A few years ago, I wrote out a list principles that I try to live by. One of them is to forgive without condition. I came to this understanding over a long period of time. And looking back, I realise that I had to go through a number of steps to get here.
Step one was making the decision to forgive the people in my life who had “wronged” me. At this stage, I still had caveats. I forgave my “wrongdoers” but I was very clear that these people had “wronged” me and I still wanted them to pay, just a little bit. So I reminded them exactly how they had wronged me every now and again. I told myself that I needed an apology or at least an acknowledgement of wrongdoing for true emancipation from blame.
Three things happened that changed my mind.
The first was a teaching I heard by Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön called The Propensity To Be Bothered.
Pema said that, usually, we blame someone else for our pain. Something or someone makes us angry or hurts us. We say, “Poor me,” or “Bad Mary.” At step one on my forgiveness journey, I was still blaming my “wrongdoers” even though I told myself I had forgiven them. Pema said that there is some pre-existing tendency within us that causes us to suffer. I thought back to boyfriends who had treated me badly in the past. Was it possible that there was something within me that made me attracted to these guys? Was the cause of my suffering inside me and they were just the trigger? Why didn’t I just leave? I wasn’t being held in these relationships under duress.
Pema went on to say that it feels like blaming would diminish our suffering but in fact it does the opposite. It fans the embers.
The second was a quote I read by Maya Angelou: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
This quote chimes very well with my experience of life. I only have to look back at my own past behaviour to see that I was doing the best that I could at times when that wasn’t great for me or for the people around me. Now, as an evolved human, I try to do better. Would it not follow that the people who have wronged me in the past were just doing what they knew how to do? Wouldn’t I want somebody to give me a second chance and not put boundaries up to prevent me from making amends?