Forgiving the Significant Other
by Michael Maciel
Forgiveness and judgment are inversely proportional to each other. The more we judge the person we love, the less able we are to forgive them. Conversely, the more we forgive, the less we judge. This is the formula, and it works for everyone. Analogously, you could say that the more heat you have, the less cold - the more cold, the less heat. You get the idea.
Let's compare judgment and forgiveness, so that we can understand how the two work together in our relationships. Judgment acts according to standards installed in our thinking. It is when we say "this is right, and that is wrong" that we judge. We compare our perceptions with our idea of how they should be. If an apple tastes the way we expect it to taste, we judge it as "okay". If it does not, we determine that "something is wrong".
Similarly, we have standards in our relationships. It is not necessary to uncover the sources of these standards. The real benefit comes from simply recognizing that they exist. This drives them out of the shadows and deprives them of the power they hold over us. When our significant other violates our standards, we become suspicious and start looking for proof. This is standard operating procedure for the judgment faculty of the mind. It is strictly impersonal and goes about its business in an automatic and mechanical way.
Judgment compares our experiences to our standards and concludes whether those experiences are "right" or "wrong". Based on this conclusion, we either accept or reject the experiences. Forgiveness operates within this accept/reject paradigm. Whereas judgment is a function of the mind, forgiveness is a function of the will, which has only two words in its vocabulary - yes and no.
Ego and will are polar opposites. Just as judgment and forgiveness are inversely proportional to each other, ego and will either help or hurt each other's functioning. If our self-image is overly inflated, action is stifled, because our ideas about ourselves are unsubstantiated - "our ego is writing checks that our body can't cash". On the other hand, if we act impulsively without reflection, our self-image will suffer, for if we do not base our actions on a cohesive sense of self, they will inevitably contradict themselves, and we will have chaos in our lives.
As an act of will, forgiveness cannot find its expression in the face of the standards generated by our sense of right and wrong, which is one of the components of our self-image. The more we say, "this isn't right", the less able we are to forgive. This does not mean that we have to abandon our sense of right and wrong in order to forgive. It means that we have to separate the two in our thinking, so that forgiving is not dependent upon what we "know" or even how we feel.
The will operates within the parameters of the "yes/no" paradigm. At this level, there is no feeling, because the will is always a directing force, never a reactive one. Feeling is reactive, because it is a RESPONSE, in this case, to an event. Since forgiveness is an act of will, it is independent of our standards and our feelings. In other words, we forgive because we forgive. Our act of forgiveness is neither based on what we think nor on what we feel, therefore it is an act of ego-transcendence.
The question, then, that we must ask ourselves is not whether we can forgive, but rather will we. We cannot ask whether we feel like it, because forgiveness is impossible when we are hurt and angry. Neither can we forgive if we are holding onto our opinions of what is right and wrong. We cannot serve two masters. No, forgiveness must stand on its own, and once it does, our feelings and our opinions will come around. Why? Because forgiveness opens the way for love, and love conquers all, even our hurt feelings and our self-righteousness.
This does not mean that we have to abandon our sense of right and wrong in order to forgive. It means that we have to separate the two in our thinking, so that forgiveness is not dependent upon anything but itself. This way, we can look at our S.O. and say, "What you did is wrong, but I forgive you. What you did hurt me deeply, but I forgive you. Knowing that you are capable of hurting me tells me that we are both human. Knowing that I can love you in spite of the hurt tells me that we are both divine. My love for you is deeper than my ideas and larger than my feelings, which are subject to change. My love for you is not subject to change, because it is what I am, not what I think or what I feel."
Forgiveness connects us to the one we love, and therefore to life itself, and to God. Judgment separates us from them, leading us into isolation and a cold heart. Is anything worth more than love? Is being right worth more than love, or feeling hurt? Can we love the other person only if they conform to our standards? Do we only love those who love us? These are big questions. If we can rise up out of the grave of our limited sense of self and forgive in the face of all that appears, then our act of forgiving will save us, and we will know what love truly is.