Forgiveness that comes naturally

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

When people don't behave as you'd like or don't come to the same conclusions that you do, or when they actually do something damaging to you, how can you find peace? To me, forgiveness is the only way.

Dr. Fred Luskin of the Forgive for Good project at Stanford University characterizes forgiveness not as condoning what the other person has done, but as releasing resentment from within ourselves. It's only when we are free from resentment and anger that we can determine the next steps - does the person need correction, do we need to leave the relationship, etc.

I find this true with my kids and friends and fellow motorists. It's only when I'm free from anger or hurt that I can effectively decide what to do. And I try to take responsibility for my hurt, rather than blame the other person. They may have taken an action that I didn't like, but I'm the one that let it become a hurt to me. Even in the worst cases, I believe, the person who feels hurt or damaged can deflect those emotions through forgiveness.

Sometimes when I'm gritting my teeth in anger or smarting heartily from hurt feelings, I remember what Jesus said as he was hanging on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." I sometimes translate this in my thought to, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." This Christian standard of forgiveness doesn't demand that the other person change, but it helps release the resentment that eats away at us.

I'm reminded of the time I finally fully forgave my ex-husband. It was several years after our divorce, and mostly I was over it. But there were still moments of frustration when I went over details of our relationship in my head.

One night, as I drove home from an inspirational meeting at my church, our relationship popped into my head again. I was too inspired to just let it be business as usual, however. This time, I felt differently.

It occurred to me that I really had once loved the guy. There was indeed a deep love between us, and it saddened and hurt us both that it didn't work out.

As I focused on this love, I remembered what I'd learned from a favorite book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: that Love is God, and God is All. She wrote: "The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!" (p. 520). Love fills all space, within us and between us. I couldn't get away from Love, and neither could my ex.

Then the startling thought came: If there ever was Love, there was only Love.

I let this conclusion wash over me as I drove. Since Love fills all space, it had to have been there all along. Such a peace settled over me. All the hurts and resentments paled to nothing. I let go of the past and allowed myself to love him again. I reclaimed the Love that had always been there and ejected the hurt - permanently, as it turned out.

No, we didn't get back together. We didn't even talk about this really. But he's like a brother to me now. On many occasions I've honored the inspiration I felt that night by not letting any further resentment gather over inconsequential things. And we have a healthy (albeit cross-country) respect and friendship.

So I've added this concept to my standard of forgiveness: If there was ever Love, there was only Love. I've applied it to many situations, and it helps bring me clarity. Then, the best response - forgiveness - comes naturally.

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