How Compassion Facilitates Forgiveness

sorry hand ribbon red bow forgive forgiveness apology

Just as you can't judge a film by one scene, you can't judge a person by one hurtful thing he does.

Perhaps we've all had an intimate partner who has said or done things to us that seem simply unforgivable. Can you remember a circumstance where you spoke hurtful or hateful words, and later recognized that you did not really mean them? The context of your life affected the content of what you said. Maybe you were tired, afraid, angry, stressed, or feeling hurt. In that moment you just had to defend yourself, get some space, work through anxiety, or vent some frustration.

If someone had understood how you were feeling emotionally, mentally, and/or physically at the time, they could have more easily forgiven you, right? Likewise, if you understood more about the one who offended you, you could more easily forgive them. Depression: A Family Affair

Picture that person before you right now, and ask them to tell you what the context of their life was like at the time. Listen from their perspective. What you hear may heal you.

When you go to the theater and watch a feature-length period piece you may make some judgments about it. The lead actor did a decent job, but the cinematography was lousy, and the movie was a let-down. You believe your perceptions are well-informed and accurate. We're always right about how things look to us, aren’t we? We think our truth is the truth, and that is where the problem lies.

If you watched only two minutes of the film instead of the whole feature, you would obviously be less informed. In judging others, we often base our perceptions and reactions on a very short piece of their life movie — the limited part that affected us. So, our judgments may not be as wise as we believe they are. How To Have A Great Relationship With Your Mother-In-Law

We don't know every thought and fear they entertained, every decision they made, and how much they were influenced by various people and environments. There is so much we really don't know about the movie of another's life. Perhaps that is why the great thinkers throughout history have taught that true judgment belongs only to God, because the human mind is not aware of everything needed to judge fairly.

We can come to understand that based on the person's spiritual level of consciousness at the time, how they were feeling, the impact of their DNA and culture, the many choices they had made before that point in time, and what they believed to be true about themselves and the world, it is likely they could not have done things any differently at that moment in time. It is even possible that if we had been in their shoes, we may have done things exactly the same way!

It's important to understand that most people are simply unaware of just how unloving they have been. Jesus once spoke, " ... forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34—LAM)." In other, more modern words, we have no clue.

Back to theater. If we not only watched an entire movie, but learned about the making of the film, the screenwriter's background and intent, and the history of the era in which the movie takes place, our perceptions and understanding would expand. We would naturally have more insight and compassion. The same principle applies to understanding a person  who has offended us! Trying to forgive usually doesn't work, but gaining a compassionate understanding opens our heart to natural forgiveness.

When we closely examine some of our own repeated poor choices, mistakes, and verbal offenses, we can be just as gentle with ourselves. We did the best we could, until we progressively learned to do it better. What 47 Years Of Marriage Can Teach You

Awareness and compassion lead us to acceptance of what was — and what is — without resentment. It is like our heart says, "Of course it happened that way. Now I understand."

With this higher wisdom we no longer have to fight the past; we can be at ease with it. Coming to this realization may not be easy. In fact, it may be challenging and require radical humility. It just happens to be easier than continuing to live with the heavy weights of hurt, anger, and resistance which keep us stuck and deplete our lives of energy.

Stay open for divine grace to soften your heart and heal your emotions. A burden can be removed from the other person and you. Forgiveness always has multiple blessings. You can read more about forgiveness in my new book, Being Love: 26 Keys to Experiencing Unconditional Love, available on, &

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.