Can We Begin To Imagine A Politics Of Forgiveness?

Can We Begin To Imagine A Politics Of Forgiveness

We’ve had the politics of one-upmanship, deception, and belligerence for so long that we may assume this way of doing things is human nature. If we believe that we must fight against our own nature to change our politics, then peace, justice, and human equality become romantic ideals that can never be achieved—although they can still be used as excuses for more war and sacrifice.

The extent to which we think world peace is possible is precisely the extent to which we think our own minds can someday be peaceful through and through. If we cannot comprehend why wars are fought over territories, national pride, or religious beliefs, then we need look no further than our fight for a parking space, the struggle to succeed against our competitors, or the aggressive ministry to convert one more soul to our church.

But human nature encompasses more than our destructive habits; it also has within it the potential for surrender. If we think of surrender as raising the white flag before our enemies, nothing within us will change. The surrender that matters is giving up the belief that we have any enemies. It doesn’t matter whether humanity achieves that surrender tomorrow or a thousand years from now; simply remembering to make the attempt whenever possible is what will eventually undo the world as we know it.

How could our politics begin to express forgiveness?

Imagine politicians debating publicly in order to learn from each other and educate the public, striving to outdo each other only on the attempt to make sure all parties have been fairly heard. Imagine the media hesitating in its rush to judg­ment of people and events—hesitating in order to place their reporting in the context of the most profound questions of human consciousness and moral evolution. Imagine our country’s diplomatic envoys arguing for peace in international venues by admitting our warring history and tendencies first.

Are these radical departures from politics-as-usual really beyond human nature? Not if they are within our imagining—and if we can couple our imagination with an intense desire to end the human habit of alienation.

Forgiveness is one of the most undersold proposi­tions of all time

When you first begin to grasp the poten­tial of forgiveness, you will cheerfully trade all prior investments in aggression for the peace of its action.

Forgiveness blossoms at a certain moment in time, when you are ripe and ready to release some of the dead past. It is the intent to forgive that actually speeds up time, collapsing old schedules of suffering and bringing unimag­ined possibilities inestimably nearer.

Every act of forgiveness has the same nature but a unique expression. Your challenge is to create your particular style of forgiveness, then take it on the road.

Forgiveness will unite the consciousness of all humankind

Forgiveness unifies one’s own awareness and will unite the consciousness of all humankind, which has been so long shattered into opposing egos, cultures, religions, and ideolo­gies. Yet forgiveness also allows a creative diversity of ideas within one’s own mind and instills a passionate tolerance of others’ opinions and beliefs. Forgiveness will eventually preside over the raucous house of commons of the human soul, leading it with rigorous benevolence toward home.

Do not be misled

Do not be misled by the myriad political faces of simple, stupid hatred. Whites and blacks hating each other, Arabs and Jews hating each other, Christians and Muslims, leftists and rightwingers—there was never any reason nor dignity to any of it. Every chronic hatred began when someone attacked, someone suffered, and no one forgave. Then these insane examples were multiplied and unwisely taught down through the generations. But the cycle of ven­geance will never resolve itself. Someone has to step outside the cycle and courageously say, “I will take no pride in my tradition as long as it teaches martyrdom or revenge.”

Beware also of hating the man who hates. Remember that you are here to help him lift off his yoke, not to boast that you stagger under one of a nobler design.

I’ve always been amazed by the power of bigots or hatemongers to arouse within me precisely the kind of hatred I despise within them. This is their real (if sub­conscious) agenda—not to further their race, culture, or beliefs, but to clone their inward misery in the conscious­ness of others, and thus feel less alone. Ultimately this is a self-defeating strategy, but it gains a little credence every time the hater can inspire any kind of hatred within another person, regardless of whether it’s a hatred that supports or opposes his cause.

To understand the hater, I need look no further than my revulsion in his presence. And I have to look at this revulsion steadily, continuously, courageously—until I see exactly how my own loneliness has crafted such a fearsome mask. Then I am a step closer to understanding how bigotry might be undone.

Forgiveness is a curious paradox

Forgiveness is a curious paradox of accepting every­thing just as it is while working tirelessly for a complete upheaval in our behavior and consciousness. Some activists believe we must be constantly aggrieved to set right the injustices of the world—that good anger corrects bad anger. But an enlightened activism respectfully acknowl­edges all anger and sorrow while demonstrating the supe­rior strategy of mercy, pooling ever deeper within and rhythmically flowing without. The most effective and lasting actions arise from profound stillness and radical clarity.

Ultimately, forgiveness means letting go of this world, a darkened, fractured glass through which we see love only dimly. As our frightened grip on all that is temporary relaxes, we will increasingly find our authentic strength in that which is timeless, boundless, inexhaustible, and omni­present. Heaven is learned, not simply entered with reli­gion’s passport.

Forgiveness is not mere sympathy, nor condescension, nor forced generosity. It is the ultimate declaration of equality, founded on the recognition that all crimes are the same crime, every failing the human failing, and every insult a cry for help.

The only way to remain angry at someone is to refuse to look into what may have caused that person to perpet­uate a crime or injury. If you thoroughly investigate anyone’s motivations, you will eventually find the sense, however twisted, behind all destructive acts. It will boil down to one of two purposes: Either people think that causing others suffering will ease their own, or they believe that everyone deserves only suffering.

These mistaken beliefs drive the world as we know it, and I doubt that anyone is entirely free of them. When I recognize these errors in myself or someone who tempts my anger, I try to remember that I want to learn and teach something new. I can hardly judge or punish others for their mixed-up motivations before I have straightened out my own.

Copyright 2017 by D. Patrick Miller.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, 
Hampton Roads Publishing Co. 
Dist by Red Wheel Weiser, redwheelweiser.com

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The Forgiveness Book: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve
by D. Patrick Miller

The Forgiveness Book: Healing the Hurts We Don't Deserve by D. Patrick MillerForgiveness is the science of the heart; a discipline of discovering all the ways of being that will extend your love to the world and discarding all the ways that will not. This is a book about growing up, becoming whole, connecting to others, and becoming comfortable in one's own skin. It is inspirational, healing, and programmatic.

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About the Author

D. Patrick MillerD. Patrick Miller is the author of Understanding a Course in Miracles and The Way of Forgiveness. He is the leading historical chronicler of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) and a highly respected authority on its teachings. As a collaborator, ghostwriter, or principal editor, Patrick has helped other authors prepare manuscripts for such publishers as Viking, Doubleday, Warner, Crown, Simon & Schuster, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Hay House, Hampton Roads, and John Wiley & Sons. His poetry has been published in a number of magazines and several anthologies. He is the founder of Fearless Books.