Two monks are walking down the road. They arrive at a muddy stream crossing, and a well dressed woman declares without introduction, “Don’t just stand there. Someone carry me across this mess.“
Without pause, the older monk lifts her across. She says nothing, not even a thank you.
The two monks walk all day. The whole time, the younger one stews in his mind—How could he pick her up? We’re not supposed to touch women, or even talk to them. And she was so rude, someone should say something to her, she didn’t deserve our help.
Finally, arriving at the inn for dinner, he can’t hold himself back. “What were you thinking? She was nasty, and you broke the rules, and she didn’t even say thank you.”
The older monk smiles gently and replies. “Wow, I put that woman down hours ago, but you’ve been carrying her all this time!”
So what does that mean in real life? We make mistakes. Other people make mistakes. We do things to others. Others do things to us. There’s an actual experience that can be trivial or even traumatic. We add to the suffering with judgment, anger, and blame. It’s sometimes referred to as adding a second arrow after being struck by a first. Something unpleasant happens, but then we add more to the experience.
Forgiveness isn’t the same as condoning ourselves or anyone else for misbehavior. But we so easily hold ourselves infinitely responsible, often for experiences utterly out of our control or from decades past. With forgiveness, we make amends when needed but let go of the extra baggage. We give ourselves the same benefit of the doubt we’d offer a close friend.
On the other hand, we sometimes allow someone else to influence our lives long after they’ve gone in a similar fashion. Another driver cuts us off in traffic, putting us in danger, and then speeds off. The driver arrives at brunch and relaxes, but we make our own coffee break bitter dwelling in our own anger. It’s a concept that holds across larger situations too. Anger and resentment simmer and grow, while compassionate resolve allows us to address what needs addressing without slinging additional arrows.
link has a 10 min guided meditation.