Forgiveness as a Path to Feedom

“Geese lower their heads when flying under a bridge,
no matter how high its arches may be.”
– Julius Caesar Scaliger

Reading the above quote I imagine that one day when a goose smashed its head on a low bridge and fell dazed to the ground below. It is reasonable to be careful when one has been hurt. Noone likes pain.

This is true in life among human beings. When we have been hurt by someone we may choose to end a relationship or at least put on guards so as not to be hurt again. This is understandable, but people are not like concrete bridges that keep their height for generations. People are living creatures that grow and change. It is what makes us so interesting. It is also the reason that broken relationships can heal.

In my 12-step program we are given tools for mending relationships. One tool is to take an honest look at what we might have done to hurt another person. Once we admit to ourselves, to God and to another human being the nature of our wrongs, we are guided to make amends by apologizing and by changing the behavior that may have caused the break in the first place. Sometimes apologies are not accepted. Like the geese that continue to hang their heads, a person can’t or won’t look up to see that the behavior that caused the pain is no longer there.

In the program we are also taught to forgive. When we have been harmed by another, we may have to talk things through with a trusted friend and pray a lot, but it is to own benifit to stop harboring resentments against others. Carrying around resentments hurts us, sometimes even physically. It occupies our mind and hearts in such a way that life and relationships in the here and now slide by without our attention. Forgiveness brings healing, if not to the relationship, to the spirit of the one who forgives.

There are those who refuse to forgive. They refuse to accept the possibility that people make mistakes, or that they can change attitudes and beliefs. They prefer to fly low. I don’t know exactly why this is. Perhaps refusing to forgive is a form of pay-back or perhaps one just gets so used to hanging on to resentment that they don’t know any other way to be.

But those of us who have learned to forgive have found a new freedom and a new joy that the darkness of resentment could never give us.

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