An extremely helpful way to get into a giving consciousness is to release yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness. Just imagine what life would be like if you were to accumulate all the grievances, hurt feelings, and all the injustices that come along in the course of one year! Your load would be impossibly heavy. Actually, there are people who labor under such loads, with disastrous psychological and physical effects. Since most if not all of the physical ills experienced in the body are psychosomatically induced, and more and more medical researchers are coming to this conclusion, the matter of unforgiveness may involve the major culprit of human ills of mind and body. Significantly one researcher calls arthritis "bottled hurt."
Now, of course, most of us don't carry this whole load of the year's unforgiveness, simply because there is a tendency to practice what I call "safety-valve forgiveness." We say, "Oh, well, what's the use?" So we let go out of a sense of the futility of it all. The sensible person comes, in time, to the awareness that willfully insisting upon endlessly carrying hurt or a sense of being wronged inflicts needless damage. So we say, "I give up!"
But, how much better to bless things and people as the situations occur, rather than wait to act as a last resort. This is why Jesus advised us to quickly agree with our adversary. This is often misunderstood as a sign of weakness. But you see, to agree as Jesus used the term does not mean to give in even if it goes against your best interest or highest ideals. In Jesus' usage the word adversary refers not to a person but to your adverse thought about a person. Thus, to "agree with" means to "settle with," to deal creatively with the situation—to bless it and let it go...
Often the thing that stands in our way is some bit of unforgiveness that we may be hooked on. Jesus always seems to go right to the heart of the matter. He says that if you come to the altar to pray and you remember that you have something against your brother, you should first go and make up with your brother and then come with your gift. In other words, if you are blocking the flow by your resentment or bitterness, not even God can break through with the good you desire. In "The Lord's Prayer" Jesus says, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Mt. 6:12). This does not imply bargaining with God. God makes no deals. It means that we must give way to receive. We must let go of indignation and offense if we want to loosen the restrictions in our lives. Something's got to give. There is a great probability that in the case of physical or mental or financial problems in your life, there is some kind of rancor or bitterness or memory of wrong in your consciousness. Something's got to give.
Of course, resentment and hostility often run deep, and forgiveness is not always easy. One may hear many people echoing Peter's objections to Jesus' idealistic teaching: How many times should I forgive a person who does evil to me; seven times? Jesus responded: I am not telling you seven times, but seventy times seven. Peter is saying, "You just can't go on forgiving people. How much can one be expected to take?" Jesus is pointing out that we are dealing with law and not caprice. If you want light in the room, you must turn on the switch and keep it on—or you will have to sit in darkness.
You may feel that forgiving someone who has despitefully used you is just too much to expect, that you have good reason for turning off the light, and a perfect right to your indignation. That is all very well in the logic of human consciousness, but it overlooks the principle. You are a spiritual being, created in and of love, with the "same mind that was in Christ Jesus." But the power and privilege that go with your divinity are yours only when you act the part. Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father" (Mt. 5:44-45). Love, so that you may actually be what you innately are. Unforgiveness of any kind frustrates your divine potential. The difference between Jesus and you and me is not that He was created under some special dispensation, but that He acted constantly at the level of His divinity, while we act and react much of the time at the level of our humanity.
But we can change. We can grow. We can be what we are created to be...
Imelda Shanklin, one of Unity's great teachers, gives an important prayer test. She says, in effect, "Father forgive me for expecting in the human that which is found only in the divine." Note, "forgive me." In other words, I have sinned by expecting in the human of the person something that can be found only in the Christ within the individual. I must take responsibility for my attitudes.
If we relate to others on a purely human level, there is bound to be an unconscious expectation of human limitations. Our view will be prejudiced. We sometimes say, "That's about what I expected from that character!" The sin is really in the eye of the beholder. The forgiveness must come through understanding—not setting it right, but seeing it rightly...
Practice forgiveness often! I have heard this question by students of Truth: "Should a person pray when he has nothing to pray about?" This implies a misunderstanding of the science of prayer, a failure to realize that life is an experience of growth. You can always have a quiet session in forgiveness. Turn within and get centered in oneness with the creative flow. Visualize the logo of concentrics, the two cones touching at the points. In the one cone see the words Divine Love, and in the other one see the words being your love. When you are centered and still, feel the radiant and warm rays of that cosmic flow of love dissolving all hurt, all bitterness, all sense of injustice. See this love flow being projected into your world, loving and forgiving all people with whom you have any enmity. Thus with concentric love and forgiveness, you dissolve all the hooks that may have held you in bondage. Remember, forgiveness is not something you have to do, you only have to let it be done.
When humankind as a whole decides that it is fed up with walls of separation and the wars that result, the walls will come down. Men and women will begin to emphasize likenesses instead of differences. People will build bridges instead of complaining about the gaps in understanding and credibility, and turn on lights instead of cursing the darkness. But don't wait for the millennium. Learn the art of giving and forgiving now.