The Three Faces of Forgiveness

A favorite quote in A Course in Miracles:
“The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.”

When we allow a past disappointment or betrayal to linger in our minds and bodies, we pay a price. Anger, guilt, hatred, resentment, bitterness, and despair can lead to disruptive relationships, emotional illness, physical disease and less enjoyment in life. When someone says, “I cannot forgive this person” or “I cannot forgive myself,” s/he prevents the possibility of grace entering the “wound” and healing it with divine Love.

Horrific things may have happened to us that appear to be beyond human forgiveness. However, even these things can be turned over to a Higher Power that transcends judgment and makes whole that which has been shattered. The transgression and transgressor are given a full pardon leaving only acceptance and light. Forgiveness occurs with a shift in awareness and a willingness to let go in love.

The human ego has a tendency to forgive yet hold on to a judgment, but Grace sheds so much Light and Love that the grievance eventually disappears and inner harmony is restored. In my search for healing, wholeness and inner peace, I have found forgiveness to be a complex phenomenon.

Forgiveness appears to have three dimensions beginning with human intention, followed by Grace and Acceptance. To forgive fully, we are challenged to:

Forgive with the human heart – The egoic mind makes a choice to forgive yet it cannot forget the grievance. Even with a certain amount of love and acceptance, there may be lingering unresolved issues or emotions. However, a positive reconnection is possible once we understand the perpetrator’s perspective and our negative emotions have been replaced with compassion. This is a powerful step in the forgiveness process. Compassion and willingness enable us to “love our perceived enemies.”

Around the age of 35, I began working on myself to become a more loving and peaceful person. I needed to eliminate underlying anger and resentment as the result of a childhood filled with physical and psychological abuse by my mother. I did the inner work of forgiving my mother, and I was able to let go of old wounds and develop an understanding of my mother’s wounds and how they affected her ability to parent me. After this, she did not trigger my emotions as much.

Forgive with the spiritual heart – The unconditional love that Grace bestows releases all judgment against the offence and the offender. A full pardon is granted and the slate is wiped clean. Grace restores inner harmony and empowers us to set external limits with others. (This type of Love also accepts us even when we cannot forgive.) Each offence we turn over to divine Love enables us to forgive with our spiritual heart. When we ask grace to help us forgive from a deep desire to move on in love instead of blame, we are able to “transcend our perceived enemies.”

After breast cancer, grace touched me so deeply that I had more love to give others, including my mother. I realized she and I were doing the best we could throughout our stormy relationship, and there was absolutely no reason to blame her or want anything from her. I experienced more inner peace as I changed my perception and cut the negative ties we once had. The past was done. When I hugged her, I allowed compassion to fill both of us even though we were not emotionally close.

Accept life the way it is – Through the spiritual eyes of Acceptance, we are able to witness events, past or present, instead of label them as good or bad. Love and Acceptance enable us to understand that everyone is doing the best they can based on their level of awareness. Offences are viewed as part of a greater process: The negative leads to something worthwhile in the long run. Divine Acceptance enables us to see that “there are no enemies” to be judged by the mind. The action to protect ourselves, families and society is appropriate, however, we no longer hold mental grievances against anyone (a challenging concept for the egoic mind to grasp).

After my mother’s death at 92, I took a final step in forgiveness. I told her spirit that for my part she was free of any karmic debts she had to me (not that I had this power). I accepted our whole relationship because I saw how we were both playing a script set into motion by a power greater than ourselves. She was exactly the mother I needed in order to become me. There was truly never anything to forgive because she was never my enemy.

Let’s use the analogy of a kite to bring this concept into focus: The kite is the symbol of forgiveness and the string the egoic mind. When we forgive with the human heart, we are holding on to the string as the kite flies, and we feel lighter and uplifted. When the spiritual heart forgives, we let go of the string and kite; the grievance is neutralized in Love and set free. Finally, when we accept instead of judge or resist what happened, the string and kite disappear because the person and event are lifted into the heavens. It feels as though the offence never occurred.

Any level of forgiving is a liberating act of self-love because it changes for the better the person offering it. Forgiveness appears to involve human and spiritual aspects. Many people are already doing all three of these processes. We have forgiven at the highest level when we no longer have any emotion around an offence and do not want anything from anyone. At this level, apologies are meaningless because in the present there is nothing to forgive, only acceptance and inner peace exist.

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