Sunday, October 22, 2006


Tricky topic, huh? I was just reminded, while reading, of something that is so easy to forget. Just who is forgiveness for?

If we think of someone who acts in a vile way without regret or remorse and causes immense pain to many people, it may seem absurd, or at least very difficult, to consider truly forgiving them in your heart. Forgiving involves letting go of resentment. It is releasing our sense of entitlement to hate or harm someone because we "owe them" for what we believe they have done to us. The perception that someone's well-being or peace of mind is indebted to us because they have disturbed our own is the root of such resentment, and it can cause us further harm as it eats away at us and increases our grief and anger. Such forgiveness does not necessarily mean that the person or persons in question are pardoned from any kind of punishment, such as social or civil sanctions, but that their actions can no longer harm us.

Or, as someone recently summarized: "Forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for yourself. It is letting go of your own outrage so that you can heal."

Yet in the end, Buddhism teaches that this does benefit others as well, including the forgiven. Every action to relieve the suffering of one sentient being helps to assuage the suffering of all sentient beings. Any tradition that teaches the fundamental solidarity and inherent worth of all sentient beings teaches the same thing.

If you have a struggle with anger, resentment, or forgiveness, or if you want to talk about teachings on forgiveness based on your own tradition or philosophy, you are welcome to share.

Be well. :o)

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