Day 8: Thoughts on deciding to forgive...

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Monica Ash
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Day 8: Thoughts on deciding to forgive...

I'm kind of out of synch on doing things but I was reading the reflection for Day 8 on deciding to forgive and there was a discussion on that idea last night on the conference.  I apologize as I don't remember who made the comment, but it was about how one "shifted" inside when they made the conscious "decision" to forgive.  I thought that was really interesting and I was reflecting on that last night and this morning.  I'm trying to wrap my head around it because I don't think "deciding to forgive" makes us forgive.  I think forgiveness is a complicated equation with many factors.  I think you can consciously decide that you are going to continue a relationship with this person.  That is a willful act.  But it doesn't flip the "forgiveness switch."  I think about times I've genuinely accepted someone's apology but I still felt "funny" with that person in my gut.  I still felt hurt and angry even though I decided to continue the friendship.  But things felt different; things were different.  I truly believe "Time" is a critical component in forgiveness.  One needs time to process things.  Time for the emotions to fall to a lower level and time for things not to feel so raw and for the hurt to subside.  The old saying, "give things time to let the dust settle," I think is true.  I think with time the high emotions fall and eventually you can stand on them and use them as part of a foundation to rebuilt that relationship into a new relationship.  So making the decision to forgive, I think, is the first step--it gives us permission to forgive, permission to be vulnerable and open again, but there is a lot of work after that point because the "forgiveness" doesn't come instantly.  Just some thoughts rattling around in my head.

jah400
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I was a little confused by

I was a little confused by the discussion last night on "deciding to forgive" and the Rabbi's statements during the first call that forgiveness is not a willful act, and that it is more about a state of being.  To me those definitions sound like opposites.  Can anyone explain?  I am also thinking about forgiveness vs. trust.  I can forgive someone, or be in a state of forgiveness, yet I do not trust them and their intentions and as a result I do not hold them as close as I would have before the incident that hurt me.  Would love to hear other perspectives and viewpoints.  

joyfulfire
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trust

Yes, I really wonder about that too.  I have been thinking about how I often link love and forgiveness with expectations. I think a part of this is the right action - we forgive and then we make choices about what to do next?  So trust is a separate thing than forgiveness?  I don't know.  

Rabbi Rami
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Trust & Forgiveness

I think trust is different from forgiveness. And this notion of "deciding to forgive" is troubling, especially if I said it. There is a difference between deciding and doing. Deciding may be more of setting an intention, and as most of us probably know intending to do something and doing it are not one and the same. 

I love the linking of forgiveness, love, and expectations; not that I think it is a good idea, but it is a common experience. What does it mean when we link love with expectations? What does it say about love?

Monica Ash
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Forgiveness & free will

This is how I understand it (and I am not an expert by any means.)  "Deciding to forgive" is a willful act but it isn't exactly forgiveness.  The actual "forgiving" or "state of forgiveness" cannot be willful, it just happens spontaneously when you approach the situation with deep humility and compassion--you "become" forgiveness.  That's why you can "decide to forgive" a person but still feel hurt and angry and mistrustful and resentful deep inside.  The old saying goes, "I can forgive but not forget."  If one can't forget the anger and betrayal, then one hasn't truly forgiven.  So, I think, maybe that is what is meant that we don't have the free will to forgive, that forgiveness just happens.  Our brain can decide to forgive, but our heart has to become forgiveness.

 
Or I could be completely wrong!  ;)

 

Rabbi Rami
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Does Forgiveness = Trust?

I'm glad you brought up the notion of trust. Forgiveness does not equal trust. I can forgive someone for abusing me (hypothetically speaking), but it would be a great mistake to trust the person not to abuse me in the future. Forgiveness in the case of abuse only frees us to move on, but I would counsel that we move on without the abuser. 

As for deciding to forgive... If I said that, I was not paying enough attention to my choice of words. I don't believe we can will ourselves to forgive. What we can do is awaken to the reality in which we all live, attest to the conditioning that each of us suffers under, and move on. This awakening, however, does allow us to forgive, but it is an act of grace rather than will. Forgiveness arises from wisdom not will. You can attend to reality and see what is clearly, and when you do right action is axiomatic. This is what Krishnamurti calls "choiceless awareness." 

Rabbi Rami
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deciding to forgive

I too doubt that forgiveness is a decision. That reduces it to a matter of will, and, as we have been discussing, I'm not sure free will is all that real. Forgiveness happens when we move from avidya, ignorance to vidya, knowledge. This is the practice of jnana yoga: seeing what is true and having that seeing transform our behavior in accordance with the true. Time may or may not be a factor. Wisdom always is. Of course, this is my bias: I think that seeing we are all trapped (as Randy puts it) allows us to have compassion on ourselves and others, and thus to move on a bit wiser, which means move on with a bit more compassion and justice. The notion of making a decision is also crucial to 12 Steps though I offer a very different understanding of this in my book Recovery: Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice.

Rabbi Rami
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Forgive = Forget?

Monica raises an interesting point, "If one can't forget the anger and betrayal, then one hasn't truly forgiven." This seems to equate forgiveness with forgetting, and I am sure about that. Assuming the anger is mine,and the betrayal belongs to the person I am forgiving, I don't want to forget the anger because I want to remember my capacity for anger and the negative actions that often flow from my anger, and I don't want to forget the betrayal because I don't want to once again put myself in the position to be betrayed by the person who betrayed me. Memory isn’t my enemy here.

Monica Ash
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Forgiving=Forgetting?

I think we humans have the tendency to review the situation over and over in our brain--obsessing on it.  Each time we do that the emotions feel new and raw.  It's like picking a scab.  I read an article once that we can reinforce our memories by periodically reviewing them in our mind--it keeps them sharp and crisp because it "refreshes" the pathway.  Things we don't review get dull and faded.  In my opinion (that and $1 will get you a coffee at McDonald's) we have to let go of reviewing the emotions (anger.)  I can't have that hanging around my neck like a millstone--I mean--if you wish to continue a relationship with this person.  If it's a peripheral person in one's life, it probably doesn't matter, but if it's someone you have to deal with on a frequent basis having those feelings hang between you, I can't see as good.  I don't think we should forget the situation--we don't want to be naive again, but if there is still raw, unresolved feelings there--the wound isn't healed.  Isn't part of forgiving moving passed it?  Forgetting doesn't mean pretending that it didn't happen, it means letting go and moving on.  But then, don't go by me, my friends say I'm a pansy and forgive everything.  Doing the resentment journal the other day showed me that I let most things go for the sake of peace.  Though I'm not a doormat, I sort of live by the adage, would I rather be right or happy?  I found out that knowing I'm right, even if the other person doesn't accept it, is enough!  Narcissistic epiphany!  LOL! 

jah400
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I think forgiving and

I think forgiving and forgetting are two different things, and I'm not sure we can biologically forget something that caused such pain.  Aren't there new neuron paths that are laid down in the brain?  I can remember something someone did/said to me 20 years ago that hurt me deeply and my automatic response now is just an observation or remembrance or at worst, an eye roll.  It doesn't hurt or cause a kicked-in-the-stomach reaaction anymore.  When I see the person who did this I remember it a as passing incident, like a piece of data as part of my entire history with her/him that doesn't weigh any more or less than any other piece of data.  Then I can say hello or whatever and get on with it.  

bud755
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deciding to forgive

Some people that I thought/hoped were friends demonstrated that they only care about themselves. I was resentful and angry about what they did -- and continue to do, which is attempt to take something that I value, worked hard to obtain, and invested a lot of money in -- because that's not how I believe friends treat one another. The decision to forgive them occurred concurrently with the realization that these people are not, in fact, my friends. I certainly don't trust them now.

The question of whether they are the cause of my pain or just the trigger that activated an existing pain bears some additional introspection. I was very attached to the thing they are trying to take and my own plans for it, and am now much less so; perhaps they did me a favor by shaking me loose from a near obsession, and the delusion that I can completely control what happens. So the shift can come from a change of perspective, a re-framing, letting go of certain desires/expectations, and asking how all that actually benefits me as a spiritual person.

 

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