Sunday, June 05, 2005

Forgiveness and liberation

There is an old Jewish folktale about a young man who felt remorse about an indignity he had done to someone.

He went to the local rabbi for advice about seeking forgiveness.

This young man was quite worried that his offer of forgiveness would not be accepted, and he wanted a guarantee that his apology would be received in a positive manner.

The rabbi told the young man to take a large feather pillow to the center of town and slash it open. He was then to throw all the feathers in the pillow to the four winds.

The young man did as he was told, and went back to the rabbi for the assurance he so desperately sought.

The rabbi then told the young man that he had to go back to the center of town and pick up every single one of the feathers which he had scattered about.

Only when every single feather had been successfully retrieved, could the young man then be assured that his request for forgiveness would be granted!

What the rabbi was trying to show was that there are no guarantees and that it was more important to seek pardon than to look for the certainty that we would be forgiven.

The story ends with the young man going to ask forgiveness anyway - without the assurance he had originally sought.

There is incredible power in forgiveness, but forgiveness is not rational.

It is actually a somewhat reckless, typically illogical act - a leap of faith, if you will!

It may require a dimension of justice but not always, for what it holds sacred is not fairness, but self-respect and community.

When Jesus of Nazareth preached forgiveness, people of his time thought that he was crazy.

Loving your neighbor is one thing, but your enemies, too?

When struck on one cheek, offer the other?

If someone takes your coat, give your cloak as well?

I think that most of us have never been able to "will" ourselves into the "forgiveness mode," either as a giver or a receiver.

We can still know it’s right, and that we want to do it, and still not be able to!

However, when we hold back our forgiveness, we repeat over and over our hurt, reassuring ourselves of the justification of our indignation.

It is our anger, our hatred, our need to feel wronged that will destroy us - whether a relationship is reconciled or not.

Forgiveness in the world can be reckless and illogical and irrational.

But so is love, having children or creating anything that we are willing to give away.

And we do all of these things all of the time, and we trust that because we have done them, that we will be more fulfilled, more connected, more present to the joys and wonders of the world.

It is through forgiveness that we can discover the freedom it takes to place ourselves in right relation with those we love and care about, and with the holy within and beyond each of us.

It may not be logical, but forgiveness - clear and unconditional - frees the forgiver more deeply than the person being forgiven.

It is a bold and constructive step based in a sense of faith that forgiveness withheld is a poison to the soul.

In a way, the more we forgive - and ask for forgiveness - the more willing we become to forgive the mistakes of others.

It is through reconciliation that we can discover true freedom.

By placing ourselves in right relation with those we love and care about, we will be more fulfilled, more connected, more present to the joys and wonders of the world.

Let us revel in the constant renewal contained in our continual reconciliation to others, to ourselves, and to Life!

Would want to begin to take this first step towards forgiveness and liberation?


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