Each time I settle down to write about forgiveness, I realize that I am lucky enough not to have been attacked or damaged in any real way. So the forgiveness I write of here is the petty forgiveness of a privileged life. This is not to imply that small injuries don’t hurt, though, so on we go…

We are invited to forgiveness when life does not meet our expectations. We meet each moment with minds that jump to judgment. Is this good? Is it bad? Do I like it or hate it? Is this person like me or strange in some way? It’s impossible not to have a mind like this. It comes with being human. When reality is not what we wish it to be, we get angry or hurt or – as people say these days “feel some type of way.”

Then we blast those feelings onto others or we pull away. Either way, we answer injury with injury, attack with attack. We take a bad situation and make it worse. Forgiveness cuts this cycle.

Suppose, instead, we treat each other, and ourselves, with generosity and gentleness.

This requires skill, which requires practice.

  • Step one: notice the injury.
  • Step two: make mental and emotional space around it. Take a breath.
  • Step three: assume that I and the other are doing the best that we can and that we don’t intend to attack.
  • Step four: check our perception of the moment. “The story I’m telling is… Is that the truth?”
  • Step five: figure out what I’m feeling and what I need.
  • Step six: say what I’m feeling; ask for what I want.
  • Step seven: if I can’t get what I want, get creative with alternatives (physical, emotional, spiritual).
  • Step eight: negotiate as appropriate.

Since we are practicing, we need to treat each other and ourselves with extra mercy, understanding that we will fumble through, especially at first. We also need to be willing to repeat and repeat and repeat. Patience is necessary.

Forgiveness is creating the spaciousness in steps two and seven. The rest of it is nonviolent communication.

For me, it begins with the split-second decision not to react. If I can take a few moments to remember who I want to be, things go better.

This makes it sound more complicated than it is. Forgiveness is one of those “simple but not easy” things. Still, imagine a world filled with forgiveness. What a wonderful world it would be.