Do you ever find yourself raging at God? “Why am I being punished? Why did you send a horrible virus to plague us? Why am I suffering more than others?” If so, you’re not alone.
Psychologists have identified three main types of forgiveness:
forgiveness of self, forgiveness of others,
and forgiveness of God or Fate.
We may feel we are being unfairly hurt or controlled by whatever power created our crazy world. We can’t understand it all. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why are we plagued with disabilities, genetic disorders, cancers? Why are there hurricanes, floods, earthquakes? Why do some people have to die young? Why do we have to die at all?
So many questions and unfortunately I can’t provide you with certain answers. And that can lead us to another question: Why can’t there be more certainty in this ever-changing world we live in?
Most of us tend to be on the impatient side, desiring definite answers as quickly as possible. We want solid reasons for our suffering, and we don’t want to wait and see what good things might result from our pain. Pain is bad and we want it to stop. It takes an upshift in our thinking to consider whether maybe, just maybe, some pain and uncertainty could actually have benefits.
Even though I don’t like to suffer, I do know, for certain, that I have learned from my suffering. That it has pushed me forward and helped me grow. I know I wouldn’t want to be the person I was before my pain because that person was not as strong, caring, and wise as the person I am now – and as the person I hope someday to be.
So how do we cope when suffering and tragedy appear in our lives? There’s a reason the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr, is so popular. It’s great advice.
The serenity prayer reminds me that there are going to be things in my life I won’t like and won’t be able to change. If I desire serenity, I am going to need to accept the fact that sometimes I am not going to get my way and I need to realize that can be a good thing.
Once I accept what is,
I can quit expending my energy fighting to bring back what isn’t.
Instead of scolding God, I can accept that I am not a god – not even close – and I don’t always know what’s best. Accomplishing that will give me the serenity the prayer speaks of, which will provide me with the courage to do something good when a nasty virus comes calling or a hurricane blows in. I can start creating a new path based on acceptance of those things I can’t change.
I’ve had the opportunity to read and teach a lot of world history. That has helped me accept the fact that life involves pain and struggle. Not just for me. For everyone.
My background has made me realistic about how hard it is to be human, but it hasn’t made me hopeless. One of the gods of the Hindu triumvirate, Shiva, is known as “The Destroyer.” When I first learned of that I was dismayed and couldn’t imagine why you’d worship a god of destruction. I soon learned destruction wasn’t what the god was all about.
Destruction is a necessary step on the path to transformation,
comparable to tearing down a dilapidated, crumbling building
so that a new, improved structure can take its place.
Shiva actually symbolizes hope as the god creates, protects, and transforms the universe. Shiva’s purpose is to destroy that which needs changing so that something new and better can be created. What was has served its purpose. It’s time to generate something new. The Hindu religion began thousands of years ago in Asia, and then, just as now, humans had to accept shocking events and develop a new normal, knowing the new normal would not last forever either.
Sometimes I get very excited about change and can maintain a positive attitude because I’m looking at the possibilities for good instead of the possibilities for pain. Sometimes I face the negative because I need to be thinking about how I can do things better and improve who I am. And sometimes I just get mad at God and grieve what was, wanting fervently to turn back time.
There are many things I don’t understand in life and my favorite description for the Divine, after Love, is the Great Mystery (Wakan Tanka in Lakota). When I’m feeling angry and anxious because life has gotten crazy and beyond what I can comprehend, my prayers may go something like this:
“Okay, God. I don’t appreciate all this. It’s awful. I’ve got lots of questions for you, but I’ll accept what happened. I guess I forgive you. You better help me out with this, though. I’m going to need you.”
I imagine God laughing and reassuring me, “I’m with you. We’ve got this. It’s going to be okay.”
So, after I grieve what was or what I thought would be,
- I connect with positive people and inspirational messages
- pray a lot
- summon up my courage
- remind myself to have compassion for myself and for others
- and work on creating a new, improved way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
When disaster strikes, my bottom line is – forgiveness is my best choice.