On forgiveness and “Life After Life”


At the start of Lent, I thought some thoughts on forgiveness would be appropriate, because the heart of the season celebrates God’s provision for our forgiveness, in the death and resurrection of Our Lord. “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) It was if Christ himself suffered tremendously and then drowned in the sea of iniquity and death for us. Forgiveness costs!

I  found this on BRAIN PICKINGS, and I thought it might be helpful if you need to forgive someone. At the end of it, he makes note of an idea which I found in a Scribd book on helping the brain work well–changing a narrative. In a related meditation, David Whyte considers the nature of forgiveness:

FORGIVENESS is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

Echoing Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s historic dialogue on forgiveness, Whyte — who has also asserted that “all friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness” — explores the true source of forgiveness:

Strangely, forgiveness never arises from the part of us that was actually wounded. The wounded self may be the part of us incapable of forgetting, and perhaps, not actually meant to forget, as if, like the foundational dynamics of the physiological immune system our psychological defenses must remember and organize against any future attacks — after all, the identity of the one who must forgive is actually founded on the very fact of having been wounded.

“Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to one who first delivered it. Forgiveness is a skill, a way of preserving clarity, sanity and generosity in an individual life, a beautiful way of shaping the mind to a future we want for ourselves; an admittance that if forgiveness comes through understanding, and if understanding is just a matter of time and application then we might as well begin forgiving right at the beginning of any drama rather than put ourselves through the full cycle of festering, incapacitation, reluctant healing and eventual blessing.

“To forgive is to put oneself in a larger gravitational field of experience than the one that first seemed to hurt us. We reimagine ourselves in the light of our maturity and we reimagine the past in the light of our new identity, we allow ourselves to be gifted by a story larger than the story that first hurt us and left us bereft.”

In other words, when we forgive, we become a bigger-and better-person.

“ Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4: 32) if we have trouble doing this, we can borrow Jesus’ words, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

One of the many evidences for the divinity of Christ is that when he forgave a man he was accused of blasphemy: Who can forgive sins but God alone? (Mark 2: 7) Bingo!

On YouTube there are lots of stories about “Near Death Experiences” (NDEs). People who have actually died—according to pulse rate and brainwave flat-lining—but whose spirits have survived such that they observe all the actions of those trying to save them, but then also go through a long tunnel, often a staircase, and experience incredible beauty. They then encounter a “being of light” –a mind, a person, of pure love, who gently has them look at their lives, the positive and negative impacts they’ve had on others.  This is not a wrenching judgmental experience—tho’ indeed some witness or experience “hell”—(apparently so sin-hardened they needed to be shocked) but an appraisal, so they can learn from it, when they go back into their bodies. (Which most are reluctant to do!)

When they return, they all report later that the fear of death is gone, and they live much more loving and creative lives.

They know they are forgiven, and they have become much more accepting and forgiving of others.

The Christian Gospel says You don’t need to go through physical death in order to learn to love and forgive—Identify with the One who did that for you already, and let Him live in you to help you to love and forgive—even yourself– and live a truly meaningful life, now!