Actualizado: 18 feb 2021
My wife Javiera has not suggested that I write about forgiveness, as she did a few years ago when she invited me to write about Compassion. I want, however, to dedicate this essay to forgiveness in our relationship.
Someone is to blame
In our culture (of separation) we are used to the fact that when we use the word "forgive" it is because someone did something wrong. So, "asking for forgiveness" for example has to do with humiliating oneself, with weakening oneself, perhaps with feeling ashamed to recognize something wrong about oneself.
In our culture, which is a culture of separation, we have separated between "the good and the bad," and right and wrong. We have separated good and evil even within the human being: we are supposed to have a heart but we also have ego, or sins, and that part of our being should be defeated.
Separating life between right and wrong has some consequences. First, we will always need an external doctrine that determines what is right and what is not. The doctrines of right/wrong change over time in their assessment of what is right and what is not. For example, slavery is no longer right for most people.
I observe that we live defending the current doctrine very tenaciously, we need it with religious fervor: to lose it would mean total chaos.
Second, in a world where there is right and wrong, one cannot trust (even) oneself. Therefore, we also need an external authority, a legitimised and legitimising institution, that oversees, rewards and punishes. Interestingly, a version of that external authority dwells within oneself, as a self-monitoring police and court branch agent. Needless to say, this is painful.
Third, the right and wrong separating culture subjects us to an endless need to improve ourselves, which will never be enough for those who are honest. The less honest will have to convince ourselves that "we have arrived", that now we do belong to the "good" band, those who do not hurt anyone and who do the right thing.
But that becomes a terrible idealization of the human being, who would have to stop being human and become perfect by all standards (i.e., a person who does only the right thing and nothing wrong).
However, much of what is wrong is still happening. For example, it can be said that slavery continues to occur only that it is now disguised with a minimum wage. Racism continues to occur, machismo continues to occur, etc. No matter how much certain practices cease to be culturally accepted (e.g., beating women in public), the essential violence of the matter never ceased to occur. It only changed form, both in racism and machismo to name a couple of examples.
If the wrong exists, there is necessarily punishment. What happens is that punishment hardly heals. A puppy can be taught not to bite shoes by punishing him with a newspaper. Punishment may at best change a behavior, but it does not change the internal motive or the external circumstances that lead to those wrong behaviors. So what really happens is that the behavior is repressed and sooner or later manifests itself in another way, basically in another behavior harmful to himself or others.
Punishment doesn't heal. Control does not heal. Repression does not heal. Hate does not heal. Love heals.
This is not an apology for love (in fact I am not saying anything new), such that it becomes a new duality of right (love) and wrong (non-love).
However, we all have behaviors that harm other human beings (or life in general). From the atrocities: murders, rapes etc., to the ones I do to my most loved ones in my life: my wife and my children. In saying this, I hope to get out of the narrative that there is something wrong with me, or that I should be ashamed of this truth.
After all, I'm an ordinary human, aren't I? And life is about being human, not about being an illusory perfect version of who we really are. In my personal case, as I walk through this beautiful life marveling at the precious treasures I discover from the vision of oneness of life, finding my plenitude and unsuspected freedom and the joy and pleasure of sharing this in my workshops and writings, I also find that everything I have just said is ridiculously absurd.
As my wife tells me, "now that you are in a zen state" helping me to laugh at myself.
In reality, as I journey along oneness, I do not find the illusion of light, but I find myself more and more human.
I find myself, remarkably, realizing more (and not less) of my neuroses and hysterias. Realizing more that - I don't know why - I live judging my wife, demanding that she should do whatever she is doing "better". Resenting her, while loving her. Luckily, there is no lack of love in the matter.
If I ask for forgiveness and accept guilt, and accept that I did something wrong, I need a punishment to bless me. Then, I do something better...
Let's do something better. Let's get out of "I ask for forgiveness" / "I forgive you" and find the forgiveness that is a gift: no one forgives, no one is forgiven, no one did it wrong. Just forgiveness in our lives for hurting each other.
As long as there is no forgiveness there is a debt. Someone is a debtor and someone is a creditor (in many cases both parties are both a creditor and a debtor!). The debt can be paid with punishment or with linear justice. The best example of punishment is jail, or a fine. More generally, linear justice (or separation justice) has to do with decreasing the welfare of the debtor (perpetrator) and increasing the welfare of the creditor (victim). The justice of separation always has to do with a linear equation, but I will talk about this later.
The forgiveness of oneness
Let us rescue the essential meaning of the word forgiveness: prefix per (indicates complete and total action) and donare (to gift). In other words, forgiveness is an unconditional gift (for it to be complete it must be unconditional). It is a gift that is given and received at the same time, all the more so from the point of view of oneness.
In other words, when there is punishment or when there is linear justice, there is never forgiveness. There is no unconditional gift, only the debt is settled (at best).
For a long time it was very difficult for me to forgive some people. I reflected, those years, that it would help me so much if those people asked me for forgiveness. At least that my truth was legitimate, that my story was seen by them. That my experience was legitimate, and not marginalized and judged, again, as wrong. In other words, I wanted to forgive conditioned on being asked for forgiveness. But I knew that was never going to happen, they would never ask me for forgiveness, because when someone inhabits another narrative the whole story is looked at according to the habitat. I also knew that forgiveness was for my own good, and I tried. I tried to forgive but I didn't succeed.
At that time, forgiveness was so much like punishment. It was a gesture of humiliation, of weakening in front of the powerful. Maybe that's why it didn't work. Inside I still hated, wishing from time to time that something bad would happen to those people. A wish that was against my own intentions. Anyway, obviously I wasn't at peace. I can only say that at one point I accepted that I could never stop feeling that resentment, because no matter how hard I tried, that resentment persisted. Then, in that surrender, the resentment disappeared.
I understood that forgiveness is not done by oneself, it is done by life and spirit. The only thing that matters, I think, is to observe and accept and whatever changes, changes on its own.
So I didn't forgive. Rather, forgiveness happened. It's like love, which is not "someone who loves someone," but is. It simply is. I stopped needing punishment. Actually the punishment I wanted for the other was also the punishment I wanted for myself. I stopped needing justice. It is perhaps the path of oneness where by liberating others I liberate myself and vice versa. The burden of separation between right and wrong vanishes.
And that's when I realized that forgiveness was all one. Oneness.
For example, in my need to forgive there was also a need to ask for forgiveness. The gift that I am supposed to give to someone else if I forgive her was actually a gift to myself. When I stopped needing to forgive, I stopped needing to ask for forgiveness. Even when I stopped believing that there was something wrong with me for not being able to forgive of my own free will, forgiveness happened involuntarily. As a gift.
In the end, forgiveness is pure gift. Now I don't miss the opportunity to ask for forgiveness, if I sense that it may be a gift for another person. Trying to see that certain of my actions hurt others by the simple fact of being human. That seeing is a gift. Because with the forgiveness of oneness I don't lose anything: I don't weaken myself, I don't humiliate myself. I liberate myself.
As for forgiving, I observe all that I do not forgive. I just observe it. And I know that it will fall on its own.
In oneness, it's not that there's no more separation. Oneness includes separation, otherwise it would be another form of separation. In oneness, I glimpse, the distinction between right and wrong still exists (saying this is surely a relief to you, dear reader, isn't it?). It's just different. The judgments still exist, but they are different. How to explain it? They simply exist free of emotional charge. Maybe that's it.
When the dogma of right-separate-from-wrong is erased, the human being is free at last to trust himself. He does not have to obey external moral authorities (not even anti-system alternatives that are almost the same). He does not have to obey even the branch of them that dwells within him. He only has to be loyal to himself.
When the human being understands that he does not come with factory defects, that he is not made of anything other than goodness, he understands that he does not have to eternally improve himself (which will never be enough). Understand that he is enough as he is. That life is about being human. And that all the harmful manifestations of the self come simply from pain, from the wound of the human trauma of separation.
All that takes unconditional compassion, forgiveness and love. It occupies neither punishment, nor repression, nor exclusion. It is for the brave.
I don't know much more than this because I'm just living it.
The justice of oneness
I said above that linear justice or separation justice has to do with decreasing the welfare of the perpetrator and increasing the welfare of the victim. Separation justice is always about a linear equation.
First of all, in the vision of oneness of life we are all one, no one is separated. So perpetrator and victim are one. Therefore there is no way to decrease the well-being of one to increase that of the other. If we are all one, to decrease the well-being or happiness of whoever decreases the happiness of all. On the other hand, to liberate the happiness of whoever, liberates the happiness of all. Punishment punishes us all. It impoverishes us all.
Photo by Pablo Mardones
The justice of oneness, therefore, requires making the perpetrator happier.
To be healed, for example, from the pain or trauma that led him to do harm. We should transform our prisons into spaces of healing, of unconditional compassion for these people.
Radical, isn't it? That's on a political-social level, in terms of what we call crimes or felonies.
On the other hand, in our daily life, in our relationships, in our life as a couple or with our children. When you hurt someone, the justice of oneness invites you to be happier (and not any less!), on behalf of the person you hurt.
Precisely in honor of that person and those circumstances. Knowing that one's own happiness does nothing but bless the happiness of others.
I would say that I honor another person when on her behalf I strengthen my will to be free and happy. That will is super important, super sacred in my experience, and if there's anything that makes it grow it's when I know it's not just for me.
In our current culture it is easy to confuse what I am talking about with abandonment. When a father abandons his children, whether literally or subtly, he does not really do so in the name of either his own happiness or that of his children. Rather it is a very sad act of accepting that one is not capable, that one is not enough to take care of them.
Abandonment is basically the greatest act of self-loathing, rather than neglect of the abandoned. And I feel our cultural context of separation is full of reasons to believe that one will not be able to take good care of one's children! That's why there's an epidemic of abandonment, most of it subtle. Those who give up aren't doing it wrong either. They also require unconditional forgiveness.
The human being who lives in the context of oneness knows that he is entitled to be as he is, that he doesn't have to be perfect with regard to standars of right/wrong. And that when it hurts there will always be the gift of forgiveness (please do not confuse: it's not the same as accepting that one is a bad person!).
"No one is doing it wrong," a fundamental principle of oneness.
Knowing that the gift of life is the oneness of all, it is not at all difficult to know one's own sufficiency. It is not so difficult to trust. In oneness, abandonment is not possible because one cannot be content as long as another person has been hurt by one' s actions.
In the name of having hurt, what can I do that is beautiful, that is loyal to myself, that releases beauty or happiness for both of us? Maybe I can make a concrete action like asking for forgiveness, or inviting that person to eat, things that are gifts for both parties. Maybe I can repair whatever I broke, like a window glass. If those kinds of concrete actions (not punishments), are not available, I still have a choice:
to commit myself to being truly happy on behalf of that damage I did.
That abandonment is possible is yet another illusion of our culture of separation. It would be to understand what I am saying backwards: since there is the gift of unconditional forgiveness, then I can do the wrong thing and abandon my responsibility.
The forgiveness of separation. The forgiveness of scarcity, of lacking. The forgiveness of feeling insufficient. The forgiveness of hurting those we love. The forgiveness of being harmed. The forgiveness of patriarchal science.