On countless occasions, we have heard about the virtues of forgiveness. It is constantly stressed to us the importance of forgiving those who offend us. However, I think there is a very important aspect of forgiveness we constantly ignore: forgiveness has two faces. Yes, because the true act of forgiveness requires, not only forgiving that whom I point at with my index finger as my transgressor, but also that whom I point at with the other three fingers.
In our obsession to see ourselves as victims of circumstances, we forget that in every situation, we have a choice, and thus, a responsibility. We are the architects, the creators of our circumstances, including those in which we have felt offended by someone. In fact, to a large degree, the “offense” takes place when the person who “offends” us does not comply with our expectations of them. Then, doesn’t the “offense” arise from ourselves, from our tendency to give to others expecting something in return, or from our obsession to fit everyone onto our version of the world?
Forgiveness is one of the pillars of unconditional love. It is impossible to love unconditionally and not forgive. But equally, it is impossible to forgive others without forgiving ourselves first. There lies the difference between real forgiveness and forgiveness that arises from ego, and which provides us with a false tranquility because we assume having done what is right by forgiving the other. However, such tranquility is fleeting, and sooner or later, resentments resurge, because we never forgave the other main character in the story: ourselves. Remember as long as we blame others for what happens to us; we yield our power. Once we acknowledge our responsibility within the offense, we get back our power, and we can invest it towards our spiritual growth.
I invite you to reflect upon all those situations in your life in which you felt offended by others, even those instances in which you think you already forgave. Observe your true feelings, analyze the facts, not with your mind, but with your heart. I assure you will be able to identify situations in which, up to now, you had not been honest with yourself, and you had yielded your power, by denying your part of the responsibility. Those are the emotions which hold us back and do not allow us to progress on our spiritual path. Work on them. Forgive yourself, reclaim your power, and above all, love yourself just the way you are. Remember that, in the words of Lewis B. Smedes, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”