I was reflecting recently on my dog Ringo, who died after being hit by a car. I was fifteen. As I ran to his side, he acknowledged my presence with one last wag of his tail. I was devastated. I blamed myself for his death. I also blamed my mom, who was at work. I believed that, if she'd been home, this never would have happened. I thought Ringo shouldn't have died when he did.
Truth be told, I don't know why I'm here or what circumstances will best support my learning. And, if I don't know this about myself, I'm certainly not in a position to judge. It’s precisely because we don't know that it’s impossible to judge. I know many people (myself included) whose greatest spiritual growth was the result of a deeply challenging event. I learned the healing nature of forgiveness, for example, as a result of being raped. Would I wish the event on someone? Absolutely not. Would I wish them the spiritual growth that resulted from the event? Absolutely. Spiritual growth results in greater acceptance, increased peace and joy, deep compassion, profound gratitude, and expanded access to innate wisdom.
This is important, so follow my drift: If we're not in a position to judge anyone, then we never have to forgive anyone for anything because they didn't do anything wrong. Said another way, "wrong" doesn't exist in actuality; it exists conceptually. If we don't know what anyone is here to learn, or what circumstances will best serve that person, then my judgment—however "right" I may think it is—is ill-founded and has no basis in truth. Take a moment to let that sink in because it’s an extraordinary concept.
You don’t have to forgive your spouse, your child, your parent, your relative or your friend because they didn't do anything wrong. When we think we know more than we do and we impose judgment on another, it feeds the ego, or the “small” self. The moment we enter into judgment, we’ve entered into duality, creating painful feelings of separation and suffering for ourselves. It's not the events in our lives that are the source of suffering; it's the judgments we impose on those events. If we judge an event as "bad," then we, too, feel bad. If we judge that something "shouldn't" have happened, then we're going to be in a losing battle with reality because whatever we think "shouldn't" have happened, already did. We can be right or we can be at peace.
Have you ever noticed that making someone wrong disrupts inner peace? That’s because, as you separate yourself from someone through judgment, you’re disrupting your connection to your authentic nature, which is loving, accepting, kind, peaceful, generous, and compassionate. I call this the Authentic Self, a state of consciousness beyond ego, personality, and duality . . . it's our true nature. And our true nature does not have the capacity to judge.
Judgment is always at the root of inner disturbance. When our ideals are violated, for example, what’s violated is the way we think things should be, which is usually the way we were brought up to think is the right way. That’s not to condone bad behavior, nor does it imply being a doormat. it’s simply to say that, identifying the judgment and letting it go allows us to grow spiritually.
When I take one hundred percent responsibility for any disturbance going on within—without blaming it on anyone or anything outside—then the only person I ever have to forgive is myself—for any judgment I’ve imposed. It’s always about self-forgiveness because I'm the one who imposed the judgment in the first place, innocently believing I knew more than I did.
Love is always available and always flowing. The question is, are we allowing it or blocking it? We block the flow of love and create unnecessary suffering when we judge. Self-forgiveness allows us to compassionately apply love to the places inside that hurt, allowing the flow of love. It’s a powerful tool in service to healing. Real forgiveness is like saying, "I understand now that you didn't do anything wrong. I forgive myself for having judged you." When you practice real forgiveness, it feels as if you've been washed clean. That's how you know real forgiveness has taken place; you feel it in your body.
In Part II, I'll demonstrate how to use self-forgiveness as a healing tool by modeling how I applied it to my experience with Ringo.
Copyright © 2009 by Irene Kendig