Read time: 10 minutes
To forgive is to set yourself free. It’s not just about dealing with the offense or the offender but also avoiding victimization and moving on through self-healing and empowerment.
In order to forgive, you must take the step toward realizing that we all make mistakes and we’re all operating with whatever we know at that given point in time. Mistakes are more than just an individual issue. It’s a collective one further complicated by a lot of variables from the many realities we find ourselves in. This is why psychologists generally believe in fostering an environment where people can not only make up for their mistakes but positively develop as well.
There is a perspective that nothing is unforgivable. Nothing is unforgivable in the sense that a person who has caused someone pain never had the knowledge to fully see through his or her actions. The person simply did not have the required awareness or consciousness at that time. Or the person’s neural network (or brain matter) did not have the required structure to enable the person to properly deal with others or the situation.
Awareness or consciousness is a factor. Only when an unhealthy person’s neural network is wired like that of a healthy person’s (rehabilitated or developed) is when you will at least see it fit to have a conversation with that person who wants to make up and take responsibility, maybe even reconcile if the circumstances allow it. The person can even become a completely different person from before.
The idea is that we all have the capacity or potential to improve our consciousness. Thus, forgiveness is always possible. As we always hear, you can always turn things around, which means you can also give that someone who has caused you pain a chance to prove him or herself when an opportunity presents itself.
We have no full control over who will be a healthy, self-aware individual compared to others. We have no full control over whether others grew up with messed up parents or in a toxic environment where they ended up learning unhealthy coping strategies that in turn hurt others.
We have no full control over what we won’t remember or forget in any given situation or what can lead to an accident or a tragedy.
And in circumstances where we feel we are right, we end up seeing later on that we were not right.
While we can control establishing boundaries, we won’t necessarily get to use it if we don’t have any idea of it in the first place. So even with that, we lack full control. In the process, we end up crossing other people’s boundaries too. This is one way of looking at the vicious cycle of pain and tragedy.
This is not to excuse or justify what the other person did. It’s about gaining a higher understanding of how things came to be and developing compassion and acceptance in the process. What we can do is foster awareness or consciousness to improve our human condition.
Consciousness is defined as the state or quality of awareness. Awareness is said to precede consciousness. The more you are aware, the more you can be conscious. If awareness is the knowledge of toy blocks, consciousness is putting them together to form a castle.
The way consciousness is currently defined together with awareness is likely to change. Consciousness is something we haven’t fully understood yet. We’re still searching for its definite physical location in our brain. Others go as far as to say that it’s a fundamental part of our universe. As if each individual is a neuron or anything that has the capacity to have some form of consciousness, then the universe could be seen as one giant brain and our brain cells are entangled with what is out there (i.e. cosmic consciousness).
The interesting thing with a lot of personality disorders is that they deal in big part with a fragmented and underdeveloped mind such that it loses its hold on reality, creating many gaps which cannot be bridged. Like a narcissist who can’t feel empathy because his mind doesn’t allow him to or a psychopath whose prefrontal cortex is underdeveloped, the neurons just don’t connect the way they should.
For a healthy consciousness to exist, it needs a medium or well-connected neurons to properly express and develop itself. The medium (our brain) where our consciousness resides is the one that sets the limitations combined with the effects of the environment.
That is something that is applicable to all of us. We have varying learning abilities as defined by how differently we are wired and brought up by our experiences and circumstances.
You can’t expect a psychopath to change or feel remorse. His brain structure doesn’t allow him to do so. In most cases, a psychopath grew up in an environment where his mental ability had been greatly impaired. To demand an apology from a psychopath or sociopath who doesn’t have a strong grasp of empathy would be futile.
The same can be applied to someone who has deeply hurt us on an emotional level to address their own emotional needs. No matter how much we think someone should have known better, it doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t. Ultimately, to forgive in order to set yourself free is a choice. It’s a choice to operate away from the position of being hurt.
For instance, if you’re dating an emotional vampire, no matter how much you wish for him or her to change or make it up to you they may never do so. The chances of their neural network fully developing may already be compromised or will take a long time. To demand that he or she change would be unrealistic. It’s best to understand the person’s limitations, forgive them, and set yourself free.
Relating consciousness to forgiveness helps set realistic expectations and gives you a chance to see the other person with compassion. And by setting realistic expectations and showing compassion, you help free yourself from the grip of pain you are feeling. In this manner, you can move on and make the best of your time.
2.) TIME VALUE OF LIFE
Imagine a planet somewhere with an advanced civilization whose beings have a lifespan of a thousand years. And in their civilization, when someone makes the offense of conspiring to blow up a planet the sentence is lifetime imprisonment, or even execution. However, this can be reduced to the equivalent of a year because they have advanced rehabilitative measures that improve not only the offender’s consciousness but the victim’s as well.
In our case, we tend to believe that time can heal all wounds, but what we’re really saying is that over time we expect our consciousness to improve. And we expect the offender to learn what accountability and taking responsibility is, which is a critical step to truly healing wounds. Forget the forgive and forget trap. Learning takes time, and time gives us insight into life development.
Time is a precious resource that we must make the best use of. Not even money can take it back. Of course, grief and venting are important processes to go through, but the problem begins when grief or venting becomes too debilitating. So debilitating, in fact, that living is no longer productive. At some point, you have to realize the value of your time more than your anger or pain. Again, no one is saying that the offender must not take responsibility and accountability. Or to excuse or justify their harmful actions. If he doesn’t or never will, what will you do? What if the person is dead? The idea here is finding forgiveness and healing and knowing you don’t necessarily need someone’s apology to move on. You alone, through the knowledge of consciousness and by grasping the value of your time, can be sufficient.
3.) CHAOS THEORY
Chaos Theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with disorder and chaos. The goal of the theory is to predict the randomness that happens in a perceived disorder. In other words, mathematical equations can be derived to predict weather patterns, where the pieces would go from a glass that shatters, how pigeons fly around the park to find food, etc.
The theory also discusses how a group of butterflies can cause a disturbance in the wind on one side of the globe, contributing to a hurricane on the other. Add to this the fact that people fart and animals poop, releasing methane gas, and the result is a warmer planet with chaotic winds.
The takeaway from this is that we’re all variables in the grand scheme of things. There are just too many things we can’t control. But what we can control is how we respond and move on from the pain that we experience in order to protect ourselves. For the purpose of protection and improvement, the caveat to forgiveness is not to forget but to instead learn.
4.) BEING AS DISTINCT FROM ACTIONS OR EMOTIONS
If there’s one thing we should be critical of it is how we are conditioned to think of actions or emotions as being. Being and actions are two different things. To forgive means being able to separate the actions from the doer. It also means for the victims to separate themselves from the hurt or emotional pain they’re experiencing.
For instance, narcissists can’t separate their actions from their beings. They think when they make a mistake it’s part of their being or it’s who they are, which makes it very difficult for them to admit to mistakes and makes them take things personally when given criticism. I tend to mention this a lot, and I couldn’t emphasize it any further: you can’t fix anything by not accepting your mistakes. But accepting your mistakes doesn’t mean you are a mistake. The irony is that this is something we can learn about narcissism. If we want to help reduce narcissism in our societies, we must recognize this distinction.
Religions, media, and other forms of institutional conditioning play a big role in this confusion, for they tend to tie our being and identity deeply to our actions. You know, concepts such as legality, evil, and sin. For instance, evil and sin are mainly debated subjects in the field of philosophy. When we know someone commits an evil or sinful act, we are conditioned to believe that the person should be condemned as if they are the devil incarnate. Or that their actions are intricately tied to their very being. Without knowing it, we are creating imaginary monsters and demons, or creating a culture of shame, instead of looking at a person as a being capable of improving their awareness.
Unless you went to a private Catholic school or studied philosophy, you may have never heard of metaphysics. Metaphysics involves iconic thinkers such as Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas and the concepts of substance and accidents.
Under metaphysics, substance is known as what is, accidents only exist as extensions or parts of a substance. Substance is that which primarily exists in and of itself.
Accidents are the extensions of the substance. In other words, under the concept of metaphysics, actions are merely accidents and not substance nor being.
Still with me so far? If not, here’s Doge to give you a break.
Now, another “accident” is emotion. There’s a form of counseling intervention called Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) where you free yourself from the emotions that are trapping you or that you haven’t been able to let go of, which cause pain to the body. Your emotions do not necessarily define you. Who you are is not your emotions or what has happened to you. It’s also the idea of disassociating ourselves from them.
Creating a distinction between actions and emotions is not so different than the concept of detachment in Zen Buddhism. It teaches us that instead of attaching or identifying ourselves to the things we feel or what has happened to us, we must try to be still and be an observer. In other words, we must be pure consciousness and condition ourselves to see that we’re separate from everything else, including our own minds.
Pain can cause you to let your mind control you instead of you having control over your mind. Disassociation from the mind, instead of being the mind, allows you to be more than your mind.
6.) MORALISTIC VS NON-MORALISTIC SOLUTIONS
It appears that punishing the hell out of each other every time a mistake is made is counterproductive. It’s the moralistic trap we find ourselves in, one that doesn’t provide more value to human life. Non-moralistic solutions seem to be more beneficial in the long run.
Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist and Harvard professor of psychology, makes the case that non-moralistic solutions are more beneficial than moralistic ones. He explains it best, so I’ll hand it over to him:
Forgiveness is also about you. You also have to forgive yourself for things that you have been unable to do or that you wish you could have done differently.
If you can’t forgive someone because you yourself have been on the receiving end of the lack of forgiveness, you can forgive yourself. We often believe that forgiveness is to be obtained from another person. But in reality, you can start forgiving yourself if you’re the offender. It does become the other person’s problem if he or she doesn’t want to forgive you after you have already taken responsibility and done everything you could to right your wrongs. Of course, don’t mistake this for an unhealthy indifference such that you don’t take responsibility for your actions. Instead of sulking or drowning in self-pity, the logical and positive thing to do is to learn from what happened and move on.
I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s so easy to forgive. I don’t claim to know everything, and I’ve been hurt many times as well. There are no guarantees in life. Tragedies happen, and bad things do happen to good people. It’s the acceptance of these things that helps us free ourselves.
At the end of the day, we’re all learning something new every day and it’s about what we can do that is more beneficial to us. This may sound like a diatribe on positivity, but with the many negativities we face we can help at least neutralize them by replacing them with positive actions such as forgiveness. Instead of dwelling on feeling hurt, which only produces more pain, the choice to take positive action is all yours—as is the choice to come to a point of healthy indifference where neither the offender nor the pain has any power or hold over you.