Some people buy bus tickets for Tahiti. They want to get to paradise but aren’t willing to fly or sail to get there. They would rather stay on the ground that is familiar than risk leaving it to get to where they would rather be.
Spiritual journeys require us to fly, leaving the familiar ground of our past life. All the assurances that better things lie ahead if we are willing to let go of the past do not seem to matter.
Faith traditions often speak of the need to let go. Some talk about detachment from this world. In Christianity, with ideas of Law and Gospel, and a Final Judgment Day, we speak of forgiveness. We have this idea of perfection that must be maintained in order for us to arrive in paradise. Anything that mars that perfection will keep us from paradise. Of course, no life is perfect so we are all doomed to lose paradise. Without forgiveness we would never get there.
You would think that taking away legalistic standards of perfection, fear of Judgment Day and unrealistic holiness codes would do away with the need for forgiveness. It doesn’t.
We need to have some standards in social interactions. We have expectations of one another as part of our civilization. We cannot move forward as individuals or as a society if we cannot trust that people will act in certain helpful ways. The pain we experience from failed expectations or violations of acceptable standards of social conduct is very real.
Forgiveness does not do away with those standards and expectations upon which societies depend. It allows us to move forward. We cannot undo the past. We will always live with the consequences of our actions and the actions of others. We can keep past hurts and disappointments from controlling our present and future. Certainly, the past will influence our future, but our future is shaped by our free will.
When we hang on to bitterness we miss tasting the sweetness of life. We are letting a past hurt continue to spoil our ability to be happy. Forgiving someone who has hurt us in the past simply means we refuse to let them keep us tied to bitterness. We can choose to love. We can allow love to lift us up from the hard ground of bitterness, hatred and sorrow. Forgiving someone else may or may not change them, but it will change you. It will allow your heart to be lighter and your love to shine brighter. Your spirit will find its wings.