This morning I attended A Course in Miracles group. The teacher spoke about forgiveness, which is really the main theme of the Course. You cannot escape from hell unless you learn to forgive. The Course teaches that all forgiveness is self-forgiveness, as we do not hate people for what they have done but for what we have done. So in learning to forgive others we are really learning to forgive ourselves. After all, we cannot give to others something that we do not give to ourselves.
There is another way of looking at why it's important to forgive, if what I've written so far doesn't make sense. I once read that not forgiving is like taking poison and hoping that it will hurt the other person. Our lack of forgiveness eats away at us and causes us to become ill. It doesn't affect the people whom we are not forgiving. They could be out there having a very happy life, not having a clue that we have this grudge against them. Not forgiving keeps us in prison--not them.
Of course when the Course talks about forgiveness, it doesn't mean what passes for forgiveness in the mainstream world. What most of us think of as forgiveness is this: You are really a jerk who did something terrible that is unforgiveable. But I am so much better than you that I will forgive you even though you don't deserve it. This is not forgiveness at all; it is a condescending attack.
So what is true forgiveness? True forgiveness sees that there is nothing really to forgive. In my case I think about my father. True forgiveness happened because I was able to see that he didn't abandon me emotionally. He really loved me and did his best to take care of me. But he was old (late-50s when I was born) and didn't have the energy to play with me. I was telling a story of abandonment and ruining all my relationships with men, when I could have been telling a much better story. A story of how this man worked well into his 80s to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. He was loyal and committed and he loved us. What's there to forgive?
So let's start forgiving our parents and friends their imperfections. And before we do that, let's forgive ourselves for all our imperfections--for not being as loving as we would like, or as successful as we would like, or as enlightened as we would like to be. Let's cut everyone some slack--starting with ourselves. We are all going through some tough times right now, and forgiveness is the key to escaping suffering.