Asha Praver

Letters from Asha

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ask Asha: Should We Forgive Everything?

[You can ask your own question here.]

Question

On the surface, my question has an unambiguous answer,and I know what it is. But please, help me here.

My partner claims to have been in pain for years over an inability to 'connect to the world' with symptoms similar to Bipolarity but not diagnosed as such. He has a deep understanding of spirituality, but I broke off with him after 15 years over his constant straying.

He explains it away as a result of the pain he was going through and now he says he has healed and wants me back. And wants to grow spiritually together.

Can people really change?

When one commits to love and forgive EVERYTHING, does it include inconstancy?

-Anonymous comment
in reply to Ask Asha: The Reason for Attractions

Answer

Dear ....

I am not certain what part of the answer you feel is unambiguous. Probably you mean the issue of forgiveness.

Yes, love forgives all, including infidelity -- above all for your own peace of mind. To consider yourself a victim, to feel that the world and the people in it “owe” you a certain standard of behavior is to doom yourself to constant suffering and disappointment.

So in terms of how you should feel about this man who has treated you so unkindly, do your best to purge from your heart any feelings of anger or betrayal. Don’t whitewash what he did, however, in an attempt to overcome your negative feelings. Forgiveness is not to run away from the truth but to face it squarely and then see it from a higher perspective.

We all make egregious mistakes. Divine Mother understands and forgives our transgressions. It behooves us to learn to see one another through Her eyes.

That said, however, Divine Mother also enforces quite impersonally appropriate consequences for our actions. When what we do is not in harmony with divine law, we suffer. Selfishness brings misery. It is the way we are made.

Bad enough that you were made miserable by this man’s wrong actions in the 15 years you were together. You don’t want to make yourself miserable in all the years -- even incarnations to come -- by continuing to hold onto the bad feelings created. Give them to God. Let this man work it out directly with Divine Mother. You don’t have to be in the middle of it.

As for the question, “Can a person change?” Of course, everyone can change. Paramhansa Yogananda puts it in a rather humorous way, “A saint is a sinner who never gave up.” We are all divine in our essence, equally children of God.

Some people, however, manifest that divinity clearly. Others manifest to various degrees egoic self-interest.

Unfortunately, just because a person declares himself healed does not mean that he is healed. Maybe he genuinely believes he is; maybe he is only affirming. Here is where the answer is far from clear-cut.

You describe your friend at least in the past as experiencing intense mental pain. Perhaps he felt helpless in the grip of his own suffering. One can see reasons for compassion but it doesn’t exonerate him.

All I’ve received from you is a brief note, but in the few words you offered there is a phrase that, if accurate, causes me some concern. Referring to his past wrong actions you say, “He explains it away as a result of the pain he was suffering.”

Part of true healing is to take responsibility for one’s actions. Taking responsibility includes, insofar as it is possible, making amends. One step of the Twelve Step Program, for example, is to find those you have hurt and do what you can to fix what you broke. Not always possible, but you have to try. Otherwise there is a big gap in your healing.

To “...explain it away...” is not the same as taking responsibility.

A man who had lived at Ananda for a time later did his best to harm the community, Swami Kriyananda, and many of his former friends by aggressively spreading false and malicious rumors about us. His lies caused great difficulty for many people.

Years later, after the dust had long since settled I happened to meet him again. He came on with great friendliness then began to speak to me about the importance of forgiveness and healing. His point was that I, as a long time member of Ananda, should be expansive enough in my consciousness to forgive him for the trouble he had caused.

My response was, “Have you changed? Do you repudiate the attitudes and actions of the past? Are you willing to make reparations? Will you apologize to all those you hurt? Will you take back your lies?”

His answer was carefully crafted. “I’m sorry that some of you suffered.”

I responded, “That’s no answer! Are you sorry for the part you played in causing that suffering?” To that he made no response, which said all I needed to hear.

He was not willing even to acknowledge that he had acted improperly! Instead he was trying to shame me into believing I would be acting improperly if I didn’t welcome him back with open arms!

I bear him no ill will. But, as I explained to him in no uncertain terms, it would be irresponsible of me to welcome him back into my life and the life of Ananda if he showed no actual proof that he had changed. He was trying to take advantage of Ananda’s well-known generosity of heart.

“Be practical in your idealism,” Yogananda said.

The question is not, “Can a person change?” The question is, “Has he changed?” And if so, “What is the proof?” His assertion alone is not enough.

You can forgive him, but that does not mean you should take him back!

Be practical. Is the mental suffering he endured a thing of the past? Is he now a happy man? Does he demonstrate in his life the ability to endure suffering without passing that suffering on to those he purports to love and who love him?

I would move very cautiously. To be foolish is not the same as being spiritual.

Be open to him if you feel to, but don’t be in a hurry. If his transformation is genuine and sincere, he will understand that after all the pain he has inflicted on you, he has to win your trust and forgiveness, not presume or demand it. If he doesn’t see this, that in itself is a cautionary sign.

Naturally I hope that his healing is real but please don’t be blinded by your desire that it be true. Pray deeply that God guide you to the right decision.

In divine friendship,
Nayaswami Asha

[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Asha. We can always count on you for words of wisdom, both uplifting and practical.
Viktoriya

Martin J Sallberg said...

The whole idea that there should be any unforgivable actions whatsoever falls on the first moral individual evolvability paradox. Since a first moral individual would not have survived in a group where everybody else was amoral (not only in the case of naive altruism, morality of the indignation sort would be equally fatal for a first moral individual due to the hate of all others when they were amoral), the existence of morality can only be explained if there is a natural law ensuring that every living thing can change and if radical exceptionless forgiveness was used during the transition. So why not do it again? The idea of forgiving everything is perfectly logical. Of course blaming creates pressure to justify, and justification paralyzes the power of the mind. If free will is an illusion, how can there be any distinction between "voluntary" and "autonomous"? Obviously, so-called limits to voluntary control is really due to afterconstructs depriving the mind of its causal power by making it a mere effect. That means that the key to becoming free is to not justify anything, to never make up any afterconstructs to one's actions. Scientific metastudies by Kurt Fischer and Christina Hinton in "Mind, Brain and Education" shows that extreme mental recoveries after brain damage (including damages as severe as loss of the whole cerebral cortex), which conventional neurological and psychological theories cannot explain, are linked to tolerant social environments. Tolerance frees from pressure to justify. But one problem for the radical forgiveness lifeform is the presence of crime courts. Prosecution of course creates pressure to justify, which is bad. A practical way to get around that is by seasteading, creating floating, self-sufficient colonies on international water. So it makes perfect sense if the forgive everything movement starts driving seasteading projects.

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