Forgiveness - what's the point?
The guy on the other end of the line seemed annoyed. He knew a lot about computers. I didn't, and my computer wasn't working. I needed help, but he wasn't being very nice.
You know what it's like when you're already feeling dumb and somebody makes you feel even dumber? Awful, right? That's how I was feeling.
Even though we eventually fixed my computer, it still made me mad the next day when I remembered the way he'd treated me. A couple of times the idea came to forgive him. But I thought I could deal with my feelings without having to forgive.
I was wrong. Here are some ways I tried that didn't work:
1. Making excuses. I put myself in the computer guy's shoes. "Maybe he'd had a bad day," I told myself. "Maybe he was tired." I could think of lots of reasons why he might have acted the way he did. But I was still mad. I didn't want an excuse. I still thought he should have been nicer.
2. Telling myself it didn't matter. Since I would never meet this guy in person - or even have any contact with him again - it didn't seem important that I forgive. "It's not like he'll ever know if I've forgiven him or not," I told myself. "So what's the point?" But, I realized, I would know.
3. Not thinking about it. This will solve the problem, I decided. "If I just don't think about how rude he was, I'll forget all about it." But I couldn't forget. And why not? Because deeper than the feeling of being hurt was the knowledge that I needed a change of heart. Forgiveness was the only answer.
Real forgiveness isn't always easy. Anyone can say, "I forgive you," but feeling it deep down can be a whole lot harder. It sure was hard for me. I knew I needed help. So I decided to pray.
In the past, when forgiveness has been tough, I've found that listening to God and feeling His love make forgiveness possible. To me, listening means getting very, very quiet. It means shutting out all those feelings of hurt or anger, all the excuses, all the thoughts that are trying to get my attention.
When I tried that this time, here's what I heard: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And Love is reflected in love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 17). This first sentence is a line from the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus gave us. It's followed by what's called a "spiritual interpretation," written by Mary Baker Eddy. Her words give some insight into what Jesus was saying.
At first, I wasn't so sure about this answer from God. The first part of it seemed to be telling me that if I wanted forgiveness when I did something wrong, then I should be willing to forgive other people when they did something unkind to me. That made me a little mad, actually. All I could think was, "But I would never be as rude as that guy was!"
That's when the spiritual interpretation kicked in: "And Love is reflected in love." The issue, I realized, was that I thought that I was the one who had to do the forgiving. That I was the one who had to do the loving. But this spiritual interpretation was telling me something different. The love I needed to feel for this guy was coming from God, who is Love itself. Forgiveness was possible because God doesn't know anything but love. And since I'm His reflection, love was all I could feel or know, too.
Once I saw that forgiveness wasn't something I had to create or do all by myself, forgiving became simple, even easy. My anger and frustration over the way the computer guy had acted faded away as I felt God's love for him - and for me. Forgiveness happened, and it came from my heart.
So what's the point of forgiveness, especially when the other person may never know they've been forgiven? I think it has to do with feeling and seeing more of Love's presence all the time, no matter what. With having hearts that are lit by love, not darkened by anger or hate. These are the kind of hearts that will help us change our world for the better. And what could be more to the point than that?
A new commandment
I give unto you,
That ye love one another;
as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.