First, I would like to make an important distinction between determining innocence and guilt that is at the very bedrock of any human society based upon a system of laws and covenants agreed upon by a nation or sovereignty and the kinds of judgments we make nearly everyday regarding others. The latter comes from an internal and individual analysis and reflects a personal choice. Furthermore, the conclusions I have reached do not question the condemnation of that kind of behavior or action whether coming from an individual or group or nation that knowingly does harm to others. My focus is directed to the tendency of all of us to make summary judgments regarding the person beyond a consideration of the behavior itself.
I have over the many years of my existence been quite facile regarding judging those who I do not know and whose behavior I have observed and those close to me – family and friends. Lately, I have expended a considerable amount of mental energy trying to determine the underlying basis of these kinds of judgments.
As with all personal reflections, the initial answer to this quest is the most superficial and the one I prefer to listen to. In fact, the basis of these judgments invariably stem from a number of internal assumptions –
· I condone or reject the behavior of others based upon what I believe I would do under same circumstances.
· This further assumes that I have a very precise and apparently infallible understanding of what is right and wrong.
This initial analysis is woefully incomplete. Judgment is, after all, a more complex process that requires, considerably more thoughtfulness and honesty to uncover the real basis of our conclusions. A personal internal analysis is likely to bring up certain elements of self that can be unexpected and sometimes even unsettling. This is not surprising; since, we are all such fragile and imperfect creatures. The choices we make in life are, in fact, due to a complex constellation of factors some of which are amenable to conscious considerations and others to less accessible subconscious factors. A primary function of the human brain is to order the environment around itself so as to make living comprehensible, manageable and constructive. The order that is imposed reflects a world view fashioned from societal norms, personal experience, the state of mental health, the nuances of family life, etc. This kind of analysis can only arise from an understanding of self that is not readily available to others.
I believe it is safe to presume that every individual is convinced of the rightfulness of his or her actions at the moment that the choice is made. In order to fully appreciate the behavior of another, I would quite literally need to be operating from within that person’s own mind in order to perceive that particular reality. This degree of empathy is really not possible due to the inherent complexity of the human brain. This to me is an essential reality of human existence.
Based upon the conclusions I have described above, I have come to see the importance of and necessity for forgiveness in regard to the actions of others in relationship to myself. Of course, the more we are hurt by the action of others, the more difficult it is to forgive. This is only natural. For this reason, forgiveness requires a discipline of mind that can carry the self beyond the protective measures we ordinarily use to shield ourselves from the ambivalent and uncertain nature of living.
Much like the art of surrender, there is an art to forgiveness. Art is by its nature an expression of the meaning of existence that originates from the essential reality that is embraced by the artist. It is from this same wellspring of existence that deep-seated feelings of love, peace, spirituality, surrender and forgiveness flow.