Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

To forgive the world



Photo: David Campbell

After both of my parents had died, I put off sorting through the boxes of their belongings that came back to my house.

Then I woke one day with the urge to explore them.

I was plunged into stirred-up memories and stored-up feelings.

As if whispered into my thoughts, an idea I’d encountered years ago in the work of psychologist Erik Blumenthal reminded:

“The person who comes to understand his parents can forgive the world.”

The writer, who grew up Jewish in Nazi Germany, knew firsthand how painful experience often makes forgiveness seem impossible. Yet he emphasized two needs that he believed eventually call to each of us: to become more understanding, beyond our rigid “certainties”, and to accept the freedom that forgiveness bestows. ErikB2index

As I unpacked my parents’ things, I gained a deeper view of what they had faced and the weight of the efforts and decisions they made. When they met, they were two people in their 20s entering a cross-cultural marriage at a time when no one knew what the next day would bring, who would live or die, or even what language everyone would be speaking, depending on the outcome of the biggest war the world had known.

I can now see, and appreciate even more fully, that whatever their circumstances, troubles, and significant mistakes or missteps, they made a place for me in this world, and stuck with that commitment.

I’m reminded of words of Rumi’s:

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.”

As I uncovered a broader view of my parents’ lives, I could see that most of my own resistance to forgiveness was forged at a stage when the imprint of my parents’ perceived omnipotence led me to believe that they were always in charge, in the know, in control of all situations.

I now share with them the certainty that that was never true, and the humbling realization that, whatever the hurts, it is not, indeed, as I thought it was. LAFS6377506

It’s been observed that many people hold back from forgiveness because they believe it might go against the grain of justice, might excuse a wrong or deny its occurrence.

But when we find a willingness to see beyond our own view about any situation, especially the actions and choices of others, it disarms that tendency our perception has to keep us wedded to beliefs that not only make us feel bad, but impede our healing and progress, too.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.


9 thoughts on “To forgive the world

  1. I think forgiveness of self and others is one of the golden keys to living a more full and whole life. We may never understand
    the shoes in which another walks and sometimes our shoes are too big or a bit too small. Thank you Phyllis for another profound sharing to give thought to.

  2. Thank you so much for this and all your posts. This, as with so many others of yours, hits home. I find myself reliving my life now from my parents’ point of view. I am a lucky person indeed to still have both parents alive and healthy. I see them now as people with frailties and foibles like anyone else, including myself. This levels the playing field to a new, healthier and compassionate state of being.

  3. Forgiving the pain incidentally given in childhood and recognizing one’s parents frailties and challenges is one of the most difficult things in life. Knowing that they were not perfect in all things allows oneself to not be perfect as well. Some of us learn these things earlier in life and others never find their way.

  4. Forgiveness will be done well when we understand each other. Sounds difficult but it is for the forgiver himself.

    However, many people abuse the word sorry just to avoid the trouble. What we need is our heart putting in their apology also.

    Great thought. Keep posting.

    With love
    Jade the Mystic

  5. Diane and Jane, I am, as always, so grateful for your good company, and Jade, I deeply appreciate your making the time to share these thoughts of yours. It IS for the forgiver, himself. Bless you for your very kind love and support, and for visiting.

  6. Thank you for reinforcing this impetus to forgive and taking me into its terrain. Really appreciate this post.

  7. It took years after my mother passed away that I came to know and understand her as she never understood or knew me. It was then that I forgave her for all those moments in my life that were wrong. That’s where the lessons in life lay for me.

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