Why is it that we often struggle with forgiveness? When do we know that we have in fact forgiven and what are the pitfalls?
One of the main issues with forgiveness is it is often attempted from the stance of the good forgiving the bad, the better forgiving the worse or the superior forgiving the inferior. When are unable to come from a position of being equal to the other, then forgiveness, which releases the self from bondage, remains at a distance.
When we look at perpetrators it is also important to embrace the burden that they have created for themselves and their family. In the realm of the soul, the greater conscience of humanity, there is a natural knowing of that which is right and that which is wrong.
Even when a group conscience dictates that certain groups are the ‘enemy’ or ‘not worthy of respect’ the greater conscience of humanity upholds a moral compass that allows us all to know instinctively that murder, persecution, rape and sexual abuse are unacceptable and damaging behaviours. Whenever that moral compass of the greater soul of humanity is ignored, then the individual feels that transgression at a deep level. This burden goes beyond simple guilt or remorse, it is a tangible weight that is carried by the individual and often also by their descendents.
During some recent work, we looked at the fate of individuals who had been involved in genocide. In those moments the severity of their self created burden could be felt and the ripple effect of their actions felt down through the generations. This indeed is something to be mourned for.
When we mourn for self created burdens we include the perpetrators in the family of humanity once more, we become equal to them – soul to soul. As we have grown up in a culture that has been shaped by the punitive ideas of our religious traditions, moving to this place of respect for the self created burdens can be challenging. However, once we reach the place of understanding that embracing the perpetrator does not absolve them of their responsibility, we can more easily move into the presence of grace where forgiveness becomes a mute point and we become released from the burden of entanglement with the perpetrators.
Very often victims feel guilty after their ordeal, perhaps blaming themselves for being in the wrong place, for not taking more care or for simply ‘allowing’ it to happen. When the self created burden of the perpetrator can been embraced with deep respect, the victim can once again return to a place of innocence. When forgiveness does not take place, the victim often becomes as lost as the perpetrator – unable to regain their dignity and freedom. When it does take place, the victim can then embrace their heart again and the perpetrator is given the opportunity to face their responsibilities with dignity and as a member of humanity again.
John L. Payne is the author of 'The Healing of Individuals, Families and Nations', 'The Language of the Soul' and 'The Presence of the Soul' (Findhorn Press). He teaches workshops internationally