The Power of Forgiveness


Beyond Forgiveness

After an adulthood estranged from my father, and by my father from my whole family; and hounded in court by my estranged, divorced wife, I struggled with efforts at reconciliation and forgiveness. Try as I may, they refused all attempts at conversation and forgiveness. My father told me there was nothing to talk about and no need for reconciliation. He preferred denial. My ex-wife told me as far as she was concerned, I didn't even exist - which is the way she behaved when we were at family functions.

Since I had a deeply ingrained need for approval and acceptance, this situation gnawed at me and prevented any sense of peace and well-being. Just "forgiving them" didn't seem to cut it, as the mutual hostility and estrangement persisted.

At last, my zen attorney handed me a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called, "Being Peace." Through his teachings, I found a new path to lessening this suffering. The most important insight I learned was that if someone is making you suffer, there is one thing you know for sure - they are suffering! I found that if I work on understanding their suffering, two things happen.

First, it takes me out of focusing on my suffering, wallowing in sadness and self-pity. Secondly, if I look deeply, I come to understand their suffering, and this inevitably leads to compassion. It is a short step from compassion to love, which is always still present to some degree in such relationships as father/son, husband/wife.

What I discovered was that when I reached this state, the issue of forgiveness was moot. It wasn't about forgiving them anymore, as now I was aware that they were suffering, and all I wanted to do was behave in a way that would not add to their suffering. And already, my own suffering was lessened, as I was filled with compassion instead of pain and anger and hostility.

Being peace works! It's a daily effort, daily work - but it works - beyond forgiveness.