The conventional understanding of forgiveness is of some absolution or pardon–something along the lines, “I know you did wrong, but I’ll overlook it this time.” But the original meaning of forgiveness is very different. The ancient Greek word for “forgiveness”, is aphesis, meaning “to let go.” When we forgive another we let go of the judgments we may have projected onto them. We release them from all our interpretations and evaluations, all our thoughts of right or wrong, of friend or foe.
Instead we see that here is another human being caught up in their own illusions about themselves and the world around them. Like us, they feel the need for security, control, recognition, approval, or stimulus. They too probably feel threatened by people and things that prevent them finding fulfillment. And, like us, they sometimes make mistakes. Yet, behind all these errors, there is another child of God simply looking for peace of mind.
Even those we regard as evil are seeking the same goal. It is just that for one reason or another–who knows what pain they may have endured in their childhood, or what beliefs they may have adopted–they seek their own fulfillment in ways that are uncaring, and perhaps even cruel. Deep inside, however, they are another spark of the divine light struggling to find some salvation in this world.
Forgiveness is not something we do for the other person so much as something we do for ourselves. When we let go of our judgments of others, we let go of the source of much of our anger and many of our grievances. Our bad feelings may seem justified at the time, but they don’t serve us–in fact, they usually cause more damage to us than they do to the other person. The freer we are of our judgments and grievances, the more at peace we can be in ourselves.
|There is nothing more painful than walking around with bitterness in your heart.
– Hugh Prather
This change in perception is the essence of a change of consciousness. When I first heard of higher states of consciousness, I imagined they would bring awareness of subtler dimensions, possibly new energies, or some other aspect of reality that was beyond my everyday perception. Over the years, I have gradually realized that enlightenment is seeing the same world, but in a different light. It is not seeing different things so much as seeing things differently.