art

Forgiveness

Chuck Close exhibit, Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, Oregon.

Chuck Close exhibit, Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, Oregon.

Letting go of resentments


We sometimes hold onto our resentments as though they are precious jewels or defining characteristics of our essence. Defining ourselves in opposition to our "enemies" is a simple shorthand, a convenient shortcut. But does it really work? Does it sometimes cause more harm than good?

Our old overreaching friend, the ego, has a vested interest in keeping us tethered to this habit of opposition and conflict. If you feel bad for any reason, the ego has an infinite number of explanations for this, and will gladly catalog them for you. 
 
"You feel bad? You should. You ARE bad. Let me tell you why."
"Maybe it's the company you keep. So and so is a bastard. I've always told you that."
"Yeah, well, you may be bad, but at least you're not as bad as he is. Here's a list of reasons you should be keeping your distance."
"Why should you forgive anyone? Aren't YOU the one who's been hurt?"
 
The little secret your ego knows but isn't telling is this: one cannot simultaneously hold onto resentment and feel love. Ego holds out to us the promise of someday love.
 
"You may someday be worthy of love if you just act right. I will help you."
"So and so may love you one day if you only became rich enough to buy that car. Better get to work."
"That famous reality TV star you admire got plastic surgery. Maybe a facelift and a butt implant will increase your lovability."
 
The truth is, we cannot feel the "love" that others give us. We are not built that way. We feel love when we bring it to the relationship. We can only experience love from a position of fulfillment. This is why people (sometimes) change their selfish ways when they become parents. For the first time in their lives, they hear the tug of nature to love, unconditionally, another being. As they give this love, they benefit from the experience. This is as it should be.
 
Now, forgiveness does not necessarily benefit the person we are forgiving. They may never have been made aware of our antipathy toward them. But we will definitely feel it. The untreated resentment we feel will poison its host body, creating stress and disease for us. Forgiveness frees us from this malady. Jesus knew it, and told us so. He told us to go to the most unthinkable lengths to avoid the ills borne of hatred toward our fellows. He said, "turn the other cheek."
 
The willingness we show towards others in this moment is the love we seek to feel and the only love we are designed to experience. This is not a state of thinking that comes easily. Is comes as the result of diligent practice with tools that we can acquire. One of these tools is meditation.
 
In meditation, we continuously practice the act of letting go, of surrendering to what is happening. This is remarkably similar to the act of forgiveness. If we can let go of the ego's need to control, we may be able to let go of the impulse of going to our grave being right and the dubious benefit of feeling self-righteous.

We learn to let go, and we evolve.

If we observe nature without the need to control its outcomes, we can see love at work. In admiring and emulating the creator's handiwork, we can more completely realize our own fulfillment.

Wildflower, North Mountain Park, Ashland, Oregon

Wildflower, North Mountain Park, Ashland, Oregon