Human Journey, an initiative of Desmond Tutu, is challenging us to use the month of May to ingrain our forgiveness practice.
The Forgiveness Challenge is based on the idea that forgiving can bring peace and love to your life -- and therefore to the world. "With each act of forgiveness, whether small or great, we move toward wholeness" - Desmond and Mpho Tutu (his daughter) write in The Book of Forgiving.
In Buddhist terms, forgiveness is about letting go -- of resentment, of anger, of the belief that we can control other's actions, of the small, finite, damaged self who is acted upon, of the evil Other who acts. It's a way of extending lovingkindness and compassion, of seeing that we're all human and that hurtful actions are carried out by hurt people.
While we don't condone harmful actions, we recognize that those who carry them out have a confused and deluded view. We can never know all the causes and conditions that make people do things, but we can know that even when their actions are aimed at us, they arise from another person's thoughts.
As we do with lovingkindness, we extend forgiveness to ourselves. At first this may feel strange -- but over time, as with lovingkindness, it becomes liberating. We're no longer holding onto a picture of ourselves as the person who blurts out the wrong thing or is mean or angry or selfish. Because we are human and confused, we do those things. Because we are human and confused, we forgive ourselves -- letting go of the fixed, solid, rigid sense of self that says "I always ..." and opening up to the possibility that we can do it differently.
We accept all parts of ourselves, even the ones we've hidden in the basement. And we accept that we are not condemned to repeat those mistakes -- we can behave more wisely.
Who can you forgive today? Can it be yourself?