Part One of Three
I am contemplating various facets of forgiveness and several different views on this topic; this post is the first of a short series.
Why do we often feel that we need to forgive someone, or that we wish and hope someone will forgive us? Usually we take forgiveness to mean to excuse for a fault or an offense; to pardon and also to renounce anger or resentment against someone.
The origin of this word dates back to before the year 900: (Old English forgiefan: for = “completely” + giefan = “give“) the meaning was basically “to give up desire or power to punish” and also “grant”; “allow”. From this I sense the emotional content of forgiveness: a generosity, an opening of the clenched fist, becoming magnanimous. This last term is very clear as it is composed of the two Latin words for “great” and “soul”. We are pointed toward our capacity to be “great-souled”, or, as we might say: noble-minded.
The state prior to forgiveness is usually some form of anger and resentment, which are states of limited perception and thus small-mindedness. I was recently impressed by a life-coach who reported his particular way of transforming his propensity for road-rage. On a certain day, when an aggressive driver cut in front of him on the freeway while he was driving his child to school, he suddenly exclaimed: “Wow! How cool is that! Did you see that Billy? That guy just swerved right out into the traffic in front of me! That is just TOO COOL! Some people are amazing, aren’t they?” He reports that he then started laughing, because he felt such a release from the anger that habitually grabbed hold of him and possessed him, turning him into a monster bent on revenge, no matter what the cost!
What happened, according to him, is that he suddenly was expanded into another realm where he could see all the little cars down there from above, and it was just too amusing to see the one driver being aggressive, possible endangering himself and others. While all of the immensity of the cosmos was above and all around him, he had such constricted vision that he only saw this one little strip of asphalt and the car that he felt compelled to get in front of. I enjoyed his report and have enjoyed myself immensely upon remembering it in similar situations on the road.
(To be continued)