I understand how “pollyannish” forgiveness can appear to some, especially if we think forgiveness means that we must “pretend” or tolerate abuse!
And yet, when we look to the Christ example, we come to see that a big part of what He did was to demonstrate the power of forgiveness in the midst of unthinkable abuse. Jesus IS the ultimate model of what it is to experience total victimization without resorting to victim consciousness. Not once did Christ whine or complain about how unfairly he was being treated. He did not blame, nor attack, nor seek vengeance – although who would blame him if he had? Surely he was justified!
No, Jesus did not waste time in blame or victim resentment. And yet, I certainly don't think of his example of forgiveness (“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”) as being “pollyannish,” do you? He simply followed orders from Above,”I do what my Father tells me.” He walked in peace amidst terrible turmoil, and then told us we could do the same. (“What I have done, you can do as well.”)
And yet, somehow we tend to think this approach only worked for Jesus … that somehow He was the exception. But I have found that forgiveness IS the most powerful solvent for pain. Forgiveness is not to tolerate the intolerable, but to make peace with Reality, so that we can align with the Will of the Father, as Jesus exemplified. One of the ways, Christ “saved” us was by showing us how to live at peace, regardless of what circumstances we face.
How do we do this?
It's simple, but NOT necessarily easy. We come to understand that though we may not control what happens (or happened) to us, we can choose how we see it. And how we see it will determine how we feel about it. We are never victims, regardless of what happens to us, unless we see ourselves as victims.
We apply the Reality Formula™, that says, when we believe what we think, we automatically feel and act as if what we believe is true, and when we feel and act as if it's true, we act in ways that prove us right. In other words, by hanging onto the list of wrongs committed against us, we must believe thoughts that keep us feeling and acting in ways that cause us to suffer.
The word “forgive” comes from the Latin “to forego, ” which means to “let go” of the unhappy story that holds us captive to misery, for instance, to give up the story about what others did to us, to learn what we can from it instead – no, better, to understand that the life we live (and have lived) is the life we were supposed to live to facilitate our growing into the fully mature, spiritual, human being that we came to be. We either see life as a growing opportunity (with all the hard-knocks, and challenges involved) and expand our consciousness through the life difficulties we face, or we walk through life, embittered at the unfair ways we've been treated. It is our choice; one route leads to freedom, the other to bitterness and blame.
For these reasons, (and more) I practice and teach forgiveness. For I believe that it is ultimately cruel to ourselves, NOT to forgive; to do so leaves us burdened with unhappy stories about how we've been hurt, which we regurgitate over and again, to ourselves, if not to others, about what “they did to me.”
Please understand that forgiving has nothing to do with the other person, and it certainly does not mean we force ourselves to endure abusive relationships,or that we must subject ourselves to those who strike out at us out of their own unhappy story.
Forgiveness does mean however, that when we find ourselves in such company, we look for what they are reflecting to us about that part of ourselves that feels wounded, and that may have also been guilty of striking out in justified resentment. (We all have these parts of ourselves – there is nothing we accuse others of that does not also live, at least in potential, within us.) We find and forgive that wounded part of us who is capable of acting just as painfully as those we accuse.
We forgive, ultimately, as I've said before, for us. We love, even as we take care of ourselves, by establishing the space we need, by moving on with our lives when we need to; we forgive because it is the kindest possible thing we can do for ourselves. Forgiveness brings us peace and alignment with our Creator Source.