Afterlife studies is a genuine science, which means that it has much to tell us beyond the fact that human minds are eternal. One of its most important revelations is the final answer to that age-old question: What is the purpose of human life? Here the dead agree with most major religions. We are here to learn to love perfectly and learn to forgive completely. Helping us learn to better love and forgive seems to be the reason why the universe exists.
Loving is the easy part. It seems to be innate in people, beginning with the love between mother and child and continuing through making friends and pair-bonding and building families to grandparenthood, the most intense love of all. That we need to love and be loved is a central characteristic of the human condition, and love of all kinds is so vastly rewarding in myriad ways that it is self-reinforcing. Loving is easy. And once we really are doing love well, we need then only to spread our love to all.
But to paraphrase William Shakespeare, there is one big rub. Universal love is impossible to practice until we have learned the art of radical forgiveness. We need to learn to forgive automatically, as if nothing ever even happened. And radical forgiveness is neither easy nor innate. From ISIS and your Ex to your sullen boss and the jerk who cuts you off in traffic, for most of us every day is full of reminders that some acts are unforgivable. Yet not only must all these perpetrators be forgiven, but once they are forgiven, they must be loved!
Whenever I mention forgiveness, I get emails. Some of the stories people tell are tragic. And the challenge always is, “How could anyone forgive that?”
I used to have the same problem. Only say a nasty word in a store or show me your middle finger on the highway and you could ruin my entire day. But once I understood how essential it is that we practice radical forgiveness, I worked out the process for myself. I will give you my methods below. I want to assure you not only that they work, but that radical forgiveness will change your life! The best thing about learning to forgive to the point where you don’t even notice people’s wrongs is that it makes you feel peaceful and happy as really nothing else ever could. I don’t even have an anger reflex anymore. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful that feels!
Here is my method for learning radical forgiveness:
1) Study forgiveness as a discipline. A Course in Miracles is a Ph.D.-level course in radical forgiveness. It is the best way to approach the task, but for most of us it takes years of attendance at a study group before we grasp the Course. I did some of that, but I found that simply buying a red-letter New International Version of the Bible and reading the red letters in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John until I had them internalized was sufficient. When you read enough Jesus, you start thinking like Jesus. And whatever your religion might be, that is a good thing.
2) Practice forgiveness when driving. I have a suspicion that God invented cars as the easiest way for us to learn to forgive! When someone cuts you off in traffic, think, “The poor man! I hope he gets to the hospital in time!” And really believe that. Smile and wave. If someone flips you the bird, think, “The poor man! He has only one finger!” Sometimes I’ll add, “He must have the others in a bucket! I hope they can reattach them!” Wave and smile. I felt foolish the first few times I reinvented reality this way, but now I firmly believe it all. No more traffic-stress. And I drive like a saint.
3) Learn the truth about the powers of our minds. Our minds are part of the same eternal Mind that continuously brings forth the universe, and as such they are infinitely creative, for good or ill. Especially in a world still held in the thrall of disastrously erroneous beliefs, people can seize on a religious dogma or some other nonsense and seek to apply it. Every mind is an infinitely creative part of a perfect God, but in their ignorance some creative minds can be led to do terrible things.
4) Understand that this whole lifetime is nothing more than a bad day in school. It is barely a blip in our eternal lives. Very soon those who are doing harm here will be going home to face a life-review in which they will be made to feel every bit of the harm that they have done to others. Whenever I see another ghastly story about ISIS, I keep that fact in mind. The most important reason to learn radical forgiveness is that soon you will face your own life-review, and you will be asked to forgive yourself.
Following these steps worked for me. And it didn’t even take very long. Jesus says so many things that helped me stay centered on my goal of learning radical forgiveness:
“Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (MT 5:39-41)
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (LK 6:41-42)
“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (LK 6:35-36)
And of course,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (MT 7:1-2).
What I learned in mastering radical forgiveness is that it isn’t for the other person. He doesn’t care whether you forgive him or not! And forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning bad behavior; it only means accepting what you cannot change. Learning to forgive others automatically is the greatest gift that you can give to yourself.