I recently saw the following post of Facebook. Although many people were "liking" it, I must say I walked around with the mental equivalent of itchy poison ivy after reading it. Here is the original post-picture:
Finally, after floating on my back in a lovely warm lake and staring up into a vast, slightly overcast sky, I formulated this response:
"This, in my opinion, is the "immature" kind of forgiveness--which it at least admits. It's more like dusting off your feet and moving on. True forgiveness, to me, means you stand in the other persons's shoes and realize you can be just as messed up and mean spirited and socially inept as the one who caused you pain. (Read Thich Nhat Hahn's "Call Me by my True Names to get a real gut-level taste of this "take" on mature forgiveness.) Maturity requires you to clean the slate and open yourself to true transformation--to being able to be a spiritual warrior, take down the barricades around your heart and believe even in the people who have hurt you. It doesn't mean be a trusting idiot or avoid holding folks accountable for their actions, but it does mean that offering forgiveness to another should not be used like a weapon (like when some folks say "I'll pray for you".) True forgiveness requires of us to be open to the possibility of reconciliation."
I think true forgiveness requires a level of courage, self-knowledge and belief in the basic goodness of people that is a very rare commodity in humans today. I know often when I think I have forgiven someone, a low-level guarded feeling can sometimes arise. I try to turn toward that, to feel it deeply and name it for what it is: fear. It reminds me I have to forgive again and again, acknowledging that this is a spiritual practice and allowing the messiness of it all to guide me to a new depth of compassion for myself and my own emotions. In a sense, such repetition in honestly seeing my own "failure" to truly forgive and yet staying open to the possibility of such a transformation is what makes forgiveness of another an equal possibility.
Jesus wasn't kidding when he counseled us to "forgive 70x7." It's not something you do once and move on; it's a practice unto itself.