Yeah, okay, you’ve got a lot of things to say. What about people who’ve suffered from physical abuse? It’s all well and good to remain in your throne and judge people who committed it. But what if the person who did it was hung from the banisters and hit with a stick. And what if they still managed to maintain some innocence. Why do people judge people who perpetrated the physical abuse, so much?
It is easier for us to recognize the suffering in a victim than it is for us to recognize the suffering in the perpetrator that caused the act of violence. To heal the victim’s suffering is to help move on from such a crime. To heal the perpetrator’s suffering is to prevent such a crime from ever happening.
Here are several thing that can help to keep that in perspective.
1. If someone is happy and at peace, they cannot and will not consciously harm others. There is no interest in such things and nothing to be gained for them. Real happiness is imbued with contentment. All forms of violence be it physical or otherwise comes from a place of unrest, unhappiness, discontentment, and fear of lack.
2. In order to harm others, there is a certain degree of sanity that is forgotten. When Jesus was being murdered, he said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” This isn’t about taking the moral high ground; it’s about insight into ignorance. Rather than seeing those murderers as inherently bad, which is the meaning of “judgement,” it is important to recognize ignorance as a kind of intoxicated state in which you really don’t fully understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, to whom you are doing it, and who you are as the doer.
3. Ignorance is temporary. It is not an identity or essential nature. Because ignorance is like a kind of intoxication, one can sober up. That is the whole ideal and purpose of rehabilitation, repentance, and forgiveness.
Think of the prison system here in the US. We are very judgmental without being very constructive. We tell people that they are bad, that they have done wrong, and then we punish them. Yet we do not heal them, the punishment rarely serves to connect cause to effect, and often it simply makes things worse by fostering resentment and hate. By not healing and helping those who have committed crimes and wrongful acts, we are not benefitting the wellbeing of our society at large.
It is obvious to most people that a victim needs healing. But the recognition that the perpetrator needs similar attention rather than scorn and hate is a very mature and subtle understanding. Tonglen meditation and Tibetan Buddhist compassion contemplations were instrumental in making me aware of this not just conceptually but in practice within my own life. The book Becoming Enlightened by the Dalai Lama is a wonderful introduction.
This is how we can learn to forgive others and also ourselves of things we still consider unforgivable and unthinkable. Forgiveness does not mean that whatever happened was “okay and all good” but that your mind non-violently accepts those happenings and attends to how best to move forward.
One of my favorite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh sums this up well: “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”
Namaste my friend.