Wisdom and Forgiveness

Wisdom is, in part, our capacity to extract meaning and value from our experiences. The more capacity we have to extract meaning from an experience the more likely that we see ways it which good has or will come out of it. This makes naturally makes it easier to forgive. Wisdom is not an abstract quality as it brings very practical benefits in handling even very tricky situations. Situations in our life which may seem like complex mazes, and difficult or impossible to get out of when we are stuck in them, can be easily handled when we have a view from above. When we see a maze from above it is easy to see the way out. Wisdom lets us see the mazes we confront in our lives from above and lets us see the simple answer which we may have been right in front of us.

When I was about ten years old I lived in a rough area in Glasgow, Scotland where there were many street gangs. Some of the gangs were loyal two soccer teams; Celtic and Rangers and there was fierce and extreme rivalry between them. The Celtic and Rangers fans very often had violent clashes which were reported in the news. As I was walking home from school one day I was suddenly surrounded by a gang who demanded to know, ‘What team do you support Celtic or Rangers!”. I saw no clue as to the right answer as none of them were wearing team colours, so at first I did not know what to say. I did know that it would not be a good idea to give the wrong answer as I would probably get beat up. Then I suddenly knew what to say and how to say it. I loudly proclaimed, “I support Scotland!”. As that was the name of our national team, they cheered loudly and I walked away before they could think of something else to make trouble about.

In the above I had only been given two choices by those who issued the challenged, they presented a choice of one team or the other. If the situation was in an action movie, I would either been cast as the victim and got beaten up, or would have had to been cast as some kind of martial art fiend and beat them all up instead. However, real life is not an action movie so thankfully the forgiving mind came in instead. The forgiving mind offered its wisdom and insight in the form of an answer which appealed to the questioners in a way which they did not expect, but that they would accept. The answer perhaps reminded them that both they and I were united as supporters of our national team. Perhaps that made them feel like I was one of them. In any event, I walked away with no harm done to me or to them. Maybe also they walked away in a better mood and felt less inclined to issue the same challenge to others as they had been given something to cheer about.

This kind of resolution to a situation has a lot to do with the kind of insight which comes from our forgiving mind. The forgiving mind thinks ‘outside of the box’ and is not constrained by the limits placed on it by others. It naturally looks for win/win solutions not matter what the problem presented to it. It looks to ennoble and enhance, and to help and to heal. Therefore the development of forgiveness, which leads to the development of our natural wisdom, not only helps us handle our wounds it helps us prevent further wounds happening in the first place. It helps us handle crises, make better choices and create better relationships.

This kind of insightful response to life events is what comes naturally as we learn to convert life experience into wisdom through the practice of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not just benefit us for a specific event we are working on it raises our whole attitude and how we look at life to a higher level, it helps us avoid trouble and helps us see other options and opportunities. Forgiveness creates many blessing far beyond the immediate benefits of the greater peace of mind we experience when we forgive someone.

We have options to transform what could have turned out to be ugly and painful experiences into something much more positive for all concerned, or at least get through them relatively unscathed. By listening more and more to the part of us which wants to offer forgiveness and accept forgiveness, it becomes more and more part of our lives. As this part of us becomes more part of our lives we are more likely to look to that part for the answers to our dilemmas rather than the more combative and divisive parts of us. We can transform our experiences by seeing things differently, thinking outside the box and being willing to be the author of our own experience. That kind of thinking naturally leads us towards a forgiving attitude; and a forgiving attitude naturally leads us to more of this kind of thinking.