Welcome to stren #59. This stren explains why forgiveness is one of the most powerful of all mental skills, perhaps the most. I believe popularizing the skill of forgiveness is essential to attain peace of mind and create peace in the world. See if you agree.
“Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” These are perhaps the most important words ever spoken. Forgiveness = for + giving. Forgiveness is a powerful, high-energy form of love. Love is energy whose expression adds a positive experience to the world. It is a gift of our own creation for the benefit of an “other” and our self. Love and forgiveness are primarily human qualities because we create them using our unique language-equipped cortical brain. For the same reason, we are also distinguished by the degree we engage in resentment and hate, bigotry, prejudice, blaming others and ourselves (guilt), harmful confrontation, and war. Please consider my explanation of the validity of this insight.
Destructive aggression is historically the basic means by which earth’s creatures (us included) sustain the life cycle, establish a territory, obtain food, reproduce, and protect their young. We inherently act to serve our self and those we identify as “our family,” often at the expense of others. We are born pre-scripted to deal with not I and them with little regard for their well-being. Our motto at birth is, “I want what I want when I want it.” Imagine how our gene’s message would be expressed in words:
The world is for your benefit, to provide your needs and wants. Seek immediate pleasure; avoid immediate pain. If it feels good, tastes good, looks good, smells good, or sounds good, take it if you can. The well-being of what is not me or not my tribe does not matter.
Nature’s way, survival of the fittest, is not a strong supporter of forgiveness. Quite the opposite! It may better be described as an advocate of “fortakeness” = for + taking. Power to dominate to obtain one’s needs is crucial in a savage environment. Nature’s way is essentially amoral, self-centered, and impatient. It advocates both constructive and destructive aggression.
Minus numbers Plus numbers
-10 -9 -8 -7 -6 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1 -0- +1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10
Hate ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ neutral ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ ↔ Love
Forgiveness → → → → Love
Forgiveness is an act of love. Picture an unbroken line starting at minus ten (-10), diminishing to zero (0), and continuing to plus ten (+10). Minus ten represents the most intense hate or resentment. Forward movement lessens hate, crosses the indifference area at zero, and proceeds to the most intense experience of love at plus ten. Hate is the more extreme tension of resentment due to real or imagined hurt. Any degree of forgiveness moves our strained feelings towards the love end of the scale. It decreases the tension of sustained resentment. Forgiveness is the special energy that converts harmful aggression into beneficial action. In addition to preventing destructive confrontation, forgiveness frees us from carrying a persistent burden - the heavy load of resentment. I consider forgiveness the highest expression of love because it magically transforms resentment and hate into love.
Why is this a magical feat? If an individual shows us an empty hat, puts in a rabbit, covers it, utters “abracadabra,” and then pulls out the same rabbit, we are unimpressed. What if instead, they pull out a cat? Wow! That is powerful. We call such a person a magician. Through the use of symbols, our cerebral cortex commonly performs equivalent magical transformations.
As the cerebral cortex matures, we acquire the ability to perform magical acts. Forgiveness and love qualify as the most worthy magical acts of our human brain. Here is how our mental “magic” works. First our cerebral cortex uses images and symbols to transform our commonly shared physical reality into our personal mental reality. We call this “consciousness”. We assign meaning to symbols and manipulate them to form ideas, concepts, and imagination. As our cortex matures and adds knowledge to intelligence we acquire the mysterious power we call will to become powerful creators. Will power is the force that transforms our private mental reality into action pathways not previously present in our shared physical world. Will power enables us to reverse the process of transforming our commonly-shared reality into our personal mental reality.
physical reality → mental reality → will power → physical reality
For example, when biological changes alert your brain to danger, such as being physically or verbally attacked, you are prewired to respond in kind – fight back, hurt the offender, become resentful, and sustain the urge for harmful aggression. This is the fight part of our fight or flight instinct. This is not “magical”; it is natural. Now, what if someone puts harmful aggression into your hat, and you cover it, apply a few symbols, and then pull out something entirely different? Forgiveness? Kindness? Reconciliation? This remarkable turn of events is a dramatic magical transformation. Your marvelous brain can manipulate what comes in so that instead of what instinct and tradition have prewired to come out, you wisely exercise your freed will to create the new outcome that works better, short-term AND long-term.
We can understand that this special ability requires considerable time for our complex brain to mature and add wisdom to create beneficial change. The degree of magical power will depend not only on the innate capacity and maturity of the cortex but also on the quality of the meanings assigned to the symbols with which it has to work. Some thinking programs are more sophisticated than others; and, of course, native languages are necessarily designed to express the pre-judged perspectives of nature and our nurturers. Our immature cortex is incapable of common sense problem-solving until it is mature and properly educated.
To the degree that we free our will power from the demands of instinct, tradition, and human dictators, we become our own person. We call this self-mastery. By owning our will power, we join fate and circumstance as masters of our thinking, feelings, and actions. The power of intention is a “magical” feat. Think about it. Physical reality goes into our mind: we transform it into something that emerges in a very different form.
The earliest programming of consciousness is dominated by our gene’s survival of the fittest, fight or flight perspective. Our first symbols emphasize “fortakeness.” They are the mental expression of nature’s repertoire of physical behavior. Symbolic dominance and aggression are mental alternatives to physical dominance and aggression. Physical might is replaced by economic, political, and/or religious symbols of power – money, expensive “toys,” titles, “beauty,” approval, patriotism, “rightness,” a promise of a marvelous afterlife, and a variety of symbolic rewards limited only by our imagination. Hatred, resentment, jealousy, greed, and the like become the symbolic replacements for fighting to attain dominance and to survive.
Would you now envision that in just the manner instinct and tradition design our symbols to dominate and control others, this same resource is available through self-mastery and wisdom to create forgiveness, love, cooperation, sharing, philanthropy, happiness, peace of mind, and yes, even peace-in-the-world? These positive qualities of self-mastery are quite difficult to create when we are occupied with the manner of thinking nature first provides us. Forgiveness is a basic mental strength that allows us to move on to those “magical” uses of symbols that express constructive use of our aggressive energy. For this reason, we may consider forgiveness our most powerful mental asset.
Forgiveness, like mature love, is deficient in our world compared to our preoccupation with the fortakeness expressed in the various forms of harmful aggression mentioned above. Each of us may acquire skill in directing our thinking to love and forgiveness. The secret is to practice self-endorsement. We will continue to have great difficulty giving to others what we lack in ourselves. This is why this collection of wisdoms emphasizes practical strens on self-endorsement. We are as fully capable of manufacturing love and forgiveness as creating resentment and hate. However, directing our mental energy to constructive aggression is a skill that must be cultivated, unlike the destructive bent that is pre-wired into our thinking by our genetic history. Forgiveness is a high-energy product. I hope this stren will motivate you to attend to the skills of love and forgiveness. I, and you, and our world benefits by every individual who converts their mental energy manufacturing plant to the production of love and forgiveness instead of harmful aggression.