than a necessity-led process. When we experience how much acceptance of our feelings helps us, our motivation is assured. A profound sense of relief in the mix is invaluable in strengthening and deepening our practice.
This is a simple enough point, yet it’s a complete reversal of all we are accustomed to. In talks and workshops, it’s a point that I find discussed repeatedly, primarily because of its unfamiliarity.
But more importantly, how does it sound to you? Is it impractical & idealistic, or is it something you feel you can use and would like further advice and guidance on? Or, if it’s a load of old cobblers, then what’s wrong with the argument? Believe me, folks, I’m all ears and would love to hear your views.
Freedom in Christ
I have recently attended a Freedom in Christ course at my church. An exciting discussion following a part of the course focused on forgiveness. As we all know, Jesus asks us to forgive our enemies. I have a friend on the system who is a Social Worker supporting those with mental health issues. He had read a scientific article that says that if we hold on to evil thoughts about someone or something (which happens in the right ‘logical’ side of our brain), the left ‘emotional’ side of our brain cannot distinguish to whom or what the attack is aimed at, and therefore the pain is directed inward. Consequently, it would seem that Christianity, science, and your good self agree on this.
I like how you help others accept and forgive from the heart. As you rightly point out, it is not a natural process…
Thank you, Kathy, for your comments. We are much appreciated. No, it’s not a natural process from the point of view of our egos. But the ego is not the be-all and end-all of the human experience, thank goodness. From the vantage point of the heart, where we feel most fulfilled, accepting and forgiving what we cannot change or move away from is a natural outcome of a different understanding. One that recognizes inner torment and peace sources and chooses the latter. Of course, there is a pull toward the old way of thinking. Of enduring round after round of incessant, uncreative, useless thinking based on judgment, condemnation, and attack. But the moment when peace enters the equation, the game changes.
Judgment and Condemnation
We are pleasure-led beings. It feels good to accept in peace what we once could only endure in the torment of our judgment and condemnation. I emphasize that this is only for situations we cannot change or move away from! But yes, acceptance leads to peace, which feels good; resistance leads to suffering, which doesn’t. This is the tipping point. A point of no return, if you like.
Naturally, there are times when the old mindset hits, but accepting and forgiving this teaches us how to relinquish it rather than try and conquer it in the same old way and remain stuck with it in the same old way.
But once an acceptance process brings that space, that peace, that relief…then the ego’s days are numbered. We will always gravitate towards pleasure.