When we decide to extend love, we can never go wrong. What it means to extend love can, at times, be tricky. Sometimes we extend love by withholding our advice and allowing another to make mistakes and learn from them. How do we know when to help and when it is more loving to decline? Our intuition is our best resource to guide us. But, even if we misread our intuition, or fail to consult it, if our hearts are attempting to extend love, then we are making the world and another person’s life better.
We are never wrong to extend love even if we judge our attempts to be flawed. Our vision doesn’t allow us to see the broader landscape, nor does it allow us to see the future. What we judge as flawed or even mistaken may be the incident that changed another’s life. Whatever mistakes we make, real or imagined, can be covered by love. In the Christian Bible, the author of 1 Peter has this to say: “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Love doesn’t fail, but when we fail to love, we fail ourselves and others. It’s a mistake to withhold love. The purpose and meaning of life is to extend love.
 1 Peter 4:8, New American Standard Bible
Sometimes it helps when someone can stand between two opposing forces and keep peace — or at least separation until peace can be reached. It’s not always about right or wrong, strength or weakness, but about love and peace. When irritation or frustration arises within us, the peace is removed. Until we deal with the frustration or irritation, we will fail to recover peace.
Peacemakers are those who stand in the gap between frustration and resolution, between irritation and acceptance. One such peacemaker is called time. We separate mentally, physically, and emotionally to allow us time to gain control of our emotions. If it is not possible to separate mentally, physically, and emotionally, then any two of these forms of separation will work better than none and even one form can aid in overcoming.
Individuals can also stand in the gap and serve as peacemakers. Young siblings are often separated from each other by a parent or custodian in order to allow time to cool overheated emotions. Those who stand in the gap provide a needed service to help us control frustration and irritation. If left unchecked, these two emotions will lead to anger, and possibly hatred. When anger and hatred enter our hearts, peace is gone. Learn to discipline anger in the little events, and then even the big events will be manageable.
Sometimes we avoid situations or people, and we might not even be aware we’re doing it. Once, when I became aware I had been avoiding such a scenario. I was concerned that if I allowed myself to get pulled into the situation my past would come into play, and I would be judged according to my past behavior and circumstances. After careful consideration which involved talking about it with friends, prayer, and meditation, it was time to face the past and make peace with it. Through prayer, meditation, and discussion, I faced my fears and discovered they were unfounded. Only then was I able to close the door and move on.
There are doors in our past that have remained ajar, and old wounds and hurts slip through from time to time to affect our peace. We may have left some unfinished business behind, and we may feel we won’t be able to get closure. Not every situation has to be confronted, but for those that do, we overcome our fears by doing the thing that must be done. That doesn’t mean we won’t experience a measure of fear — great or small. It means we carefully bore through the blockage in spite of our trepidation. Once we have made it safely through to the other side, we can close the door for good, if we still want to.
One of the simplest lessons to learn is that when we change our minds we change our behaviors. Occasionally it can work the other way, and we can change our behavior first simply because we know it is best for us. But, if we don’t ultimately change our minds, too, then the unwanted behavior will return unless the will is strong enough to keep it under control.
The area of our emotions is one place where this principle is demonstrated. If our minds tell us we are unworthy and we will never amount to anything, our emotions will most likely be depressed, self-loathing, and possibly suicidal. If we change our mind about our self-worth and believe we are people of infinite beauty and worth — without changing our physical appearance — then our emotions will follow with love, gratitude, kindness, and other positive responses.
If we believe there is something or someone to fear wherever we go, we will be filled with anxiety and insecurity. But we can change what we believe and choose to believe the world is a safe place and that people are inherently good. With the new beliefs, we feel safe, secure, and at peace with our world. Change your mind, and you change your emotions and your behavior.
At times things happen that are misunderstood. What we attempted to do was perceived differently by others and, as a result, bad feelings arose. Step Nine addresses this problem from the vantage point of the one whose intentions were good, but the result was less than positive. The inference in this Step is that even though our intentions were good, the result might still have hurt, disappointed, or even abused someone, and we should forgive ourselves for any harm we may have caused.
We also need to consider this Step from the vantage point of the person who has been harmed but who may not realize that it was unintentional. Of course, that doesn’t lessen their pain. Not until they come to realize that no ill will was intended can the injured party begin to let go of the hurt and grant us the forgiveness we seek.
If we are the ones in the place where we have been hurt and it seems to have been cruelly intended, then we can overcome the situation by looking at it from a different perspective. Why did they do what they did? Was their intention to do good or harm? As much as possible we look for the good, the loving, and the kind actions, even if they seem to be missing. After all, we have the ability to rewrite history and to make of our past what we want it to be. No one is responsible for our feelings except us. We choose the perception we want to believe. We choose the feelings we experience as a result of our perception, and we also decide whether we will live in peace or in conflict.
Another method that can be used to work through forgiveness is music. Not all music has this healing ability, but some musical compositions lend themselves to reaching into the heart and pulling out the best in us — which is love and forgiveness. One song that has been particularly helpful to me and also to a few that I’ve shared it with is titled “Kiss the Rain” by Yiruma.
The song soothes me, and after a short while into the song the musician repeats three notes in descending order that reminds me of falling rain. The artist repeats these three cascading notes thirty times before transitioning back into the soothing sounds that give the listener a break from the musical rain. Then those three notes repeat for a second series of thirty, and at the end it repeats one more time for forty repetitions before fading into silence.
Each time I hear those three notes that remind me of falling rain, I say or sing a three syllable phrase like, “I am safe,” or “all is well.” But when I use this song for the purpose of healing, I say the words, “I-for-give,” over and over. On the next set I may change it to, “I’m-for-given.” The words become a gentle mantra that reinforces the need to forgive and also the need to accept forgiveness.
Forgive ourselves for all harm we may have caused, even if it was well-intended.
I’ve make mistakes and injured others by my religious beliefs. I’d like to believe my intentions were good, but I suspect that those good intentions missed their mark. Just because my intentions were well-intended doesn’t mean the damage wasn’t real or that I have no need to seek forgiveness. The good news, however, is that when we recognize the harm and decide to correct as much of it as possible, our efforts at healing also spread throughout the lives we touch, multiplying even faster than the sickness we originally created.
Sometimes the resulting healing isn’t directed towards the ones we injured. Instead, someone else might touch those lives, and our role is to heal lives that were hurt by someone we might never know. The Universe has a way of taking care of itself, and our part is to heal our little cubbyhole. For me, and for many of us, we might not know the depths of the hurts we caused and to whom we caused them. Hurts can be passed from one person to another and multiply like cancer cells.
The first and most important person we need to forgive is ourselves. Some people believe their injury to someone else was so devastating that they will never forgive themselves. This saddens me. No one is beyond forgiveness. Everyone is redeemable. I can only imagine that the belief that a person’s crime is so heinous that they don’t deserve to be forgiven originates from some religious teaching that somehow denies the power of Divine Love. Everyone is worthy of redemption.
When anger leads to hatred, we have a problem. Hatred harbors ill will and is always negative. When we find ourselves hating another person, we have lost sight of the fact they are also a person made in the image of The Divine. Anger comes and goes. It can be released with little effort or with great effort, but anger can be overcome. Hatred, however, is the stuff of which feuds and wars are made.
Anger says you did wrong, or you wronged me. Hatred declares you are wrong, and I will hurt you, and you don’t deserve to exist. Anger may say, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” But hatred says, “I don’t get mad, and I don’t get even — I get ahead.” Whatever you did to me, I will do to you and more.
Yet even hatred can and must be overcome if we want to live a happy and peaceful life. We search our hearts for any signs of anger that could lead to hatred and eradicate them through love and forgiveness. We also search our hearts for any hatred that has formed and we eradicate that disease also through love and forgiveness. If we are not ready to let go of the anger and hatred, then our best tool is this simple prayer: “Divine Spirit, help me to want to forgive.” Sometimes, that is the best we can do, at least for the present moment.
By trying to resolve a conflict too quickly, we can unintentionally make matters worse. In accordance with Step Eight, our goal is to seek forgiveness from those we have hurt unless by doing so, we would cause further harm. I have been guilty of this, and have tried to avoid personal confrontation by sending a letter or email instead.
What a big mistake that often turned out to be. The problem, at least when we’re not face-to-face with a person, is they have no way of reading our body language — which often speaks much louder than our words. If we are penitent and apologetic, it shows on our face and in our posture. When we are not present, our words are often interpreted in the light of what was said previously in the heat of the argument. It is important for us not only to find the right words to say but also to say them in the right attitude and the right time.
Trying to force an end to the hurts and disappointments can often cause further damage. I used to think of this only in the additional damage it caused the other person, but the truth is, it causes further harm to the one giving the apology as well. Take time for anger, disappointments, and resentments to fade away. Remember, when we say “take time” we mean hours, days, weeks, and maybe even years.
When we think of miracles, we usually think of the setting aside of a natural law in order for some supernatural event to happen. When someone is diagnosed as terminally ill with only weeks or days to live, we offer prayers for healing, and if that person recovers, we might claim the result was a miracle. But, what about the everyday miracles that occur because of the power of forgiveness?
The strongest spiritual force is love, but the second most powerful force is forgiveness. These two forces work together to allow our world to move forward towards a greater spirituality, a deeper faith, and a more peaceful world. In fact, where there is no forgiveness, miracles are scarce. In the book, A Course in Miracles, it states that only forgiveness offers miracles.
Jesus implied that it was easier to heal the body than to forgive sins. I’m not proposing that doctors and surgeons give up the stethoscope and preach forgiveness. I’m not saying that any or all physical illnesses can be healed through forgiveness. But, I do believe that many spiritual illnesses can cause physical sickness and disease, and that by healing through forgiveness, we can live a happier and healthier life.
Forgiveness provides us with little miracles on a regular basis. Forgiveness also sets aside the law of an-eye-for-an eye, tit-for-tat, and allows us to move out of the rut of hatred, anger and retaliation, and into peace love, and harmony.
 See Mark 2:1-12
Forgiveness doesn’t always need to be spoken. In fact, forgiveness must begin in the silence of our hearts. Before approaching someone to offer a verbal apology and to ask for their forgiveness, we must decide if that action will yield positive or negative results. If we approach an individual and there remains within us a trace of blame or judgment, the result might lead to an argument and accusations all over again.
Sometimes we think we are ready to forgive — and be forgiven — when we are not. At these times it is best to practice unspoken forgiveness until we are certain we are ready. If it still doesn’t work, and the breach of trust or friendship remains, we go back to unspoken forgiveness. If we still feel a need to take a specific action, then secret acts of kindness can help bridge the distance.
If someone is angry at us for something we did, and they refuse to accept our apology, then by secretly showing them acts of kindness we can make their world better in small ways. Don’t disregard the power of these seemingly simple acts of loving forgiveness. Even one has the power to change a life, and as they accumulate over time, they have strength beyond what we can imagine.
What if we could see with Divine eyes? What would it be like to see things the way The Divine sees them? How do we suppose The Divine sees us? What would it take to see the way The Divine sees?
Our vision is skewed by our beliefs about the world. We see people and are quick to label them, and in so doing we are often quick to judge them. Does The Divine see the same way we do? Obviously The Divine sees things we are not capable of seeing — such as the inherent worth of every son and daughter. The Divine sees with Parent eyes, and in His sight love extends beyond the scope of human ability.
To see with Divine eyes means to love as The Divine loves. It also means that we are slow to judge — or we refuse to judge — and are quick to forgive and grant second and third and fourth chances. Seeing with Divine eyes also means we believe in our children and we respect them.
I recommend we close our eyes and ask The Divine to help us see with Divine sight. We may not be able to handle Divine vision for more than a short while, but with practice we’ll be able to know the difference between our sight, and Divine sight, and we will long to pull back the veil and see with Divine eyes.
Guilt is defined differently by different cultures, but also by the different times in which we live. In the past, slavery was tolerated and accepted by many people. For the most part, those who owned slaves felt no guilt. As time passed, people came to realize that slavery was wrong. In this situation we see a positive side of guilt. To take away one’s freedom and to demand hard work without pay or hope of advancement came to be understood as a cancer to society.
As more and more people became enlightened to the truth that all men (and women) were created equal, the nation’s conscience was disturbed and changes happened. Guilt played a positive role, and, even after slaves were set free, guilt continued to play a useful role to those who decided to help right the wrongs committed against their fellowmen.
Step Eight says that we are to “Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.” But, once we determine we are meant to do something, we can let go of any hold guilt has had over us. It takes time, but often it begins with simply the intention to make right what was wrong. If circumstances are such that we are unable to right the wrongs, then intention and prayer become the tools to set us free.
When employing the process of forgiveness, I have discovered three steps that lead me out of my anger and hurt. The first is tolerance, the second is acceptance, and the third is to embrace. Anyone involved in a situation of betrayal might find all three of these steps impossible, but given time and effort, we can slowly bring ourselves to move in the right direction. These steps provide gentle course corrections on our journey home. They bring us from the impossible to the possible. They provide for us the ability to love our enemies and find peace with everyone.
Another process that produces good results for many people is the daily practice of forgiveness. If someone butts in front of us in line, we practice forgiveness. If we inadvertently butt in front of someone else and it comes to our attention, we ask for forgiveness. A simple, “I’m sorry,” is usually sufficient. By daily practicing forgiveness in small ways, we find it easier to forgive in ways that we feel are major hurts in our lives. Forgiveness is a cornerstone in the spiritual journey. It keeps us on the path and helps us to welcome all who would choose to walk beside us.
Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.
The struggle in Step Eight is for balance. There is the desire to be forgiven, but also the greater need to do the loving thing. That could mean that we are not able to acquire forgiveness because seeking it would cause further harm to the injured party. Weighing our needs against another’s possible injury is where the balancing act occurs. If there is ever a doubt, then we err on the side of not causing further harm and finding other ways to receive forgiveness.
Many religions believe that the Ultimate Being is ready, willing, and able to forgive whenever we ask, and that the Ultimate Being will not deny any sincere request. At least one religious belief system I’ve encountered doesn’t believe that The Divine forgives, because, as they teach, The Divine doesn’t condemn His children and therefore there is no need for forgiveness. We are the ones who must forgive others, and when we were the injuring party we are the ones who seek their forgiveness.
Whenever it seems wrong to seek forgiveness for fear of opening old wounds and causing further harm, then we can forgive ourselves and also seek forgiveness through a surrogate—someone who stands in for the injured party and tries to see things from their perspective. Often this is a trusted friend, a spiritual individual, or a religious leader. A third party has the advantage of being neutral, and they can help us see things from a different perspective.
Forgiveness is one tool to overcoming anything in life. Setbacks, heartaches, disappointments — whatever struggles we face and whenever we feel broken by life, forgiveness can be used like a shovel to remove all the dirt and filth that we associate with those difficulties. We can talk about how those struggles make us stronger, and that’s all well and good, but when we’re in the middle of those situations we need a way to overcome. Any mistakes we may have made, any mistakes someone else may have made, can be overcome through the power of forgiveness.
Other tools to overcoming also work to our advantage: faith, perseverance, hope, and love all aid in our ability to overcome, but we must not forget that forgiveness coupled with love is the oil that makes the parts fit together smoothly, enabling us to move forward once more.
No one is defeated who refuses to quit, unless that person remains in the failures of the past because she or he cannot get past the hurts, mistakes, and damages. The best way to move forward is to learn from the past, and then put it behind us through loving forgiveness.
There is a passage in what is known as The Lord’s Prayer that states, “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us….” One interpretation is that as we forgive others, we ourselves are forgiven. I wonder if it also means that in the measure that we withhold forgiveness, we also withhold it from ourselves?
The problem for many is that they struggle with forgiving people for cruelties they have inflicted upon them. “I can forgive you for many things, but I’ll never forgive you for what you did to me,” is a sentiment we hear from time to time. We also hear a similar expression when people say, “No matter what, I’ll never forgive myself for what I did.”
Forgiveness is often difficult. The simplest solution to get unstuck is to recite these three simple words, “Help me forgive.” It doesn’t matter if we need to forgive ourselves or another; these words have power to transform our hearts. Maybe not today, maybe not all at once, but in time these words spoken in sincerity will eventually become real, and we will know that we have truly forgiven — and have been forgiven.
We must remember that forgiveness is about us as much as it is about another person. In many situations it is mostly about us. That’s why we guard against destructive forgiveness. True forgiveness is never destructive, but there is a form that appears to be loving and forgiving when in reality it is not.
When we forgive someone for some injustice we perceive they’ve done to us, we should consider first the role of the forgiver versus the one to be forgiven. If those who are doing the forgiving are not careful, he or she may come across as condescending. “Oh, I know you didn’t know any better,” or “You really were a jerk, but I’m going to forgive you anyway,” is not a positive experience of forgiveness.
Be careful not to set yourself up as above the one you choose to forgive. That attitude will come through in your words and your actions. True forgiveness levels the playing field. No one is above or below the other, no matter the details of the transgression. Forgiveness often entails humility on the part of the one seeking forgiveness, but also on the part of the one extending forgiveness who understands the concept of “There, but by the grace of The Divine, go I.” In other words, it could happen to anyone, and someday we might be the one in need of forgiveness and grace.
People sometimes wonder why their world is dark and colorless. For many, the answer has to do with their unwillingness to forgive — either themselves or someone else. Hatred, anger, and revenge are double-edged knives that cut those we hate, but they also pierce our own hearts with bitterness. Where there is no forgiveness, there is an absence of love.
You might say, “I could never forgive him (or her) for what they did to me.” Time changes all things, and it can change those who we feel have betrayed us, and hopefully, time can also change our feelings towards them. The key for individuals who want to stay focused on their spiritual journey is to find forgiveness sooner rather than later. Without forgiveness we can stray off the path and lose our way.
People find different ways of making forgiveness work in their lives. One way I’ve found that has helped me is to consider forgiveness a process. Hurts build over time, and for many, it takes a while to undo the damage. In some situations, this process involves separating ourselves from those who have hurt us.
Both words meditate and medicate share a similar goal, to make us healthy. Medicate deals more specifically with the physical body whereas meditate deals more with the spirit, soul, or emotional health of the individual. Both words share the concept of better health. Medication may seem like a simple solution — take a pill and be healed, but what is often overlooked is the cause. That is where meditation often yields better results.
For many health and emotional issues we can meditate in order to avoid medicating. The practice of meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sitting alone with our thoughts or daydreaming. Better still is the determination to choose which thoughts we will allow influence over us. Will we meditate on love or hate, peace or strife, gentleness or judgment?
Meditation shouldn’t be hurried, and we don’t have to wait until we are feeling good to begin. The practice should be enjoyable and not something to dread. We don’t have to “succeed.” We simply have to be still, relaxed, and calm. I’m not suggesting we replace medication with meditation. That is an individual’s decision. What I am saying is that meditation can aid in our overall health, and can be a wonderful spiritual practice.
Love is not a destination but an experience. Love is a feeling but also a commitment. Love is not passive but active. In this present moment, and in every moment to come, choose love, for love is a choice and not something that simply happens to us. We feel love from others, but until we also give love, it is not complete.
If we want to love as The Divine loves, then love should be given to all in equal proportion. And, don’t forget, love is given to ourselves as well as to others. A good healthy dose of love for self, partner, neighbor, and enemies is the only remedy our world needs. Give love without strings attached. Give it freely to all who ask and to those who don’t. Give it to those who seem to refuse it. Love, like water, can transform the landscape from a barren desert to a plush oasis.
On this day, and on every day, remember that love is not a destination, but a state of mind, a state of being, a state of heart, and a state of our souls. The more we give, the greater is our capacity to receive and to give more. Be in a state of love — always and for all time.
Choose to forgive those who hurt us in the name of religion.
Let’s look at what is probably the most difficult religious abuse that an individual would need to forgive, a religious leader that sexually abused us or our children. I don’t have personal experience with this issue, but I’ve met a few people who have. If we can forgive under these circumstances then it seems all other transgressions pale in comparison.
Since I don’t know, and I hope I never have to experience sexual abuse to my family or a close friend, I can’t tell you how I would react. I hope at some point I would make peace with the past and find it in my heart to forgive. I know that I would never forget the incident, and that I would do everything in my power to see that no one else could be abused by this individual.
One thing I am sure of, my emotions would be overloaded, and my anger would be nearly uncontrollable. Rage, hatred, thoughts of murder would certainly come to mind. How to find forgiveness among all those raw and painful emotions certainly requires more strength than I think I am capable of.
Some people don’t think forgiveness is much of a miracle, but I do. When people are able to forgive and even accept the one who attacked them (or their child) as still a person of value is beyond natural ability and demonstrates the power of Divine Love expressed in our humanity. Forgiveness is a miracle, and one of the most important, yet difficult, miracles we can give or receive.
Choose to forgive those who hurt us in the name of religion.
We write a lot about forgiveness because we consider it the fundamental key to overcome any kind of hurts, disappointments, or abuses in our lives. Forgiveness and love work together to set us free from the abuses of the past. These two principals allow us to release the past, and also to transform it into something beneficial for the present.
Forgiveness is our choice. Because of our freewill, no one can force us to forgive. We can hold onto resentments, grievances, grudges, bitterness, anger, and offenses as long as we want. But, while we choose to retain those negatives feelings we also hold onto misery, gloom, sorrow, heartaches, suffering, worry, despair, and unhappiness. We also attract health issues such as headaches, depression, neck pain, high blood pressure, increased heart rates, and we become more susceptible to heart disease and other sicknesses.
It doesn’t surprise me that an unforgiving heart can create physical as well as spiritual heart problems. But, the choice is always ours alone to make. We know smoking is harmful to our health, but many people choose to smoke anyway. Likewise we know that withholding forgiveness is bad for our physical, mental, and spiritual health, but many people choose to hold onto their grievances. They hurt themselves, and at times, can hurt the ones they love. If we want to live in freedom then forgiveness is the path of choice.
Some people believe forgiveness is too easy. Say the words, I’m sorry, and that’s the end of it. What these people claim is that saying the words and meaning them are not always the same. Perhaps that is true. But saying them is a start. Those who struggle with saying the words find it difficult to let go of past grievances and live a spiritual life. It is as if they want to live in the past and hold onto those resentments.
Forgiveness gives us permission to let go and begin again. Those who find it difficult to forgive someone else, often find it difficult to forgive themselves. But when we decide to forgive, the Universe provides us with a clean slate. Yes, we might muddy it up again in the next five seconds, but we can wipe the slate clean as often as we need to.
The Divine is always ready to forgive. We are the ones who are reluctant. Even when we make poor choices, we can just as easily and simply forgive, and then choose differently. In this fashion we can undo the mistakes of the past and build a better present and future. Let’s give ourselves permission to begin again.
Because The Divine created the laws of the Universe, The Divine can just as easily ignore or reverse those laws. We are impressed with physical miracles like healing, but we often pay little or no attention when love miracles reverse or set aside the direction of someone’s life. Because we see, feel, or can touch a physical miracle we are more astonished. But love miracles can be more powerful in a person’s life and in our world.
Imagine the miracle that changed Mother Teresa’s life, and how the love miracles she gave to those dying in Calcutta affected not only India, but the entire planet. Imagine the miracle that changed the life of Siddhārtha Gautama who was raised to be a prince, but after he encountered poverty for the first time dedicated his life to seeking the spiritual path and came to be known as the Buddha. His sacrifice of the rich life planned for him was a miracle of love that changed the world.
We often think of the miracles of Jesus as being the evidence that he had a divine connection far beyond the scope of most individuals and even many other spiritual leaders. But, I propose it was not his physical miracles that changed the world as much as it was his miracles of love and forgiveness that set multitudes of people free. If we want to change the world, then love is the miracle that will bring about the transformation. As we take inventory of ways in which we have hurt others, let us extend forgiveness and love miracles to ourselves by seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness to those we hurt in the name of religion and to those who hurt us in the name of religion.
Note: You might need to refresh your screen to see the current day's Inspiration.
Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.