What role does forgiveness play in your life? Do you quickly and naturally return to peace after a painful incident? Do you try to act forgiving, when all the while you feel knotted up inside? Or do you act out in anger fueled by pain?
If we wish to feel more at ease within ourselves and the world, we must be willing to practice forgiveness. Through the past few weeks, we have been exploring how we can take the first steps in that direction. For example, we can humbly reconsider the way we perceive a painful situation, choose to reconnect with the fullness of the present moment beyond our limited perceptions, and recognize our shared humanity to awaken compassion. This week, let’s take a look at the power of forgiveness as an antivirus.
There is an illness to which we are all susceptible: the tendency to feel “not enough”. It could be that we feel we don’t have enough money, or enough things, or enough love. The list is literally endless. Because of this, we can often see the world as against us in some way. We deny the possibility of true happiness, lasting love, and forgiveness.
To perceive ourselves or the moment as fundamentally “not enough” is to believe we are separate from nature and the universe, which will only cause suffering to ourselves and others. Maybe right now, we don’t have enough money to pay a bill. Yet, we are breathing. We are alive. We are carried by an infinitely powerful force. Though we may not be able to pay a bill, we as a person are inherently enough, and the situation is inherently enough, in that if we open to possibility, we will find healthy ways to move forward. In this light, we can understand “not enough” as a lose-lose and a self-fulfilling prophecy. In “not enough”, we block ourselves from the love and support of the universe, and the abundance it can bring.
An unhealthy perception, rooted in what is untrue, cannot support our wellbeing. Feeling “not enough” is like a virus that can bring about a myriad of ailments in mind, body and spirit. Painful thoughts, that in turn trigger painful actions, are contagious.
Think of a time when someone lashed out or shut you out, or otherwise hurt you. Take a few deep breaths and consider the situation. No need to relive past trauma. Simply inquire and look more deeply at what happened with gentle awareness.
Consider the person that you felt hurt you and when it happened. Ask yourself, were they seeing the moment clearly at that time? Were they possibly feeling threatened and unsafe? Were they somehow seeking approval from you or from someone else? Were they perhaps feeling a lack of love? If you look carefully now, you can likely see that they were perceiving themselves and the situation as not enough in some way. You can even see that they were identified with the idea of being not enough, in a universe that is not enough. This way of seeing oneself and the moment is inherently painful.
If we look more closely, we see that when someone directs hurtful words, a physical attack or a retaliation of any kind, they are trying to make someone else feel “not enough” too—to transfer pain. This is done unconsciously. With hurt, there is a knee-jerk tendency to cause hurt. This is the propagation of the virus. The nature of any virus is to take. If we give in to it, we are inadvertently feeding it. It will thrive when we give it power.
If, in reaction to someone’s hurtful behaviour, you take on feeling “not enough” or allow it to amplify any existing “not enough” feelings you may already carry, it is as though you become infected. You know you have taken it on when you feel victimized in any way. That can look like anger, vindictiveness, resentment, despair, self-loathing, or addictive behaviour—whether you hold the pain inwardly or act it out. Now two people have the disease. And without forgiveness, the virus will continue to spread.
Now look even deeper still, beyond automatic reactivity. Be open to the possibility that in the other person’s attempt to transmit the “not enough” virus, there is a gift from the universe. Most of us miss it, because right away we are triggered into pain. But if you are willing to be still and present, the packaging in which the gift was delivered falls away. You see that at the heart of it all, you have an opportunity to awaken to your true nature—infinitely loved, enough in every way, interconnected within a wise and loving whole. As you understand this, you release your own tendency for “not enough”. You don’t need to take on any feelings of “not enough”. As you witness the other person’s pain that seeks pain, compassion flowers in your heart and you become immune to the disease. The person and the situation become like a homeopathic cure for any “not enough” ailment within your own self. Then instead of a vector for disease, the hurt gives you an opportunity, if you so choose, to strengthen your inner peace and become a healing presence for others.
This past year, more than ever, we have seen how quickly a virus can spread suffering. We cannot control when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available. But we can decide at any time to stop the painful pandemic of “not enough”.
When we forgive, we return to the reality that we are one, each with the same basic need for love, health, and understanding. Cultivating inner peace not only brings us the happiness we seek. Our warm hearts and cool minds help bring down the shared fever of our hurting world.
In that place of peace and healing, please love yourself.
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.
From my heart to yours,