Recently, I wrote about forgiveness, and how important it was in my achieving a deeper understanding of meditation.

Forgiveness is an interesting topic, going back millenia. Sun Tzu wrote about it in the context of magnanimity: “Treat the captives well, and care for them. This is called “winning a battle and becoming stronger.”

One could also argue that all of Ancient Greek literature is a lesson on why forgiveness is so important.

In some readings, forgiveness was one of the virtues of Hinduism.

Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and many other religious and cultural traditions also have many things to say about the importance of forgiveness[1].

However, one could argue that forgiveness is most important and truly central to Christianity. The oft-cited Parable of the Prodigal Son speaks of the power of love to enable forgiveness (and also apparently of the importance of emotional conversation between parents and children, but I digress).

The reason I mention all of this is to give context for forgiveness. When I was growing up, it was a common concept[2], but I don’t really think I internalized it. It’s from my undergrad thesis adviser that I take my canonical example of forgiving the people working for you, and making a daily or weekly clean slate, so that you can do your best work[3].

I took this example with me, and I think helped a lot as I led teams in a variety of ways. But I had never really thought about forgiving myself.

I mentioned earlier that if you want to truly relax, to meditate, to be in your body, inside yourself, you need to have a safe space inside yourself.

But if you have not forgiven yourself, if you are constantly criticizing yourself on the inside, you do not have that safe space, and are prone to self-medicate in various ways[4]

I cannot tell you how to forgive yourself. The power of much of organized religion is that it promises to give you that forgiveness that you cannot achieve yourself.

But I can tell you something of why it is important, and how I got there. All of this arose when I was involved in a dispute. Emotions were running high, and it was distracting me from everything that I find important. Somewhere around then, G suggested that I forgive them. It’s similar to letting something go, to letting the emotions roll over you. This helped my isolate my emotions (my reaction) from what was happening outside me. I understood that I could not control what happened outside me, but I could control myself.

This helped a lot, but it was still predicated on controlling myself, not fully trusting my emotions. Still avoiding my inner thoughts because they were still not a safe space.

This last breakthrough came through a guided meditation, where I was already in a physical and mental safe space, where I was given the permission to forgive myself. I am not going to give you that permission, because I cannot. Only you can give yourself that permission. But know that you have the power to do so, somewhere inside yourself.

“Give a person forgiveness, and they will forever be asking you for such. Teach a person to forgive themself, and they shall become more serene than you can possibly imagine.”

[1]You could even argue that the Babylonian code of laws was an early attempt at forgiveness, where ‘eye for an eye’ was more forgiving than a centuries-long blood feud. Note that this link to an article on this topic is rather lurid and not for the squeamish: [link]

[2]I even went to church for a while when I was younger, and I always enjoyed the construction of the line ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

[3]I will likely write more about this. I think it’s super-important.

[4]Any distraction will do. Not sleeping, workoholism, Oblivion, and running are among the more socially acceptable ones.

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