Many times in the past I have heard the quote "Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
While I think it is a fantastic quote, I have often asked myself: Is that true? Do we really hurt ourselves when we decide not to forgive? If yes, why?
During my experience as Child Assist, every time I looked at a child who had been abused or neglected by an adult, a bunch of questions would pop into my mind:
1) Is this child ever going to be able to forgive this adult for the damage he has created in their lives? If yes, how?
2) Should we forgive those who perpetrated an unloving act towards us or it's ok to hold on to our anger?
3) Is forgiving equal to letting someone off the hook or it's an act of love towards others and oneself?
I'm sure many of those children will be asking themselves one of these questions at some point in their lives.
In the United States, at least 1 in 7 children experiences abuse or neglect. That's a scary high number, but what is even more alarming, in my opinion, is that those children will grow up to be the next generation of adults and their behavior and attitudes towards others will determine the type of society we will have in the future. So, as you can see, the way those children will answer the question of forgiveness is not only important for themselves, but is crucial to the future of the world we live in.
In my life, I have tried multiple times to answer these questions and, over the years, I have gone through different phases. From the "I will patiently wait for Karma to bite them back while wishing them the worst" to "I am not going to wait for Karma to kick in, I will Karma them myself" and, I have to say that, in either scenario I have been pretty miserable since the common denominator of those answers is anger and a desire for revenge and punishment.
As I've started to dig a little deeper into my spiritual journey, I have quickly found out that our universe is not only governed by physical laws (such as the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamic or aerodynamics, etc) but also by spiritual laws which are just as reliable and repeatable as the physical ones.
Some spiritual laws are more known than others, like for example the Law of Compensation (most commonly known as Karma), other are less known (for example the law of governance, the law of economy, the law of repentance, the law of attraction, etc).
The law of compensatiom is the one I would like to focus on right now.
There is so much to learn about this marvelous law but, in a nutshell, we can say that the law of compensation (as the name suggests) creates a compensation that can be rewarding or corrective, depending on the act (or the intention) that triggered it.
This means that, if someone intends to do good (or actually does something good) to someone else, they will be positively rewarded for their intention/act. That reward will come in many forms, and one of them could be happiness. By the same token, if someone intends to do evil, (or actually does something evil) to someone else, they will receive a corrective (not vindictive!) compensation. That correction will come in many forms, and one of them could be guilt, emptional pain or sadness.
So the principle of the law is simple: you reap what you sow, in the same measure and with the same intensity with which you have sown.
If we define Sin as "missing the mark of Love", the law of compensation can be seen as a feedback system that God put in place to help us understand when we are Loving versus when we are Sinning. The law is perfect in its working and it measures every act and intention with extreme accuracy.
The reason why I feel it's important to talk about the law of compensation, in the context of forgiveness, is that it allows us to understand that we have no part to play in the process of correction of other's sin. Our only role is to be responsible for our emotions and our actions and make sure that they are in line with Love. Everything else is taken care of by the law itself.
Now, I know that this statement might sound a little confronting for many, specially those who feel they have received a lot of unjustified hurt by others. Accepting that we have no part to play in the correction of a sin means that we shouldn't take a sin personally and that's surely not how we feel when someone is hurting us. Because we pay the direct consequences of someone else's unloving choices, we do feel like we should have a say about their lives and we feel we should somehow be involved in the process of their correction (or should I say punishment?) or, at least, we should get the "satisfaction" of seeing them suffering. What we are forgetting is that there is already a system in place that takes care of the correction of that sin and that our thirst for punishment is only driven by an unresolved feeling of anger.
It took me a while to emotionally absorbs the concept that God never aggregates, He always Individualizes*. In other words God holds us accountable for every choice we make and every emotion that we decide to hold on to, even when those choices or emotions are a consequence of a received injustice. There is no eye for an eye principle in God's eyes, (pun not intended), and whatever unloving action we decide to take calls up for a correction through the Law. That doesn't mean that God doesn't keep into account the influence of others' choices on us, but that doesn't justify choosing to act against Love.
Once we understand the principle behind the Law of compensation, it becomes very easy to understand that revenge, desire to punish or not wanting to forgive others is nothing but self inflicted pain.
When I broke up with my ex-husband, I had a lot of anger and grief related to how I was treated in the relationship. I felt hurt and there was no space in my heart for forgiveness. It felt dangerous and undeserved. It felt like opening the doors to further pain and mistreatment, but as I progressed in love and learned more about God's laws and God's ways, I understood that I didn't need to be defensive or scared and I allowed God to come closer and cure my wounds.
My heart went from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh and, in that process, I realized that forgiveness is indeed a beautiful gift. It not only allowed me to free myself from the walls I had built around myself, but it also allowed me to see with more clarity the hurt that I had myself caused to others while engaging in that senseless, rebellious fight. I was like a wounded animal raging in its pain, causing destruction to whatever crossed its path.
It wasn't easy to accept that I had done as much damage to my ex as he had done to me but, eventually, I went from swinging my sword of anger from left to right, to remove my armor and help him recover from the wounds that I had created in him. Forgiveness opened the door to Repentance.
My gift of forgiveness allowed him to find some space for self-reflection and me to find the humility to repent for what I had done wrong. At the same time, as he forgave me for my wrong doings, and repented for his owns, he granted me more space for self-reflection and, one day at the time, one choice at the time, one apology at the time, we have grown closer and closer. The circle of repentance & forgiveness has helped our relationship heal and blossom into what it is today. There is so much Grace into this process. It's a giving and receiving dance that creates more and more Love to those who engage it and which ultimately reveals the loving nature of God and His laws.
My journey with my ex has taught me, among other things, the importance of holding space for those who hurt us, when they show a desire to change. It showed me the importance of supporting and encouraging that change in them, because while it is true that their actions were driven by wrong believes and hurt us in the past, it is also true that their desire to change expresses a will to release those believes for better ones. Change is always possible, if we sincerely desire it, but is also much more difficult to implement if we are surrounded by people who want to keep us bound to our past.
If I could talk to any of those abused kids today, I would explain to them how I have tasted bitter poison in the past and how it has brought to me nothing but more bitterness and pain.
I would explain to them that their wounds are unfair and are a testimony of the ugliness of the world. But I would also explain to them that they have the option to choose beauty over ugliness, and that they have a choice to stop the loop of anger and pain that probably drove the actions of those who hurt them.
I would explain to them that dealing with their own emotions is the key to their freedom and that, as long as they have faith in the good, there is nothing they have to be afraid of, for God is Love.
I would teach them that what has been taken away from them will be replaced tenfold by God, if only they will let Him do so.
I would teach them that God cannot destroy what man has created, but also that God is always more merciful to us than we are to ourselves and, by the time our first cry escapes us, He has already heard us and sent a thousand hands outstretched to lift us up**.
And last but not the least, I would teach them that their Soul is a beautiful and delicate flower that some people will decide to crush at times, but also that Forgiveness is the fragrance that that flower sheds on the heel that has crushed it. (M. Twain).
* From the book "Through the mists" - Author: Robert James Lees
** From the book "The life Elysian" - Author: Robert James Lees
For an example of Forgiveness and Repentance in real life please watch:
For more info on God's Laws please watch (Video #20 for Law of Compensation):
For more info on Forgiveness & Repentance, Law of Compensation and Conscience please watch:
For an example of spiritual consequences of holding on to anger please watch: