Forgiveness as a Spiritual Practice
by Joan Carra
To forgive does not mean to condone, and that is worth repeating: To forgive does not mean to condone. So why is it an important precept in the Bible and other religious practices? In Matthew 18:21 we are told: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” And when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone, Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but 77 times!”
Forgiveness is a circle because in order to forgive someone, we also need to ask for forgiveness. Why? When we harbor anger, pain and resentment towards another person, even if we have suffered a grave injustice, our state of consciousness is in the field of negative energy. As we throw out darts of loathsome thoughts, we ourselves experience a boomerang effect as the energy comes back to us in full force. The personality and disposition are afflicted with traits of victim mentality, which include depression, helplessness, self-blame, guilt and an expectation that everyone is out to get us. This state suspends self-control and personal responsibility for one’s own life as well as one’s own thoughts. This chronic state even affects relationships with other people. Who can cope with a woe-is-me personality that never sees the good in anything?
Jack Kornfield, an author, Buddhist monk and teacher, writes in The Ancient Heart of Forgiveness about two former prisoners of war; one asks the other if he has forgiven their captors yet. The second says, “No, never.” The first one responds, “Well, they still have you in prison, don’t they?”
The word “forgive” is derived from an old English term forgiefan, which is two words: for, meaning “completely,” and giefan, meaning “give, grant, allow, pardon.” The original phrase means “giving completely.” We may ask ourselves, what are we giving completely? Perhaps it is the surrender of the persistent focus on anger, bitterness and resentment and giving ourselves thoughts of gratitude, self-love and, most important of all, inner peace. The practice of forgiveness provides us with a new identity; we are reborn as the healer rather than remaining the victim, which is not only a victory for our mind but for our spirit and body as well.
Trauma and injustice can usurp your life, challenging mental, emotional and even physical health. Healing can be a life journey, with anger and frustration diminishing only in brief moments. Constant preoccupation with the mind’s repetitive thoughts of anger, blame and revenge becomes every moment’s theme, even disturbing sleep with anxiety and nightmares.
They say thoughts are energy. Einstein says E=mc2, “E” being energy, “m” for mass and “c” representing the speed of light. It’s the creation of the plane of existence; therefore, thoughts can create a physical reality.
The process of forgiveness can help us live in greater harmony with our mind and even our health, which is substantiated by the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins Medical Center, among others. Repressed anger affects our immune system and our blood pressure and can cause serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.
Mentally ill people often cannot deliver the normal responses others expect of them. But hating someone who is too sick to behave in a proper manner is not going to resolve the situation. Maybe understanding and compassion will. Brain imaging is in the infant stages, and it may be possible that what we perceive as bad or improper behavior stems from physiological disorders. In this eventuality, we would need to adjust our judgment of who is “good” and who is “bad.”
The families of the victims at the Mother Emmanuel Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., collectively forgave the shooter and even prayed for his soul: “We are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.” They say prayers can be effective and maybe this group of church worshippers living their faith will transform a young man’s fanatic hatred into a heart that can finally feel remorse and compassion.
Joan Carra has been a psychic and medium for 25 years. She is working on a book called Asked to Forgive. Visit her at PsychicJoanCarra.net. She will be hosting a discussion on the topic of forgiveness from 1 to 3pm on December 8 at Albertson Memorial Spiritual Church, 293 Sound Beach Avenue in Old Greenwich. See Community Resource Guide listing, page 51.