Dealing with Ugliness

Thich Nhat Hanh says that people hurt others when they themselves are hurting. He says these abusers need help. I would have to agree with both these statements. However, I don't believe that we--the abused--should be the ones to offer this help.

I have been on the receiving end of some serious ugliness in the past year. It's easy to blame oneself when others are rude, snide, or just downright nasty and hurtful. I know I always take a good, hard look at my own behavior to see if I've played a part. And I am never 100% innocent. (Occasionally, 98% or so.)

I recently read a wonderful article about forgiveness. You have probably heard that carrying around grudges, animosity, hatred, and anger only cause more pain and suffering to the carrier. But what can you do when you have been wronged? We all know forgiveness is the path to freedom from this pain. But how easy is it to forgive? Especially when a person's actions are particularly grievous? And the perpetrator is not even sorry?

One of the things I liked most about this article by Gina Sharpe (in Tricycle, the Buddhist Review magazine) is the acknowledgement that forgiveness takes time. In some cases, the heart might need months, years, perhaps even a lifetime, to forgive. There is nothing wrong with this. The process cannot be forced. Just as you cannot force yourself to love someone, you can only allow love to grow if the seeds are planted, the same goes for forgiveness. You can plant the seeds. You can water them with your thoughts. But the heart will open of its own accord when and if it is ready.

"Forgiveness is a deep process, which is repeated over and over and over again in our hearts. It honors the grief and it honors the betrayal. And in its own time, it ripens into the freedom to truly forgive." —Gina Sharpe

The article contains several Buddhist meditations on forgiveness. These can be used to ask for forgiveness from others, when you feel you have wronged someone; to ask for forgiveness from yourself, when you feel you have hurt yourself; and to forgive others who have wronged you. The best advice here is to start with something easy. See if you can open your heart and forgive someone for a very small infraction first. Maybe you can begin by forgiving yourself for the part you have played in your own suffering. Remember that forgiveness is a practice. The more we practice, the better we will get at it.

This article is from the Spring, 2013 edition of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. I tried to attach a link, but for whatever reason it didn't work. Hope you can find it!