'I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving'
Today I listened to the words of this well known song from the musical Les Miserables and I was particularly struck by the line ‘I dreamed that God would be forgiving’.
The word forgiving is a word that I suspect, is often misused. It is such an everyday word that perhaps it is used without a lot of thought as to what it really means. If we look closely at the word though we see that we can split it into its two component parts to get two separate words - for and giving.
SO, looking at the lines of the song, I find myself asking if God is FOR GIVING then just exactly what is it that He gives? The answer to this will probably vary considerably depending on your perception (if you have one!) of who or what God is. If like me you see God as the Source or Creator of Life the answer to the question is relatively easy – GOD GIVES LIFE!
If we take time to stop and think about this then perhaps we may reach the conclusion that there is no better gift than this.
What a fantastic gift and it is given freely to all of us whether we think we deserve it or not. We all know the old saying that rain falls on both the righteous and the not so righteous and that is because God makes no distinction about who or what is eligible to receive His gift. In other words His gift is given unconditionally. Every one of us who is alive today is a recipient of this gift and just as when we receive gifts from friends and family we are free to do with this gift whatever we choose.
This is all good news for a girl like me who was raised in a religion that more often than not saw God as someone who demanded something from me in return for His favours.
Seeing God in the light of a being who is FOR GIVING helps me greatly in my understanding of the word forgiveness. I was taught as a child that I should forgive others but it has taken me well into my adult life to even begin to comprehend what that word means.
So what does it mean to forgive someone?
Well I believe that when we forgive someone we are GIVING ourselves the GIFT of LIFE. Forgiving someone is a skill we can develop that helps us to live life in a way that is supportive of health and wellness. This is because when we engage in the act of forgiveness what we are doing is helping ourselves to live WITHOUT judgement, hatred, resentment, bitterness or the unresolved anger and tension that comes from seeking revenge and needing to see justice done. When we act forgivingly we are freeing ourselves of these life draining energies that have the potential to cause stress and harm to our health.
Often when we talk about forgiveness the focus is put on the person that has ‘wronged’ us in some way. We can become obsessed with their behaviour but when viewed in the light of a gift to ourselves we free ourselves from the need to control the outcome of the process. Furthermore, in keeping with the unconditional aspect of FORGIVING, the ‘offender’ is also set free.
This is not to say that when we forgive someone we are opting to tolerate behaviour that we find unacceptable or that we pretend that such behaviour doesn’t matter. Nor does it mean that we have no desire for that person to change! Rather it means that we choose not to spend our time and energy focusing on the desire for that change.
We shift our focus away from them to ourselves and free ourselves up from the need to do something about it. Instead of harbouring negative emotions we can use our energies in a positive way to create the kind of life that we want to live. We might still have to deal with the unwanted consequences of someone else behaviour BUT we will be able to do this far more effectively if our energies are focused in a positive way than if they are negative and scattered in all directions.
Ultimately we have little control over the actions of others only of our own behaviours and choices. Forgiveness is an act of KINDNESS to ourselves. Being for the GIVING of LIFE helps us to experience more joy, peace, love and friendship in our lives and the energy of these life enhancing qualities will radiate outwards and surely have a greater impact for good in the world than the negative energies we have decided to let go of?
CHRISTMAS is upon us. It is the season of goodwill. Perhaps it is time to search our hearts to see if we could benefit from a little GIFT unto ourselves?
The opinions I express here are my own. However I offer them with the word 'syat' next to them. 'Syat' is a word used by the Jain Tribe in India which means 'To the best of my knowledge SO FAR.' In the spirit of openness I invite comments from anyone whether you agree with my point of view or not. In this way we can all learn and grow together. Thank you.