I started M. Scott Peck’s Further Along the Road Less Traveled: The Unending Journey Toward Spiritual Growth. In my latest reading, one topic that Peck discussed was forgiveness. According to Peck, some people act as if forgiveness is an easy task. Peck refers to a “a very popular New Age book called Love Is Letting Go of Fear, by Gerald Jampolsky, a fellow psychiatrist” (page 41), and Peck characterizes Jampolsky’s position on forgiveness to be that we should not judge people but rather should seek out the good that is within them. Peck believes that such an approach ignores the reality of evil. For Peck, while there may be a reason that somebody hurt us, such as damage that he received during his childhood, his hurting us was still wrong. Forgiveness is us acknowledging that the person who hurt us was wrong, and then choosing to forgive him. As Peck says on page 42, “Only after a guilty verdict can there be a pardon.” It’s a lot of hard work for us to forgive, according to Peck, and yet it is necessary, for unforgiveness is like us chewing our leg: we’re hurting ourselves when we don’t forgive.
Do I agree with Peck? I’m not exactly in a position to critique what he says about forgiveness, for I know for sure that I’m not too good at forgiving people! But I doubt that practicing what he says about forgiveness will help me to forgive. I already know that people did me wrong. My problem is that I revisit those wrongs in my mind over and over again, often imagining myself telling people off.
So what should I tell myself to help me to forgive? Although I’m not good at forgiveness, some thoughts do help me better than others. Trying to remind myself that we’re all imperfect human beings in need of forgiveness helps me to have a better attitude towards others, including those who have done me wrong. While that works (somewhat) for me, however, I’m not in any position to tell someone else (such as a victim of abuse) that it absolutely must work for him or her. But, overall, I agree with Peck about what forgiveness is: recognizing that someone has done us wrong, and making a choice to let that go, to release its hold on us.