Forgiveness, Part 2: A Treasure Hidden in Darkness; a Sword to Lay Down.
Updated: Oct 13
''Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow-sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But if the doctor wishes to help a human being he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is...
'That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ, all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least o’ my brethren, that I do unto Christ.
'But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yeah, the very fiend himself, that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved. What then?
'Then, as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed: there is then no more talk of love and long-suffering; we say to the brother within us “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world, we deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves, and had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.''
— Carl Jung, 'Psychology and Western Religion'
In my observation during the last decade of inner work in my life and in my work with others, for true wholeness and inner restoration to take place, some of the unseen laws and principles of life must be taken into consideration. One such principle, and perhaps one of the most powerful ones, is the principle of forgiveness.
Much like it is with concepts such as 'sowing', 'reaping', 'blessing', 'cursing' — indeed, like the very thing we call 'the law of gravity' — the principle of forgiveness cannot be explained fully; all that is certain about it is its effectiveness.
There is very little doubt today that forgiveness works, and forgiveness heals.
Throughout all the centuries past, it has healed wounded hearts and restored the lives of families, tribes and nations; it has built bridges and terminated feuds, and despite all the darkness and bloodshed that, forgiveness has had the power to bring joy to hearts that otherwise would have been forever darkened.
I have personally witnessed the healing power of forgiveness, not only in my life but also in the lives of those around me. Through the inner work of forgiveness, I have seen eyes brighten and bodies strengthen, in a way that brings long-lasting peace, strength and joy to people who never thought they could change.
A lady whom I and my wife used to know, with whom we walked through the long, dark journey of forgiving her violent ex-husband, experienced a miraculous recovery from a mysterious ailment that kept her legs and ankles swollen and painful, for no apparent reason.
On one occasion, my and my wife had facilitated for her a long session when she could express the hidden bitterness and hatred she had stored in her body for years. We felt that in order for her to be free, she first had to come to terms with something much stronger than her grief and her fear — some deep anger that she had been repressing for years in order to appear 'good' and maintain her public persona.
When she was able to do that and then make the hard, painful choice to let go of her ex-husband, she felt peace. On the next morning, a note was slipped under our door. It was from the same lady. In it she described how, for the first time in years, she has woken up feeling happy and lighthearted, without the usual need to run to the bathroom and vomit. For the first time in years, she had not woken up under a dark cloud that she had lived under for so long. 'The first sound I heard in the morning', she said, 'was the birds singing outside my window, and even before I opened my eyes, I knew that something deep and beautiful has happened and that my life would never be the same again.'
And here is another exciting detail she shared — her legs and ankles no longer hurt, and the swelling had now all but disappeared!
Such is the power of forgiveness.
This is only one example among many, but I must tell you this — the true forgiveness which can bring such tangible fruits is a rare thing in the world today. And I think one main reason for that is the lack of addressing one other need that is even deeper than the need to forgive.
Yes, for true forgiveness to take place, there is indeed one deeper need to be acknowledged and addressed.
The Need for Justice
All human beings, in their deepest, truest form (by which I mean their child-heart, the self they were born with) have, among other things, one thing in common: we all desire justice.
While we are children, right and wrong is automatically known by us — we know right from the start that feeling pain is bad, and are horrified to learn about 'normal' events like disease and death. We know, deep below the shallow level of conscious thought, how things should be...
Indeed, the light that shines within us in those years is so bright, that it typically takes some time before it is darkened and before our true self, along with its conscience, is suppressed, and made harder to access even by ourselves. For most of us, average law-abiding citizens of the free world today, the sense of right and wrong remains more or less intact over the course of our life — although its ability to influence our actions gets severely weakened by childhood trauma and neglect and all the other blows we take later in life; and above all, it gets slowly but mercilessly eroded by the repetitive evil caused by our own willful choice to ignore the voice that calls to us from within.
I believe this 'extinguishing of the light' within us is one the reason why people who have committed terrible crimes against their fellow humans — dictators, terrorists, and cold-blooded murderers — often show little or no remorse over their deeds. When their backgrounds are examined, they often reveal some kind of abuse, perversion, or a terrifying lack of nurturing love and mercy. In the extreme cases of those people, as well as the people who are overtly aggressive, vindictive or resentful, the conscience has been overridden by their (quite legitimate, but unanswered and therefore misdirected) desire for justice. Their childhood pain, caused by evil (or the lack of the good they had desired as children), which is never healed by the comforting touch and words of loving parents — or later, on a journey of inner freedom — becomes a driving force, spurring them on in their pursuit of vengeance. The blood-thirsty tyrant, using his genuine talents and skills in the selfish service of his (often subconscious) pursuit of inner justice, makes his innocent subjects pay for his inner pain, just as the angry man makes his family pay for his.
Although it is easy to see how the violence of those men harms their world and everyone in it, we must look deeper, beyond their actions, and see that — though misguided, twisted and kindled to monstrous proportions — there is a cry for justice in their hearts.
I dare say that most of us have long been disconnected from the feelings we were never taught to process and express as children. And so, peeking at our 'normal' childhood from the safety of our later years, we would probably refuse to admit any personal association with this phenomenon...
But I am absolutely certain of the fact that we have all suffered injustice, and we will all suffer it again, sooner or later.
But if we continue living in a state of oblivion, we risk depriving ourselves and those around us from gaining the capacity to live as human beings who feel deeply. We would never be able to gain — indeed, receive in our very bodies — the full measure of love and compassion towards another that we can have...
We will never know the fullness of life that is available to us, if we do not first acknowledge that, deep down, we are angry and we want justice.
The cry for justice was born in the depths of the child's soul as he watched his father scream with rage at his helpless, terrified mother; it rose within him as he stood trembling, facing the taunting bully; it stirred inside him as he silently stared at his teacher's smug and cruel mocking face...
IT'S NOT FAIR !!!
This single young cry, having been joined by hundreds, thousands more through the years, and swollen to gigantic proportions, has, in the case of most men, never been expressed. It has never been felt and allowed to pass through the emotional system — at least not in the right way, in its purest, truest, original form. And perhaps this is one of the reasons why, for most of us, forgiveness feels like such an impossible task. We are never given the justice we seek; we are never allowed to be angry, yet forgiveness is demanded, and that in a cruel, cold way, from people who often do not know our true hearts and have therefore no right to demand such a thing from us.
But our hearts know, and our hearts feel much. And deep within the truest of our many selves, we know that our anger is, at its root, just — or else we would not feel it!
This is why a deeper journey is needed; this is why a deep emotional release must take place. The anger must be accessed, and the need for justice acknowledged. We need to feel the power of the currents that are running through us; we must grasp the sword that has been hidden from us for so long.
We must first receive the power that this mighty weapon can give us, if we are to lay it down later. A man cannot lay down a weapon he does not have.
You cannot choose to be merciful if you do not first regain the power of your righteous anger.
In your prayer time, in a counsellor's office, or better yet — in the midst of a sacred circle of like-hearted men — we must be given permission to feel what has been left unfelt for so long; we must allow ourselves to face our inner enemies and destroy them before the hidden anger destroys us.
Only when we have finally taken the sword of power back into our clean, innocent hands, will we finally have the justice our hearts have long desired...
Only then will we truly forgive.
I myself know the cry for justice well. Before discovering this hidden need, I wasted much time wondering why I could not attain the freedom that forgiveness was supposed to bring me. Until I found the missing link. Until I was given the revelation of the deeper power that alone can make a man gracious to others without losing a piece of himself each time he 'forgives'.
Only men who are noble at heart can extend true grace to others. All men are noble at heart, but few grow up to live it out. For nobility was designed to be protected by a layer of fury, and when, in childhood, that fury is silenced, all nobility is plundered, and the man is left helpless, to grow up a weak coward or a weak tyrant. Either way, he is weak. Such is the plight of so many...
But once I was given the key to my own freedom, I had the chance to take back the nobility of heart that had indeed been mine all along...
But I was first given the permission to finally find the fury that had been silenced for a lifetime.
And then, it was not time to forgive. It was time to kill.
Forgiveness and 'The Shadow'
The influences of the people in my life who had once, willingly or not, hurt and oppressed me, had to be cast off; it was time to wage war against them and reclaim freedom. It was time to get in touch with the darkest, most frightening but also most honest part of me. My parents — otherwise good and 'normal' people, had to become my enemies during this season of expression and liberation. The depression they had (inadvertently) caused me to suffer for so long later in life, had to be attacked and cut at its roots, and those roots were my parents. I had suffered enough from them in that lost, lonely young place of my heart. They had to go.
Contrary to what some might think, this whole process felt good, really good. And it was absolutely justified...
You see, the death and destruction I caused to these people in my mind, was not directed at them, not at their true selves. In my just anger, I did not kill my parents; I killed the darkness of the selves created by their own responses to their inner pain and the result of a lifetime of thwarted, disowned, repressed desires. Their hearts, good and golden in their essence, were not what caused me to be broken, and I did wish them ill. No, it was the darkness that I killed; it was what was not of them, that I punished. And by doing so, I also did another good and healthy thing: I disarmed my own darkness — I brought to light and neutralised my own 'shadow', as Carl Jung once called this darker part of us.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. At all counts, it forms an unconscious snag, thwarting our most well-meant intentions.”
— Carl Jung
That 'shadow' which I killed in them, also exists in me, and in all of us. Some call it our 'flesh', or 'carnal nature', some label it 'the ego' or 'lower nature', but no matter what we call it, we must keep this one thing in mind: the shadow is not us, it is not our real self. The heart, with its truest, deepest motives and desires — this is what the true self is, and this is where our identity lays. The shadow part of the self hides in shallower, murkier waters; this, perhaps, is the reason why is it so readily available and quick to access, with only as much as a sudden thought or a dark impulse; yet knowing the good motives and desires of the heart require a deeper level of awareness and freedom.
Therefore, the work of expression which should come before forgiveness unveils the hidden anger and directs it once again to its original target – the shadow selves of those who have harmed us. Against these selves there must be no mercy, for to justify them will mean justifying the dark impulses of our own shadow nature; therefore, acting upon the principle of loving others as strongly and justly as we should love ourselves, we must destroy any such possibility. We must be free from any sense of false peace, false humility or false love — those things lead to suppression, and are enemies of the spiritual and emotional freedom we pursue. We would easily be able to gauge our progress by the fruits it bears in our inner being. Any lingering tendencies for resentment or 'projection' would show us that there is still work to be done.
'Men who develop their shadow also develop a kind of peculiar grace that would be a consequence of not only allowing their aggressive side to step forward but also their feminine and compassionate side that they may have kept squelched.'
— Jordan Peterson
Having killed the shadows-selves of others in this way, we also integrate and therefore disarm our own shadow-self; having done the deeds of righteous anger and justice, we have no need to resort to the shadow and its dark, hidden works. The shadow's voice had been heard; its hunger had been quenched, and it therefore has no reason to leap upon us in the dark. Brought into the light, all darkness dissolves, and so do our hidden motives for vengeance —those hidden impulses and ideas which, once rejected and disowned by us in our desperate attempts to be 'good', have remained 'in the shadow', to fester and grow there. But once the anger is allowed to flow and justice is served, the need for that justice is fulfilled, and no hidden emotions are left. Once that concealed anger and resentment begin to diminish and is finally gone, we might find that the secret guilt that has dogged our heels is also gone and that some physical symptoms have also disappeared, as gradually and mysteriously as they have once come.
What remains in the dark can never be healthy, but what is discovered, felt and expressed, can become a key to healing.
Forgiveness is impossible without wholeness.
Only the strong can forgive.
The way to true strength (and therefore, to gaining the ability to forgive) is not found in being a slave to your emotions — and neither it is in being their enemy...
There is a third way, and it is the way of redemption.