In my previous post I wrote about compassion. I want now to say a bit about how I see the relationship between compassion and forgiveness.
Compassion is the state of mind whereby no one is judged. Does this mean that the one feeling compassion should be OK with others behaving just as they wish, no matter the consequences? Does compassion mean rolling over?
I don’t think so.
Compassion is a necessary condition for forgiveness. Without compassion forgiveness is not possible. However, while compassion is necessary for forgiveness, it is not sufficient. There is something else that needs to be present for forgiveness to happen.
If someone has hurt us, treated us like shit, made our life difficult for no good reason other than that it suited this certain someone to behave that way, it is possible to feel compassion for them. We can attempt with all our might to imagine ourselves in the mind and heart of that person, to bring everything we know about that person, about ourselves and about people in general, to bear on how we view them, and to see that it is possible, given the same circumstances, that we ourselves might have behaved the way they have. That is the seed of forgiveness. But seeds need water in order to sprout and grow.
When that person comes to us and sincerely asks our forgiveness, that is the water for the seed. Until or unless that happens, forgiveness cannot be given. Requesting forgiveness is not the same as telling someone to ‘get over it’ or to ‘move on’ – that’s just more of the same.
If someone who has hurt you expresses regret, remorse and sorrow at their behaviour towards you, and it is within your capacity to forgive them, it’s probably better to do so. If they express no such regret, remorse or sorrow, why would you give them what they clearly don’t want or think they need?
It is possible to feel compassion for someone who has treated you badly, without ever wanting to have anything to do with them again. Forgiveness can only be given when it is asked for. Forgiveness does not mean making oneself available to be treated like crap all over again. That would just be self-destructive and silly.
Feel all the compassion you are able to feel, from however far away you need to be in order to feel safe.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha