STEP SEVEN: Choose to forgive those who hurt us in the name of religion.
Instruction: Make the choice.
Forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s one of the most difficult and unnatural things we are called to do. After all, we want the villains of our lives to get what we believe they deserve. At the same time, it is one of the simplest things to say even though we may not feel it in our hearts or mean the words when we say or think them. We are also prone to see forgiveness in degrees. We can forgive someone for gossip, but stealing takes a larger measure of forgiveness. Based upon the seriousness of the offense, the ability to forgive becomes more difficult. Perhaps the most difficult offense to forgive is the sexual abuse of a child or a suicide caused by religious beliefs that are so rigid the person feels they can’t live up to the expectations of their Higher Power.
Many mistake the purpose of forgiveness and believe that it lessens the seriousness of the crime or that it means that we can’t, or shouldn’t, take measures to prevent the abuse from happening again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean approval, and it doesn’t affect the person being forgiven as much as it affects the one giving the forgiveness. We understand how difficult this Step is for many people. I’ve met people who have held grudges against their parents or other caregivers for most of their adult life and who don’t plan to make amends anytime soon—if ever. I wish they could see how much hurt they are holding on to and how that hurt seldom effects the one they feel is responsible. We want apologies, and without them we feel we can’t forgive. If we could only see the damage we cause ourselves by holding onto past hurts, we would do whatever we had to in order to release the pain and move on. The Buddha is credited for saying “Holding onto anger [or refusing to forgive] is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Forgiveness is so simple, but we make it difficult by placing demands on ourselves and others.
Today’s assignment is to make the choice to forgive by simply opening the possibility that this is what you want, and ask The Divine to show you how to forgive without conditions while still maintaining appropriate boundaries. Conditions and boundaries are two completely different things.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.