Recently the life of a friend, and fellow wayfarer on the path to consciousness, was taken by an act of ruthless brutality. In our struggle to understand how such a bright light could be so suddenly snuffed out by one whose thinking is clearly distorted … and left with questions like, “how do we even begin to think of forgiving? Is it permissible even, much less possible, to forgive someone who ends a life, especially of someone we love? If not, then are we obligated to despise them forever, to build a wall of hatred between us, in some crazy effort to punish the perpetrator, or protect ourselves from him? And don't we end up then, by insisting on wearing the armor of hate, become just as mad and distorted as we accuse them of being?
If I could speak to the perpetrator of my friend's death, here is what I imagine I'd like to say:
I speak to you, not as your judge, but as a fellow sufferer who knows a little about what it is to torment oneself with thoughts of rejection, isolation, jealousy, and revenge. Truly the only difference between you and me may be simply that I have a set of tools that allows me to step back from destructively reacting so that I can see what my thoughts are doing to me, rather than to blindly react out of them with unfortunate, even disasterous results.
Like you and every other human being on planet Earth, I, too, do what I do because I believe what I think. This is because the feelings that drive our behavior are generated by our thoughts – only always! So when we believe what we're thinking, we feel and act as if what we think is true which means we automatically act in ways that bring us the very results we expect, and thus prove our unhappy story to be true.
Applying this idea to the way we perceive life changes everything – but the truth is that most of us don't even know we have that choice! We think that because we think a particular thought, it must be true! And we go off “half-cocked” as the saying goes, creating lives of misery and suffering for ourselves, simply because we assume the crazy thoughts we think are right. We never even question them.
But when we come to understand that it is not not what happens outside us that causes our feelings, but the thoughts we think ABOUT those happenings, we can begin to move towards sanity and forgiveness, which is essential for inner peace.
Forgiveness, simply put, means to let go of the unhappy, crazy-making stories we are holding onto, so we can begin to heal our minds and return to Reality – which is life as it is without an unhappy story attached.
Of course, when we feel deep down inside that we have committed the unforgivable, and that there is no hope for us, we cannot forgive, i.e. “let go of” our unhappy story because we need it desperately to justify why we did what we did! Oh woe on us when we decide we cannot be forgiven! Such a decision dooms us to a life of acting in ways that can only further prove how hopelessly unforgivable we are, and thus rob us of the love and respect for which we so desperately yearn.
There is never a peaceful moment within us from that day forward … until, or unless, we can come to recognize that there is only one true reason we do what we do – EVER – and that's because we believe what we think … and as long as we go on thinking the way we do, we are doomed to act out in unhappy, often destructive, ways.
The truth is that it's never too late to take steps to extricate ourselves from the internal Hell we have created by believing our excruciatingly painful thoughts. Forgiveness is the only way we can begin to mend our minds and hearts that have become shattered by extremely painful thoughts. Self-forgiveness is the only thing that can return us to peace.
My hope and prayer is that you find the peace that forgiveness can bring. I hold that as a possibility for you. I believe that is what our friend, your beloved, whose life you took, would want us both to do … to forgive you. She would want that for you, and for the children who lost not only their mother, but you, their father, as well. This too must be forgiven by you, if they are to be able to forgive you, or themselves, for hating you, the father they love.
It's a gutsy choice to make … the decision to give up blame (of oneself really, that blame that is then projected out onto the other in the form of accusation, simply to escape self-hatred), and to forgive. It takes a lot of courage to be more involved in looking for and owning our own part in the happenings of our life than we are to blame others for our pain. It starts with the realization that it is OUR thoughts, not what anyone else says or does, that determines our emotional state.
I do not know if this level of self-responsibility is something you are ready to do now – or ever. Reality always wins, that I do know – which means we will harvest the outcome tomorrow of the thoughts we believe today (The Law of Cause & Effect).
To get started on the path to forgiveness, we start with a simple question … ask it immediately upon the first sign of emotional distress … the question we must ask ourselves are: “Is this thought I am thinking Reality? Do I know that absolutely?”
My challenge is essentially the same as yours … I too must forgive … you? Yes, but I know that to do that I must start with owning that part of myself that, like you, can get so confused in my thinking that I act in ways I later deeply regret. That is the story you mirror to me … By questioning it, I am able to apply the Guiding Principles and return to Reality and sanity. My unhappy story begins to dissolve in the light of day.
In essence, we forgive others, because we need forgiveness too. We forgive because to do so sets us free and delivers us to peace. We do it because it's the kindest, most healing thing to give ourselves and the world around us, because a soul at peace with Self is a peaceful soul.
May you find peace.