Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gifted With People to Forgive

Life experience demonstrates that a human being cannot always await hard evidence to formulate an inner belief system. If I wait for science to figure out everything I need to build up my mental picture of reality, I’ll be waiting a very long time - probably past my own lifetime, probably past my great grandchildren's lifetime.  So obviously I need to supplement my sparse scientific facts with a lot of ideas drawn from other sources. Otherwise, my inner picture of reality will be riddled with gaps - too many to be useful and form a life direction.

I suspect that every thinking person uses ideas like bricks to build a workable model of reality - at least, on some basic level.  Each person probably has a unique threshold used to determine which ideas to embrace and which to reject. Some people’s thresholds are more exacting and others are more tolerant.

The following is a belief that I don’t have hard evidence for. I accept it because (a) it makes sense to me (b) it explains a lot and (c) it helps me deal with difficult people.  Now that I properly covered myself with a disclaimer (and won’t be sued for heresy) here’s the belief:

“I believe that when we need the Creator’s forgiveness, He gifts us with people to forgive. This way He can forgive us in return ~ measure for measure”.

Had the Creator offered free forgiveness, unearned, we’d suffer from the “bread of shame” - the embarrassment of being doled a handout. However, when we forgive the hurts that others cast on us, we’ve performed something very humanly difficult, something that took painful effort. We thus “earned” His forgiveness. The offenses we are in place to forgive can arrive in a wide variety of flavors: physical pain, emotional pain, affronts, embarrassments, let downs, put downs, feeling misunderstood, physical/verbal abuse ... The list literally trails on and on. Possibly, consistent with measure for measure, this vast variety of sufferings is designed to match a vast variety of human misdeeds.  

It’s likely that the Creator designed His measure for measure response to our deeds as a feedback mechanism. Since the sufferings resemble the deeds which triggered them, this should help the deeds become more identifiable - allowing us to see the areas of life where we need to improve. In theory, from the hurts others cast on us, we should be able to identify what offenses we’ve cast on the Creator - whether in the present life or in past lives.

Yet, before going too ga ga over this feedback mechanism, it’s worth noting that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, once quipped that most people are not experts in the Creator’s ways. Therefore, they are automatically unable to read His intentions into the narratives of their lives. If so, then what’s the value of measure for measure feedback, when most people can’t read anything concrete into them?

It’s possible that while measure for measure feedbacks are not designed for most people to read, they might be designed for the spiritual masters to read. At times, a layperson has the option to seek guidance from a sagely master who can read these signs; much like a physician can read symptoms. Maybe a need for guidance is part of the Creator’s plan to foster relationships between laity and their spiritual teachers.

Even when we don’t have the opportunity to seek out a spiritual teacher, at the very least, we can still gain the Creator’s forgiveness by forgiving others. This part of the process does not depend on us understanding the underlying message being communicated by the feedback. The gift being able to forgive is sufficient.

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