Finding Religion to Forgive
A recent comment to the blog Refusing to Forgive: 9 Steps to Break Free said:
I really enjoyed this article but I could not help wondering why in my opinion, God was not mentioned? I feel that it is truly helpful to recognize that our sins are forgiven on a daily basis. This allows humility and reality to help ease the blow. ~ Jenny Wood
First let me say that as a reader of this blog you may have a deep understanding or a particular spiritual or religious tradition and I’m hoping you will interact in the comments below to expound on this important topic of religion, spirituality, and forgiveness. Across the board, religious and spiritual traditions support the practice of forgiveness. If you are find meaning in a specific spiritual tradition it can be a great strength to use the processes set forth in that tradition to go about forgiveness. It’s important to note that while most, if not all, spiritual traditions promote forgiveness; they go about it in different ways. This may be a great opportunity for you to become more intimate with the process of forgiveness in your own tradition. If you are a believer in a higher power, how can you draw on the strength of this power to support you in forgiveness so you can let go of the suffering you are feeling.
The bible begins with sin and forgiveness as Adam and Eve are expelled from the garden and then forgiven by God. Therese Borchard, author and blog writer, writes about how her faith in Christianity supported her in the act of forgiveness. In Matthew 21, Jesus declares that those who, “sin boldly” and then repent, will enter the kingdom before those who think they’ve got it all together. Millions of people can benefit from these beliefs. In the Jewish tradition, there is a mandate to take action to seek forgiveness from those who you wronged. It’s built into the yearly calendar. In between the two holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, you are to spend time going to the person you have transgressed and asking for forgiveness. In Islam, the Quran says “…if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented and amended (your conduct), lo! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” The Buddhist tradition is very clear that when we find it in our hearts to forgive, we cultivate more compassion in the world. This belief is something greater than ourselves can allow for great humility.
On the other hand, we are all human and interpret our various religious and spiritual traditions differently. Some of us believe that our God is the only God and his will must be realized. Therefore other traditions that are not in line with this “Divine Will” must pay the price in the name of this God. This makes it very difficult to forgive. Others believe in a vengeful and fear-laden God and while there may be forgiveness somewhere there, there is the idea that we are going to pay for our sins by going to hell. This can instill great fear while living on this planet earth.
When we look at the psychology of spiritual and religious traditions, they all suggest methods to deal with our own guilt and the process toward forgiveness. If you have this strong belief, this can be quite a strength. If you don’t have a belief in God or a higher power, it is unlikely this will serve you. Forgiveness can be very difficult when the transgression is intense and sometimes we need the support of something greater than ourselves. Mindfulness teacher, Jack Kornfield, once gave a suggestion to create an alter with pictures and symbols of all the many spiritual figures from Jesus, to Jewish prophets, to Buddha, to Allah, and others to gather the strength of all of them. In other words, to have them backing you. Some might say, “It couldn’t hurt.”
If you have strong feelings about how your faith or spiritual tradition has helped you in the face of forgiveness or you struggle with it, please interact in the comments below. Nobody has THE ANSWER, but community is where we can find the greatest wisdom and support.
Goldstein, E. (2009). Finding Religion to Forgive. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 12, 2016, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/04/finding-religion-to-forgive/