Instant Forgiveness?

Article excerpt

A Christian Science perspective.

We've probably all felt that at some point we've been wronged. The normal response is a reaction of some kind - sometimes harsh - and we may be filled with anger or resentment. We've been told that we should "forgive and forget," but sometimes that seems terrifically difficult to do.

Why forgive? Forgiveness is a powerful expression of Love. It has a healing and transforming power on the one doing it - when it's finally done. But what about not ever reacting in the first place? Is it possible to avoid harboring anger or resentment? Something that I've been working on - but oh, it's hard - is to practice instant forgiveness.

For instance, when someone cuts you off in traffic, instantly forgive the driver. When a friend is careless with your feelings, when a family member forgets something important, again, instantly forgive. How much churning and wasteful fretting is avoided? It's like dropping a lot of heavy burdens - or never picking them up in the first place.

The mesmerism of ill will and resentment has us at war with others, but Christian Science teaches that warfare is with ourselves only. The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote this about forgiveness: "One's first lesson is to learn one's self; having done this, one will naturally, through grace from God, forgive his brother and love his enemies" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 129).

I heard a native American definition of forgiveness: to take a person's fault out of your heart. Isn't that a great way of looking at forgiveness? Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to do that. But even better would be not to let a person's fault into your heart in the first place, and that requires instant forgiveness. Don't go to the place of ruminating or reacting for even one minute. Have I succeeded in doing this? Only a few times. But those moments are like brilliant sunshine breaking through a cloudy day.

Forgiveness doesn't operate like a light turned on by a motion detector: First there's motion, and then the light goes on; first someone has to deserve our forgiveness, then we'll forgive them. …