Monday, March 23, 2015

Forgiveness

Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt

    Quakers base our belief on the “Inner Light,” the spirit of God that exists in everyone, which allows us to discern how to approach daily living. We often use queries, or questions that we can reflect on, when trying to come to an understanding or decision about an action.
    Our Meeting poses queries each month, and this month we have been reflecting on queries related to forgiveness:
  • What does God's forgiveness mean to you?
  • Can you think of a incident where you couldn't forgive?
  • How can you be forgiving even when you aren't asked for forgiveness?
    When I begin searching for ideas on a topic, I like to use wisdom from the Bible and other sources to help lead me to my own conclusions.  Jesus talked a lot about forgiveness. The gospel of Matthew has him saying  “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.(6:14-15, NIV). Later in Matthew, he tells Peter not to forgive just 7 times, but 77 (18: 21-22). In Luke, he urges us “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (6:37 NIV). In his final hours, he asked God to forgive his executioners (Luke 23:33-34) His understanding of forgiveness led him to remind us all, if any of us is without sin, let him throw the first stone (John 8:7)
    From these verses, I think that Jesus wants us all to understand that we can hurt or be hurt by others, but in order to create a peaceful world within ourselves, forgiveness is  necessary.  It brings about that inner peace which will enable us to live more fully in the spirit of love that God wants for all of his creation.  Forgiveness rids one of anger, resentment, and disharmony and allows the person to rise above the hurt. Forgiveness is not for the other person, it is for yourself.
    George Fox taught that if one lives in the virtue and power of God, then one can come into a perfectly restored relationship with God. Therefore, we can live in a condition where the kingdom of God is already present. We will be able to “walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.” Many Friends believe that this is what God's plan for humankind really is.
The Buddhist writings I came across seem to approach forgiveness from the perspective of compassion for the pain of others. To have compassion for the person who has wronged us will enable us to rid ourselves of thoughts of hatred.  Compassion can rid us of  negative thoughts and stop us from shaping an identity around the pain.
    Another source of inspiration for me has been The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  He writes about agreements made with yourself that can transform your life into an experience of freedom, happiness and love. One of the four agreements is “don’t take it personally” when others do things you perceive as hurtful.  Their actions are about them, not you.  When you take it personally, you take on their emotional baggage and set yourself up for needless suffering. Not taking the words or actions of others personally will shield us from hurt by the words or actions of others and we will then be able to live in a state of bliss.
    With so much wisdom from so many sources about forgiveness, why does it seem to be so difficult for us? I think one reason is that we confuse forgiveness with justice.  We want perpetrators to apologize and show remorse,  We want them to suffer as we have suffered. Forgiveness does not imply that justice is served, it merely allows one to move forward in peace and harmony with the world. How much better our lives can be if we can let go of the negative emotions associated with not forgiving.
    For me, I believe that God wants his creation to be happy, and to bring happiness to others, even though we live in a world of imperfect people. I like one quote from a Friend that says “Forgiveness is the act of letting go of all hope for a better past.” It is up to each of us to make our own happiness, and it seems that forgiving others, or ourselves, is one of the choices that can help us create that world. 

Charleston Gazette: "Quakers' teachings emphasize peace, simplicity"

Here is a very nice article about Charleston Friends Meeting, from the Saturday Charleston Gazette.

Thank you Bill Lynch!


http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20150321/GZ05/150329964/1101

Susan J.