In my spiritual journey, I’ve come to realize: The more you forgive, the happier you will be. Having seen forgiveness stop the flow of destructive, negative energy and transform it into love many times, I know this to be true. The consequences of not forgiving are just as apparent. This summer, I observed a friend, who has every reason to be happy with his loving family and successful career, suffer with smoldering anger at people he felt had wronged him when he was a child. His anger, so evident in his clenched jaw and venomous words, masked an injury that had never healed. But anger could not hide his suffering or unhappiness.  Why does he hold on to something that happened more than 50 years ago when it makes him so unhappy? I wondered.

I wonder the same thing about myself when I hold on to anger. Why? Perhaps I don’t want to give up the feeling of power or illusion of protection that anger provides. I am hurt by something someone has said or done, even by something I imagine someone has thought about me. Pain follows and seems unbearable until it’s replaced by anger, and not only anger, but righteous anger. I want to lash out, brandish my wrath like a blade, all the while thinking how right it is that they should feel the pain they caused in me. I have been wronged, and now my ego demands payment, and that feels powerful—not painful—and for a brief time, it feels good.

However, when I do return “hurt for hurt,” the pain does not go away. It remains, and it festers, infecting someone else and setting in motion more harmful behavior. When I am able to rise above my negative feelings, it is liberating. Instead of responding with anger, I return compassion and forgiveness for injury and that frees me of the pain. Yet, I still struggle to let go of hurt and anger.

I struggle, knowing that I am a being of love and light inhabiting a material world that is governed by the law of cause and effect. I know that with every act, every thought, I create the future for myself. Consequently, a compassionate and loving response to whatever the world presents is not an attempt to live as a saint, it is acting in my own self-interest.

Yet at those times when my dark emotions surface and I want to scream, even realizing the karmic consequences of my actions does not always help.  I want to respond with kindness, but I cannot. I blame my nature. I blame my upbringing. Above all, I blame this life that is complicated, confusing, and often disappointing. Still, assigning blame or finding justification belie what I have found to be true: that I am only healed, only happy, when I respond to injury with compassion and forgiveness.

Even so, in overcoming antagonistic feelings, forgive as ye would BE forgiven, remembering them no more. This overcomes antagonism and antagonistic influences…

-- Edgar Cayce reading 538-30

But use rather thy choices, thy endeavors, thy experiences, in a way and manner that they may become stepping-stones for a greater comprehension, a greater awakening of that consciousness of the Creative Forces of good, of hope, of faith, of brotherly love, of kindness, of gentleness; yea, of patience.

-- Edgar Cayce reading 1599-1

I resolve to do better, to forgive myself when I fall back into states of anger or needless suffering. I remind myself that aggression breeds more aggression and that the only way to stop anger, pain, or harm is to stop them within myself.

So at those times when I can’t find a kind or loving response, I try to take a few seconds to breathe before I react. Those seconds, those few breaths I delay, allow me to remain silent or walk away. I may not be able to replace my negative feelings with love, but if I can’t be kind, then at least I can refrain from being unkind. I can refrain from feeding the pain and outrage I feel and from giving it voice. Forgiveness, especially of self and a willingness to keep trying, brings me happiness and hope that one day I will no longer struggle with anger or forgiveness. In the meantime, when I find myself wanting to hurt another or unleash my anger, I pause and remember to “first, do no harm.”

What is good? How is such defined in thy life - of awakening to all the possibilities that exist in thy intake of life and its phases? To do good is to think constructively, to think creatively. What is creative, what is constructive, ye may ask? That which never hinders, which never makes for the bringing of any harm to others.

-- Edgar Cayce reading 1206-13