In Buddhist thinking, pain or discomfort (also called suffering) is caused by attachment to unfulfilled outcomes. If I expect life to be pain-free, I'm going to be let down. If I crave some false notion of perfection, I will be disappointed. As Dana Reeve once put it, "Life just isn't fair, so you better stop expecting it to be."
We say, "forgive and forget" a lot as if that's a complete solution to pain inflicted by another, but it isn't an accurate way of defining or describing forgiveness. We all deserve and desire peace, but we are not owed a trouble-free existence. Life happens. As peacemakers, we must advocate for ourselves and for others, yet we can't mitigate and litigate every woe. Human beings are capable of boundless love and mercy, and also unfathomable cruelty, and some wounds will never completely disappear. But pardoning the perpetrator, or the circumstances that disallow peace and comfort, can actually ease the pain. To pardon is to forgive, from the Latin perdonare ('per': forward or completely, and 'donare': to give).
Holding on to unfairness, clinging to pain, only allows it to keep stinging but in pardoning, we unclench our hands and pain is gradually released -- we give it away. Forgiving doesn't mean wiping my mind clean, and forgetting isn't always possible, but in releasing my grasp of the suffering, I choose not to own it. In refusing to carry it around, I decide not to define myself as a sufferer. Forgiving – letting go – simply makes space for creative solutions.
Releasing the grasp of the thorn makes space for healing.
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