Forgive: The sense of “to give up desire or power to punish” (late Old English)
. -–Online Etymological Dictionary
Our species has a proclivity for revenge, for punishment. We tend to be concrete and literal: if I’m ok, then you do something and I experience pain, it makes sense to me to blame you and then believe you deserve to be punished. It seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this paradigm immediately disempowers me as I totally miss all the ways I was responsible for what occurred between us. My focus on you means I miss any information as to how I was actually 100% responsible for what I experienced in our exchange, and so what I might do to shift things in the future.
We follow the same process internally. It makes sense to most of us to blame and punish ourselves when we do something that goes awry or misses the mark of our intentions. Making a mistake generally leads to self-castigation and reprimand, with some belief that by punishing ourselves, we keep from repeating the error. Overall, there is a cultural supposition that punishment is a just and meaningful way to make us better humans, even though basic behavioral principles show that punishment is the least effective way to change our behavior. (Rewarding ourselves, especially intermittently, for the behaviors we want more of actually works the best.)
The Easter season is a time of celebrating the new level of consciousness that Jesus brought to the planet. Among the other remarkable aspects of Jesus’ life was how he embodied and taught the incredible power of forgiveness. His teachings fundamentally altered the eye-for-an-eye paradigm of the Old Testament, replacing it with the healing energies of love and compassion. As Adyashanti says in his wonderful book, Resurrecting Jesus, Jesus taught us to forgive our own unconsciousness:
When we lose consciousness of our deepest self, our deepest being as diving being itself, then in a sense we go unconscious. Part of us goes to sleep, you might say. Then, we are prone to illusion. We misunderstand things. We think if someone insults us, for example, that we need to respond with anger; we forget that they’re just expressing their own inner conflict, their own inner divisions, which is ultimately based on misunderstanding. The very root of sin…is something that can be forgiven. It’s forgivable because it’s an unconscious act, a result of being spiritually asleep. We can’t be blamed for being unconscious [or] for acting out our unconsciousness.
No matter what your spiritual beliefs, celebrate the new life that Easter represents by giving up the punishment habit and choosing forgiveness, for yourself, for those around you, and especially for those “others” whom it’s so tempting and easy to blame. Bless yourself for being the miracle that you are. Celebrate life as it appears in its infinite forms, human and not. Appreciate all of your great intentions to live a right life, while you try out the assumption that most of the rest of us are striving for the same. Nourish your spirit by choosing to fill your heart with the true healing and transformational power of love.