More about Forgiveness

A few days ago this post gave Hazrat Inayat Khan’s answer to two questions about the Lord’s Prayer, and some readers then commented on the forgiving of ‘trespasses’.  To follow up, this text on forgiveness was posted.  However, the topic has stimulated more questions and correspondence, so it is worth exploring further.

We should point out, first of all, that the original question slightly misquotes the prayer that is given in Matthew 6:9-13.  The most common English translations speak of forgiving our ‘debts,’ while other translations speak of ‘sins,’ or of ‘shortcomings.’  The term ‘trespasses’ only appears in Matthew 6:14-15, when Jesus further develops the idea of forgiveness.

For Inner Call readers, the issue appears to be not how God might forgive us (whether this is from a profound trust in God’s mercy or from a blissful ignorance of our own condition is not certain) but rather the difficulty of forgiving others.

It is very common to store up memories of injuries we have suffered from others, along with all the associated feelings of anger, resentment and even the poisonous feeling of revenge.  We also tend to blame others for our misfortunes even when we ourselves are responsible.  What is more, we appear to treasure these memories, at least if we judge from the length of time we keep them.  There are armed conflicts in the world today originating from events that occurred centuries ago–far beyond the reach of any living memory, conflicts that now shed blood and ruin lives only because the present day generations preserve the memory of a ‘wrong’ as if it were sacred.  How can a ‘wrong’ be sacred?  Surely, sacredness lies in what is good.

In the text on forgiveness, Hazrat Inayat advises us that if we feel unable to forgive, we can at least try to forget; by letting go of a remembered grievance, our feelings in time may fade enough to allow us to also forgive.  Some may object to this on the grounds that remembering the wrongs we have suffered will help us to avoid them in the future, but there is a difference between the lesson we learn from an injury and the resentment or the ‘debt’ we hold against the one who caused it.  When we burn ourselves on something hot, the memory of the pain soon fades away, but we do not lose the lesson it has taught us.

The use of the word ‘debt’ in this context is illustrative: a debt comes from an exchange, a transaction, so we can understand from the term that our thoughts, words and deeds interact with  those around us, affecting them in various ways, and they also affect our relationship with the One.  We should be careful, though, not to apply the word too literally.  One may have a reasonable expectation of being repaid a commercial debt, but in the constantly shifting sea of life, it is wiser to live without expectations.  Every action will have some unexpected consequences, and who is capable of stopping the spreading ripples of our deeds, let alone undoing their effect?   If we cannot free ourselves from the effects of our own actions, then, what can we expect from others?  We may feel that they owe us a debt because of some wrong–real or imagined–but what is done cannot be undone.  Keeping hold of past wrongs, particularly when there is no hope of repayment, only lays a shadow on our own consciousness, whereas forgetting the grievance–or even better, forgiving it–brings light to dispel the shade.

In other words, to forgive is a way of freeing ourselves from the unhappiness of the past. And as Hazrat Inayat explains in the first post mentioned above, forgiveness creates more forgiveness; it is much easier both to be forgiven and to forgive if we ourselves have sincerely acknowledged our faults, and asked forgiveness.

2 Replies to “More about Forgiveness”

  1. Chris

    Not being able to forgive is the couse of a selfintoccication. But the intoccication itself can be the good reason that there can be no forgiving. What is first the egg or the chicken ?
    Can it be that we are back where we began : “how to arive at that state of mind where we are fogiving “?
    Did we move in a cirkel or is there also a linear shift to the center ? Than the cirkel in fact is a spiral.

    My thanks

    • Nawab Pasnak Post author

      Dear Chris,
      Many thanks for the questions. But it is self-intoxication which causes us not to forgive; ‘not forgiving’ only confirms us in our intoxication, it does not cause it.
      How to arrive at the forgiving state of mind? Remember that it is the appreciation of beauty that awakens love – so the more we appreciate beauty, the more we forget ourselves.
      But yes, we often travel in a spiral, returning to a familiar place but in a more refined condition. In that way, we get a glimpse that we are really on a journey, and not just fooling ourselves.
      With kindest greetings,


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