The animal portion of human brain and the two-category thinking we all first learn divide the world into those who are good and deserving, i.e., our side, and the other side who are evil and need punishment. Punishment to hurt rather than help, “an eye for an eye,” remains the preference of the populace because they have worked, at least until now. Forgiving and helping instead of hating and punishing your enemy is quite a radical idea. What a rebellious act - to suggest that we love our enemies! Tradition resists change and makes life difficult for “deviants.” What might the initial defectors from instinct and tradition expect? Moses, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Galileo, Darwin, and many others found out it will be tough going. Graciously accepting contradictions to one’s assumed values is a very mature skill popular only among our most insightful minority.
How are we to teach ourselves that the long established rules of survival have suddenly changed? Common sense leads us to the conclusion that forgiveness and love must characterize the newer way of thinking most certain to create world peace. Forgiveness is the mental magic that transforms the energy of hate and resentment into the energy of love. Forgiveness allows us to move beyond the resentment and hate that prevent us from applying the powerful symbols that turn on cooperation, sharing, philanthropy, happiness, peace of mind, and yes, even peace in the world. We began experimenting with civilization a mere 50,000 thousand years past when our ancestors introduced sophisticated language. Now, we have much to learn and very little time to succeed. We are up to the task if we first teach ourselves to forgive and collaborate for our mutual benefit rather than demonize and punish those we label as “evil.” The outcome of sustained resentment is predictably escalation of negative feelings leading to destructive confrontation. Is there any more powerful newer way of thinking than teaching forgiveness and love? The practical application of forgiveness is expressed when we recognize the distinction between punishment and limit-setting.
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