To strengthen our experience of peace and joy we need to practice forgiveness.
Today we begin the first article in a series on spiritual practices to enhance the components of spiritual health and reduce the prevalence of immoral and sinful behavior.
The first component of spiritual health is peace and joy and the first cardinal sin is the destructive management of fear. What are the spiritual practices that enhance peace and joy and reduce the prevalence of the destructive management of fear? The foremost practice is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is the willingness to give up making other people and circumstances responsible for your unhappiness. Playing the victim in a way that blames others and makes them responsible is irresponsible. No one else can take responsibility for your unhappiness. Ultimately, the only person responsible for your happiness is you. Jesus demonstrated this practice when He said, on the cross as they were executing HIm, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And they didn’t. And two thousand years later we still are telling this powerful story.
Gary Renard, the teacher of A Course In Miracles, describes what he calls “forgiveness opportunities”. We have tens of them every day. Every time we are annoyed, hurt, angry, resentful, defensive, spiteful, scared, we can catch our rising emotion and ask ourselves how we can best manage it to dissipate it, to defuse it, to diminish it, and return to a state of peace and joy.
We can take a deeper breath and stand back, stand down, go silent, and as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “turn it over.”
A little prayer of letting go, turning it over, and asking God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life, whatever you conceive of your Higher power to be, to help you, to be there with you, to take part of the burden off your shoulders.
In AA they say, “Let go and let God,” or simply “Let go.”
Christians say to “Give it to God,” or “offer it up.”
In Buddhism we are advised to detach with love.
The type of forgiveness being recommended here has nothing to do with the perceived offender. It has everything to do with becoming aware of the harm but choosing not to play the victim.
This spiritual practice of forgiveness takes a lot of practice. We get better at it as we persist and implement the practice in our daily lives sometimes minute to minute and hour to hour. It is a rising above the nonsense of the ego world. Jesus said to be in the world but not of the world. Choosing to not be of the world but to dwell in the realm of the Spirit in peace and joy through forgiveness is a fundamental practice to improve our spiritual health.