Forgiveness

 

Why is it so important to forgive other people, when holding onto your anger seems so precious, when you feel you have been so wronged? How much does it really matter how we treat other people?

The way we see the answer to that question reflects how we see our participation in the system of creation. Our vision of our role in the universe is the foundation of our lives, business structures, educational processes and personal relationships, in effect the whole of our being, culture and global state of affairs.

I probably would not be considered a religious person in the traditional sense of the word. And though that may be an understatement, I have however studied many religious teachings and found much wisdom in each tradition that I’ve studied.

The Zulu proverb, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” taught to me by my dear friend African drummer Eugene Skeef says, “A person is a person through other people.” ‘It expresses a profound truth embedded deep within the core of traditional Afrikan values.’ ‘You are who you are because of how you relate to others around you.’ (footnote below)

Jesus is said to have described the action that paves the way to heaven as, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

It is imperative in my understanding, the pivotal importance of the word ‘as’. The quote, as I understand it, is not, ‘love thy neighbor more than thyself, nor the reverse. One usage of ‘As’, as defined in dictionary form is: ‘equally, to the same degree, to the same extent’. ‘Love’ I assume is used, not in the romantic sense, but in the ‘old ‘ usage, ‘to show kindness to somebody’. So I interpret the quote to mean we should show that kindness to oneself and to others equally, the same. I believe that is the path to heaven on earth, as it is to heaven above for those who see themselves as believers.

In Tuesdays with Morrie (footnote below) Morrie Schwartz, who is dying, shares his wisdom. Let me condense what I got from the story. More than a decade later, two ideas remain with me. As a champion of individual sovereignty, I’m not telling you what’s right, only sharing what has been significant to me.

“Love is the only rational act.” and “Forgive everything now”

Why is it so important to forgive other people, when holding onto your anger seems so precious?

Choosing forgiveness and letting go of/transmuting anger is a skill one develops. Forgiveness is developed through practice and exercise, as with any muscle or ability. Choosing to practice forgiveness, as a learned skill, develops the power of forgiveness. In my estimation it is much more important than we usually assume. Its twofold value is not so much for the person we forgive, as for ourselves. And the value for ourselves exists on two accounts, the second being much more important than the first.

First: Not just because, if you don’t exercise the practice of forgiveness, the ability to forgive will weaken and it’s power will go away. Without the power of forgiveness, we inevitably live in negative thoughts and feelings, releasing ‘bad chemicals’ into our systems perpetuating that quality of being. If we don’t practice forgiveness, that’s who we will become. Eventually being unforgiving won’t just be something we ‘do’, it will be who we ‘are’.

In spite of everything and anything anyone else does to have it be different, it will define who we are to every other person with whom we interact. It’s time now to make sure we exercise forgiveness before that muscle completely atrophies.

Secondly: And here is the real reason to practice listening to the power within yourself that forgives. If you develop the forgiveness muscle or skill enough, then you can use that power, that ability, when you actually really need it, when you have to forgive yourself.

Allow me due to the importance of this concept to repeat it.  In practicing the ‘art of forgiveness’ with others, we develop the skill so that we can use it when we need it most, which is when we need to forgive ourselves. I find to forgive ones self, the hardest thing to do in the world. I also believe it is the most important. {ok let’s not argue about it. It is in the top tier ok?}

The inability to forgive ourselves diminishes our ability to take the risks we must in order to share who we are (becoming). The spirit and the power, the ability, to forgive ourselves, keeps us from punishing ourselves and allows us to manifest our gift and complete our bestowed mission.

This is very similarly true of the value of practicing the Golden rule. If we try and treat other people in a way that seems right, we develop the habit, the power and the skill, the strength as it were, to treat ourselves in a way that we’d like to be treated. Since we seem to me much less aware and much less conscious of the fact that treating ourselves is also a habituation, we can develop the power by practicing on those around us with whom we interact. In doing onto others as we would like them to do on to us, we hopefully will do so unto ourselves in our own lives.

Again to quote the wisdom of religious traditions, in hopes you can find value in them for this life, whether or not you believe in another,

Mathew 6:14, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

If you practice forgiving others you may learn how actually be able to forgive yourself. I postulate nothing will have greater value, in your life and in the lives of those you love.

 

Footnotes

1. umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu a person is a person through/because of (other) people; you are who you are because of how you relate to others around you and Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu: “A person is a person because of people.”The Zulu proverb Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu expresses a profound truth embedded deep within the core of traditional Afrikan values. It translates into English as “a person is a person because of people.” Other translations state “a person is a person through other persons.” In either case, this compelling truth about what it means to be a “human” in the Afrikan context reveals the wisdom of our ancestors and the tremendous beauty of our way. According to Afrikan ancestral teachings, personhood is understood as a process and the product of interconnectedness experienced and or achieved in the context of the community. This Zulu proverb, with its numerous variants in other branches of the Nguni language family, is a pan-Afrikan truth known and lived wherever our cultural reality, though challenged, remains intact or in the process of being resurrected. Be it in the diaspora or on the continent the corollary examples of Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu richly abound. In a word it is the spirit of Ubuntu. Ubuntu: the spirit of reciprocal living that luminously envelops a community in healing energy radiating from the hearts of interdependent human spirits sharing, loving and observing Maat in the presence of ancestral spirits until they themselves join their ranks. It is this beautiful continuum of relationships, an unbroken circle of ancestral connections, a cultural ideal imbued with divine purpose and sacred meaning to which this proverb speaks. This is our truth. And while it is there for some to study, it is here for us to live, experience and pass on to the beautyful ones yet unborn! Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – Kwadwo Gyasi Nkita-Mayala – http://adiama.com/ancestralconnections/2010/03/02/umuntu-ngumuntu-ngabantu-a-person-is-a-person-because-of-people/

2. Tuesdays with Morrie is a memoir by American writer Mitch Albom. The story was later adapted by Thomas Rickman into a TV movie of the same name directed by Mick Jackson, which aired on 17 December 1999 and starred Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. The book topped the New York Times Non-Fiction Bestsellers of 2000. From Wikipidia