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I’ve gone through several stages in my understanding of if or why or how to forgive my abusers.  In the early days, I found a quote which I assumed was the Bahá’í standard:

If some one commits an error and wrong toward you, you must instantly forgive him.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453)

I certainly wasn’t in a position to do that, but I sincerely wanted to be obedient, so my prayers in those days were:  “OK God, I can’t forgive them, but You can, so please do!”

Then in one of my letters from the House of Justice, they told me:

As a devoted believer you are urged to strive to develop for¬giveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner, and to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature, whose actions can only lead them deeper into unhappiness and separation from God. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to this author, 9 September, 1992)

This was totally liberating!  I loved their string of adjectives “strive to develop”, which suggested that it could take a lifetime, and even if I never got there, as long as I was striving to develop, that was OK with God.

Secondly, I had to develop forgiveness “in my heart”, not between us!  So if I was never able to spend time with them again, it was enough to develop it in my heart, between God and I.

Finally, they wanted me to separate my parents from their sin – a concept I’ve just learned recently, but when I come back to this quote now, I can see what this means “to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature”.  By refusing to forgive them, I was not honoring the perfect beings that God created, I was only seeing the monsters of their lower natures.  That truly was liberating!

What’s been your experience and understanding of forgiveness?   Post your comments here: