Question: In the application of forgiveness between one human and another, it appears difficult to keep it from becoming forbearance, or the condoning of the offense or weakness of another, or a cloak of humility -- as for instance in family life where one member, from a sense of duty or habit, allows himself to be imposed upon to an extreme degree, thinking that this is a part of the act of forgiveness. Often the result is a lowered morality of all parties. How can this be avoided?
But this is not forgiveness at all. It is merely being weak. You do not forgive a man if you allow him to impose upon you. You become a party to the same moral crime, and you are thereby helping him on the downward path. This does not mean that you should be cruel in resentment, or that you should hate -- not at all. It merely means: do not permit wrong to be done to anyone else, nor to yourself, and prevent it, if necessary, with violence -- not physical violence, but that violence which taketh the portal of Heaven by storm. It is the violence of a loving heart.
Love is a mighty force. There is no heart so stony, so adamantine, that it will not give way ultimately under the influence of a steady flowing love directed by a wise intelligence. For love steals into the heart and mind and works magic there. I had liefer suffer a thousand things than give another pain; but it would be wrong in me to permit -- tacitly, quietly, from a mistaken sense of duty -- another to do wrong if I could prevent it.
Forgiveness is something else than what the questioner supposes. You have been wronged, let us say. Which of twain will ye do: nourish resentment, cultivate hatred, abide the time when you may pay back in the same coin, thereby increasing the trouble and heart-agony of the world by double; or will you say, "No, come to me. I myself have laid the way open for this, for I myself in the past have brought this pain upon me. I will forgive. Unhappy man who harms me! I will forgive him."
The idea I have in mind is true forgiveness, but it does not mean the allowing of a wrong to be done, either upon yourself or upon others. That should be stopped, for if you permit it, then there are two wrongdoers: the wrongdoer and you. You become accomplices and conspirators in evildoing. Check it with your own example; check it with your forgiveness; check it with your love; check it by refusing to be a participant. Set an example!
Those who think that the rule won't work little know human beings. Never mind the "get-rich-quick" spirit -- supposing that you can change a man's heart overnight! That is a totally wrong idea, and it is a foregone conclusion that if you have it, you will fail. My idea is to forgive; to love. Both are manly efforts. Both are high-spirited and require strength of character, real discrimination and intellectual power.
Learn to love -- but not sentimentally. Let your heart expand with the feeling of your common humanity, and you will very soon understand the message of all the great seers and sages of the ages, such as that of Jesus, as he expressed it, addressing not an outer god but his own inner spiritual being: Father -- his own inner self -- forgive them; they know not what they do!
The evildoer does not know what he is doing. He is blind. He is weak. Therefore see and be strong. Learn the mighty, the magical, power of love and of a forgiving heart. It is your duty and joy as human beings to do this. Forgiveness is the refusing to bear resentment, to nourish a grudge, to cultivate hatred; and forgiveness means also to clean your own heart of these vile and degrading impulses. Be strong. If anyone thinks it is an easy task, then go to it -- you will have your hands full. But the rewards for doing it are wondrous beyond human speech to tell; for, among other things, you will gain peace, you will have happiness, you will have the sense of duty well done; and last but not least, you gain incomparably in self-respect. Your heart fills with the glory of almighty love, and thereby you become truly human!
(From Sunrise magazine, December 1999/January 2000; copyright © 1999 Theosophical University Press)