Forgiveness—the royal way
"But I want to know how to forgive!"
The young woman sat in an office, talking with a Christian Science practitioner. She had been deeply hurt by an unkind act of others and was searching desperately for a way out of the terrible feelings of resentment and bitterness.
Every recent & archive issue
Podcasts & article audio
Mary Baker Eddy bios & audio
Every recent & archive issue
Podcasts & article audio
Mary Baker Eddy bios & audio
Some of her friends had told her that it would take years for her to become happy again. She knew that carrying around a grudge was a heavy burden, that self-pity and malice would only hurt her. As a new student of Christian Science, she came to the practitioner wanting not sympathy but freedom from the hatred.
The practitioner brought the answer home with a story: What if you were walking down the street one beautiful day, wearing a new dress and feeling as happy as could be. Then suddenly someone came up from behind and knocked you down flat. Your knees were bruised and scraped. Your dress was torn. Your hands were dirty. You were so angry that you swung around, ready to rebuke the culprit, and ... he was blind. What would you do? You would have compassion on him. You would no longer be angry. You would have compassion on him because he was blind.
A light dawned. The young woman understood that her offenders were figuratively blind. Had their eyes been opened to God as all-embracing, ever-present Love and man as His likeness, they would not have felt impelled to act in a hateful way. Of course she could have compassion! She could forgive them and, yes, genuinely love them.
All the hurt and hardness dropped like earth-weights, and the young woman left that office unburdened and joyful. She knew that Christian Science did indeed offer her the way of salvation, including freedom from past hurts. She was embarking upon this, to her, new way of loving, forgiving, and was gaining a new view of God. She began to deepen her study of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook.
Perhaps we too sometimes find ourselves in a situation that appears to take away our peaceableness, our joy, or to stifle our ability to love. Sometimes these experiences may seem to shatter our whole lives and cause us to question even the value of existence itself. For those looking for a way out of vengefulness and hatred, it is comforting to know that others have had similar challenges and have met them.
Throughout the Bible there are examples of men and woman who have found themselves faced with adversity in all types of situations, including discordant personal relationships. The remnant of the people of Jerusalem, after the time of the Babylonian exile, found themselves in a ruined city. They were oppressed by hostile neighbors, and their walls were broken down. What it took for them to regain freedom from oppression is what is required of us today. Led by spiritually-minded Nehemiah, they willingly devoted themselves to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. See Neh. 2:17, 18 .
If we lack harmony in our home, church, or work environment, if we desire freedom from the captivity of malice and ill will toward others, then we too need to devote ourselves to a spiritually mental rebuilding. With deep sincerity we need to strengthen, or fortify, our understanding of God.
How do we begin? One way is by asking ourselves if we truly understand the foundational Bible statement "God is love." I John 4:8. Do we understand the healing power behind this truth? The cause of all true being, action, and consciousness is divine Love. Because God, good, is the only power and Life, in reality there is no power opposed to divine Love and no being unlike Love. In Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook, Mrs. Eddy explains, "To infinite, ever-present Love, all is Love, and there is no error, no sin, sickness, nor death." Science and Health, p. 567.
From this reasoning it follows that infinite Love, Mind, the Maker of all, has created only loving identities—loving spiritual ideas. The highest idea that emanates from God, Love, is His beloved likeness, man. Think of this glorious fact! Man reflects the consciousness and knowing of Love. Man has the ability only to love, not to hate, for divine Love is his very source, and the substance of love is what he is made of.
Then, can hatred be a reality? Can it have any motive power, mind, or cause, any ability to perpetuate itself? Can hatred, expressed in anger, resentment, or criticism, really have a place in man's consciousness? No, it cannot. Hatred is not a reality and need not be feared. Christ Jesus said of the devil—that is, all error, or evil—"He is a liar, and the father of it." John 8:44.
Here is where our spiritual rebuilding occurs. As we begin to understand that our real identity is Love's idea, we begin to realize that hatred, in whatever form, actually has no place in us. We see that bitterness and spite need not govern our actions, thoughts, or words. Asserting in purer lives the spiritual fact that our consciousness is the expression of divine Love, our nature is that of pure loveliness, releases us from any supposed pull toward unkindness. Then not only do we know our own true makeup better; we understand better that everyone else is actually God's idea too and so just as lovely in nature as we are.
It is our God-given spiritual sense—that is, our innate ability to understand God—which enables us to accept and yield to the fact that discord and hostile actions are unknown to God. Love has never created anything but perfect harmony.
The supposititious pull away from spiritual sense—called personal sense, or material sense—would tempt mankind to commit and justify acts of revenge. Personal sense claims to be an evil reality. It cries: "Oh, yes, it did happen! He said this, and I said that. This is simply too much to forgive!" Anger, irritation, frustration, and unforgiving attitudes stem from this false, material sense of self. But listening to God and letting divine Mind build in our consciousness the true conception of ourselves as the emanation of Love free us from the entrapments of personal sense.
A while ago I glimpsed the workings of so-called personal sense and saw how it would hold us captive to hateful thoughts. A friend had hurt my feelings very deeply. I had tried to convince myself that this was really nothing to be upset about and that surely there were more important things in the world that needed my attention. But the more I tried to employ human reasoning and will, the more intense the hurt seemed.
As a student of Christian Science, I thought I had learned a lot about what it takes to forgive, but it was clear that something else needed to be perceived. I began to pray to understand that only personal sense would divide friendships and families, and that in divine reality there is no personal sense even to claim to separate man from the harmony of Love, God.
Seeking comfort, I went to the Sunday evening service of our branch Church of Christ, Scientist. As we prayed the Lord's Prayer, with its spiritual interpretation given in the Christian Science textbook, six words rang in my ears as though I had never heard them before. They were "And Love is reflected in love"—Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of the line "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Science and Health, p. 17; see Matt. 6:12. What did these words mean: "And Love is reflected in love"? I pondered them as they kept echoing in my thought.
Finally I realized that I was trying to forgive my friend while still retaining the sense that she had hurt me. Instead I needed to yield to the truth of the perfection of God and man, the truth that God is perpetually declaring to individual human consciousness through His Christ. It is the Christ, the true idea of God, the spiritual idea of sonship, that enables us to forgive freely. Christ shows us that there is in reality no hurt to forgive! When we learn this through the Christ, we find it as natural to express forgiveness as to express joy. Actually it is fun to forgive!
I felt a great release and realized the delight of forgiving. I was healed, and the friendship was quickly restored.
Such forgiveness through Christ dissolves the conflicts that so often result from a love of self, whether it be self-satisfaction, selfish desires, will, ego, or pride. This forgiveness halts destructive faultfinding and heals the malignancies of thought that often have their roots in hardness toward others.
How do we know if we have forgiven? We know by the peace we feel. And there is one last check for any hidden traces of resentment or unforgiveness. We can search deep into our hearts and ask ourselves, "Am I afraid that the same thing will happen again?" If we have truly forgiven, we will not be afraid. We will understand that both the offense and the hurt were only part of the dream of material personal sense. God has never created anything evil and never will.
Whether we have been offended individually, as a church, or as a country, we must forgive. What is required? Compassion and a spiritual rebuilding, in which we learn more about the nature of Love, God, and our real identity as Love's idea. We soon discover that forgiving is not a burden. It is a joy. True forgiveness is freedom. It is the royal way!