Just a short, casual perusal of the news headlines reveals a lot of people nursing long-lived grudges. The Israelis and Arab states destructively act out their resentments on a regular basis. Russia and the West rattle sabers from time to time. The various nations of the European Union harass each other now and then. The same goes for China vs. the West, and North Korea against everybody else. Here in the United States, many people seem to think the Civil War never ended. Locally, regardless of where one might live, we hear and see reports of one on one resentment and violence.
A person is tempted to say, “Enough already, can’t people just shake hands, agree to disagree, and forgive one another?” After all, we are frequently admonished to forgive each other. The dominant Christian culture regularly professes forgiveness by reciting the “Lord’s Prayer”. One version says, “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Other versions substitute trespasses for debts or sins for debts.
What I often wonder, is that the followers of the dominant religion don’t seem to follow through when they pray their Lord’s Prayer. If professed Christians practiced their biggest prayer, there would be no resentment. There would be no trumped up anger regarding so-called “religious freedom”.
My community is the target of intense hatred by the Christian and Muslim institutions and believers. Friends, acquaintances, and I have directly endured insults and violence perpetrated by “good Christian” thugs. The LGBT community has long been trotted out as the favorite scapegoat to distract the public from problems caused by themselves.
We are daily presented with unjust situations brought about by those who hate us. We must regularly struggle about whether or not we should forgive the misguided haters. It’s very easy to hatch our own grudges against the community’s Christian and Muslim adversaries. Many of us find ourselves repeatedly having to forgive them just to maintain our peace of mind.
In this vein, is forgiveness really possible? Can the LGBT community forgive the people who remorslessly wish us harm, especially those who justify it by cherry-picking religious dogma? It’s very tempting to just give up and hate the haters in return. It’s certainly unhealthy to just “take our lumps” and naïvely sink into denial about the discrimination and gay bashing. After all, we can now legally marry the persons we love, isn’t that enough?
Just as racism didn’t end with the Civil War truce, homophobia didn’t end with marriage equality. Instead, the prejudice has only devolved into more open resentfulness. There will be endless opportunities for everyone to practice deep forgiveness. Can the LGBT community, members of minority races, nationalities, people with disabilities, women, and others who are hurt, actually forgive?
If you have ever paid close attention to those times when you decided to forgive someone you may have noticed that your mind is also in the process of strengthening its own ownership of hurt or victimhood. We should ask ourselves this question. Do we forgive others out of true compassion and love; or do we forgive in order to no longer be further hurt?
Are we forgiving other people in an effort to show ourselves how much largess we possess? Do we do it as a way to aggrandize ourselves? Do we forgive others as a technique to calm our stormy minds? If we consciously cultivate a particular virtue there can be no love.
True love, compassion, and forgiveness can only come about when we let go of the desire for it. To find real peace of mind, we must let go of our entitlement for hurt as well as love. In this sense, forgiveness is just the first step towards inner and outer peace.