PRACTICE 4 - THE THREE TIERS OF FORGIVENESS PLUS
Let's start with a prayer: Father, Mother, God, we know that some lessons seem harder than others. So help us to be open and receptive to today's lesson. Help us to see how we can apply this now in our lives so that we can be in the flow of Gods great good. Thank you, Father. Amen.
Today, we enter our fourth week of the theme of "Being the Flow of God's Great Good" and continue our exploration of six Spiritual Practices that, when done together and consistently, open us up to being and experiencing God's Great Good.
In reviewing the past three practices:
Tithing - Just do it! And the windows of heaven will open up to you!
Alignment with Purpose - your perfect way to serve humanity and find joy in your life.
Release - what you give to one person, you will receive from a different source.
TIERS OF FORGIVENESS
Today we will talk about forgiveness. We have all been taught that forgiveness is an imperative spiritual practice. And, it is. This morning, however, we are called to take a higher look at the idea of forgiveness as we make a conscious choice to live AS God.
"But wait a minute," you might be thinking. "I have the right to be upset because of the way I've been treated. I have a right to be angry, hurt, depressed, sad and resentful! If you only knew what I have been through, if you only knew how I have been treated, you would understand!"
And, you are absolutely, without a doubt, correct -- you do have the right. You have every right to be angry, hurt, depressed, sad, resentful and all the other words we can think to use. But the question is -- do you want to exercise that right -- or do you want to be THE FLOW? Can't do both!
Just like you can't travel north and south at the same time. Not going to happen. So, the choice is yours!
I love these words from the Revealing Word by Charles Fillmore: "It is through forgiveness that true spiritual healing is accomplished. Forgiveness removes the errors of the mind, and bodily harmony results in consonance with divine law."a
Even knowing this intellectually, many people find practicing forgiveness almost as difficult as tithing. Some might even find it more difficult. It is often the Spiritual Practice in these six that gets unaddressed.
Or we say: "I'll forgive when I start to feel better about this situation."
But here's the irony: You'll start to feel better when you forgive!
So, let's assume for this morning that you are willing to explore this idea of forgiveness. I'm going to suggest today that there are three tiers or levels of forgiveness, PLUS one other critical step!
We must leave blame behind - if we don't do this, we will stay stuck in the sadness, hurt, anger, resentment, depression, etc., etc.
What does relinquishing blame mean? It means making the choice not to assign responsibility to another for what we are experiencing OR it means not to condemn ourselves for it.
It means that we are willing to say, "I may not understand why this happened to me OR why you're being such a jerk! OR why whatever. And I really may not like what has happened - but I'm willing to take full responsibility for my life and its outcomes."
Say with me: "I am willing to take full responsibility for my life and its outcome."
Responsibility and blame are very, very different. When we take responsibility for the events in our lives - we then can take responsibility for changing them - or growing from them - and moving on.
If we place blame on another for what happened or is happening, then we have to wait for them to change before we can recover or move ahead.
For example, if your behavior makes me feel threatened in some way - or if your behavior gives me a migraine headache - then you have to change before I can feel safe - or you have to change before my headache goes away - and as much as I would like to think that you will change -- that's unlikely to happen. And it certainly isn't going to happen until you want to and who knows how long that will be!
And if we blame ourselves, we can very quickly go into a downward spiral of self- loathing and negativity.
So the blame has to go. If it doesn't, we are completely and utterly stuck, and we will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER flow as God's Great Good!
Catherine Ponder says the word "forgive" simply means to GIVE UP - "forgive" means to give up the story we make up about our experiences.
So, at Tier Two, we look at GIVING UP the idea that our story is THE ULTIMATE TRUTH. When we begin to understand that we interpret EVERYTHING in Life - and the situations or experiences that happen really have NO MEANING other than the one we give them -- we can begin to experience a freedom we have never felt before.
Forgiveness, when looked at from this tier or level, is a willingness to GIVE UP our interpretation of what happened; to GIVE UP the idea that our story is the truth. It is letting go of our interpretation of what happened and taking responsibility for our own perception of reality and not making others guilty for our process. And, at this tier or level, we are invited to MAKE UP A NEW STORY ABOUT IT. Let me give you an example.
This is Edwene Gaines' story from The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity:
"The brand of true forgiveness I'm talking about can be difficult to swallow when you think about the truly terrible things that people do to each other. For example, you might ask, "What about the sexual abuse of a child? How can a person be asked to forgive something as terrible as that?" I myself was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, so I know full well the devastation that kind of betrayal can cause in a person's life. I had a particularly difficult time dealing with the effect it had on my self-esteem, and for many years I played the victim.
I will be eternally grateful for a teacher who one day abruptly called me on my act. As I once again began my tale of woe, he said, "Listen, Toots, this victim stuff has gone far enough. It's really a drag, and it's boring the tears out of the rest of us."
I was shocked; he had not given me the "poor baby" response that I had come to expect. As I gasped, he continued, "In order to heal this childhood trauma, what you've got to do is create a new story about it." He paused and gave it some thought.
"Okay. Here's your new story. Try this one on and see if it works for you. You came onto this planet to be a woman of power. Your soul chose this pathway and because you chose it, you also chose to take an initiation in the misuse of power at a very young age. During this initiation you learned what it feels like when power is misused, and it is horrible. Therefore, it is now safe for you to be a woman of power in the world because you know now that you will never misuse nor abuse this power. And in this process, you have gained the most valuable of all spiritual gifts -- the understanding heart.""
Edwene continues: "My world reeled from this and cracked open a bit. It didn't happen overnight, but little by little, one day at a time, I began to embrace this wonderful new story, a saga that completely reordered my personal history. It made me feel powerful rather than helpless, and it allowed me to give up the role of victim."b
Tier Three is about seeing things from the other person's perspective. One of the teachers who have helped me with this is Greg Baer.
In the book Real Love, Dr. Greg Baer gives this profound analogy. Imagine that you are having a most pleasant afternoon having a poolside brunch with a dear friend at your favorite resort hotel. The setting is gorgeous, the food fantastic, the company all you could ask for. As you are midway through this glorious experience, someone from the pool splashes your shoes. Now you can't see who it is because there is a lounge chair between you and the pool. You are a bit annoyed at getting your shoes a little wet, but you go on with your delightful time. Then, a bigger splash comes from the pool and drenches your shoes. Immediately following that, a wave comes and gets you even wetter. Suddenly, your 'couldn't-be-better' experience is ruined, and you are very, very angry at this inconsiderate buffoon who has just drenched you. Right? This would really tick you off, wouldn't it? Be honest!
So you stand up to walk to the edge of the pool to give the person a piece of your mind and when you do, you see that he isn't frolicking and having a great time . . in fact, he is drowning and trying to save himself.c
Touch into your emotions right now. Is there any place in you that needs to forgive this person for getting you all wet and ruining your day?
Not at all. You suddenly realize that this person wasn't trying to ruin your day, simply trying to save himself. The truth (lower case truth) is that every, EVERY act of unkindness, hurt, destruction that one person does to another is done because the perpetrator is drowning in their own pain, fear and trying to save themselves. I know that this does not make it "right," but it does help us to come to a new level of understanding - which enables to move to forgiveness.
You will find that the ultimate goal for any act taken by anyone is always, always, always the same thing. To try to be happy.
Here's the important idea: Destructive behaviors will never get the person to the ultimate goal. Never. So instead of anger and resentment for their action, we can have compassion and empathy for the struggle this person must be going through.
The highest level of forgiveness is when we can say "thank you" for the experience, When we can send love and blessings to our "enemies" every day.
At this level - coming from a place of love is more important than being right - so if something offends us - we choose to depersonalize it - separate ourselves from it - and send peace and love instead of "justified indignation."
This is the place where we can BE THE FLOW OF GOD'S GREAT GOOD!
Why, because we are the clearest channel for the expression of God when we are expressing Love. Because, what is God? God is Love and Love is God, according to Paul.
Remember these words from the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary by Charles Fillmore: "Divine love will establish one in fearlessness and courage, "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline.""d
And so, my friends, in order to BE THE FLOW,
- we first relinquish all blame and take full responsibility for our lives;
- next we GIVE UP the story and then REFRAME it;
- We then see the situation from the perspective of the "guilty party" - whether that be ourselves or someone else;
Finally, we are grateful for the experience and love and bless it and all involved.
Let's end with a prayer: Father, Mother, God, all that has offended me, I forgive. Within and without, I forgive. Things past, things present, things future, I forgive. I forgive everything and everybody of the past or present that can possibly be forgiven. I positively forgive everyone. They are free and I am free too. All thoughts are cleared up between us now and forever. I positively forgive myself. Through this forgiveness, I set myself free. I dissolve in my own mind any idea that my own can be withheld from me. No person, thing or event can keep from me that which the Universe has for me now. That which seems to have worked against me in the past now helps and supports me in the present. I bless those persons, things and events that seem to have hurt me. I bless the failures that seem to have burdened me. I give thanks that a blessing is now coming out of it all. And now I live and move and have my being AS THE FLOW OF GOD'S GREAT GOOD! And so it is. AMEN.
aRevealing Word Charles Fillmore
bEdwene Gaines The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity, pp. 127-129
cReal Love, Dr. Greg Baer
dMetaphysical Bible Dictionary Charles Fillmore