Saturday, January 13, 2007

The one about forgiveness

One of the things I enjoy most in life is reading something and then being able to apply it to my own life. (Another one of the things I enjoy most in life is pudding.) Whether I'm reading one of my physics books and learning something about the nature of time or a finance text that shows me how to protect my investments with very little downside, reading something practical always gives me a sense of accomplishment. That's one of the reasons I prefer it to the escapism of fiction. Outside of academic books, over the past few years I've read a couple of books co-written by the Dalai Lama. Most of these are very plainly written, easily accessible to the non-Buddhist and, as a result, I've enjoyed a greater sense of well-being for the most part. The latest such book I've been working on is The Wisdom of Forgiveness.

I won't go into too much detail or suggest that you should or shouldn't read this book, but I will say that the central theme of forgiveness is repeatedly related through the Dalai Lama's own stance on China and its harsh treatment of Tibet. In short, he reminds us not to forget about the past, that past suffering happened because of narrow-mindedness, and that revenge only creates more unhappiness. As in a previous book, we are instructed that all people seek and deserve happiness, to distinguish between the actor and the act, and that compassion towards all people (which doesn't necessitate condoning their actions) is essential to our own happiness (due to the interconnectedness of all people).

Shortly after reading a particularly personal passage in this book I had an insight about my own life/experience, exactly the kind of thing I love to get out of reading. An acquaintence of mine recently asked me a series of rather personal questions about my life and love, in an attempt to understand her own life better. After probing into the details of my divorce and my feelings afterward, she remarked with surprise that, despite a couple of obvious jokes, I wasn't too harsh on my ex-wife. This is where my sudden insight dovetails with what I previously wrote about happiness: I forgive my ex-wife because I pity her. I pity her for allowing her happiness to depend on my making her happy. I don't pity her in the way one looks down from some supposed moral superiority. It comes from a place of compassion.

Forgiving presupposes remembering. And it creates a forgetting not in the natural way we forget yesterday's weather, but in the way of the great in spite of that says: I forget although I remember. Without this kind of forgetting no human relationship can endure healthily. I don't refer to a solemn act of asking for and offering forgiveness. Such rituals as sometimes occur between parents and children, or friends, or man and wife, are often acts of moral arrogance on the one part and enforced humiliation on the other. But I speak of the lasting willingness to accept him who has hurt us. --Paul Tillich

7 Comments:

At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post...

Especially the part about pudding.

 
At 12:21 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Great post. It is particularly relevant to the personal situation of someone I love as well as myself. I will have to make a concentrated effort to keep "forgetting" in mind or I'm going to go nuts.

 
At 9:47 PM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Aide- Pudding makes it all better.

Z- Going nuts is generally considered bad form, and not good for you.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Zelda said...

Not to be cheesy, but this post actually helped me greatly last night. I appreciate it.

 
At 10:19 PM, Blogger Inanna said...

"revenge only creates more unhappiness..." - Fine way to ruin my buzz... *grumble*

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger tinyhands said...

Z- That is a huge compliment. Thank you.

Peach- Sorry sweetie. I'll look the other way for a few minutes if you want.

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger kcterrilynn said...

Something to think about, that's for sure. I know I am capable of holding a grudge for far too long.

 

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