I fought with the idea of ‘forgiveness’ for the longest time. I didn’t get it, didn’t think I could, and didn’t want to grok it, either. I understood it from the viewpoint of my fundamentalist relatives, in that ‘holier than thou’ sort of a way, and it was repugnant to me.

One day, I was thinking about it, trying to get my brain wrapped around it after having read about Quan Yin. She is the Iron Goddess of Mercy, and she’s also the Goddess of Forgiveness. I knew her as the Iron Goddess, but Forgiveness? This blew my mind, and made me rethink my concepts around the word.

I usually start by thinking of what a word does not mean. I can eliminate a lot of the societal and cultural expectations surrounding a word’s usage that way. Forgiveness does not mean acceptance, it does not mean condoning, it does not mean trust… I shaved away layers of meaning and undertone and overt shading, until I found the meaning underneath what ‘society’ has given that word.

It means, for me, letting go of the need to punish. This brings it closer to the Buddhist idea of compassion, for me.

Your action merely is, the way it affects me is the way it affects me, and I have no judgment or need to punish or praise you for it. (you being a generic term, not a personal one.) This does leave aside the social grease needed to live in this world that manners provides; when someone does something nice, it’s ‘good’ to say thank you and praise them, and negative feedback can prevent a repeat of ‘bad’ behavior, etc…

I don’t forgive easily, or often. I think I use the word more easily now than I used to, and I use it to denote those times when I’ve realized I’m carrying a need to punish, destroy, or ‘teach a lesson to’ someone or something. In those cases, where the need to punish is harming me, I use forgiveness to put down the need to punish, the desire (to go back to to a core Buddhist concept) to harm.

Another really important idea in the center of my world is ‘personal responsibility’. I am responsible for my own experience, and if I’m not happy, I should do something different. No one is obligated or responsible for me, for my life, for providing me with the things I need. It’s up to me to see that my needs are met, which means also that it’s up to me to know what my needs are, communicate about those needs, and to be proactive in meeting my needs.

A long held central belief for me is ‘honesty.’ First with myself, then with others. If I’m asked a direct question, I’ll answer it truthfully. I may point out to the person asking the question that they may not like the answer, or that I think the the truthful answer will hurt them, and then ask them if they really want to know, but if they say they do, then they get the truth. This is the compromise I reached with myself between the social ‘white lie’, and being totally honest all the time. And like you said about manners, I do have a choice in what words I use to convey my truths…

I also live my life by the ideal of continuing personal evolution. I change, deliberately and purposefully. I constantly look at my life, my actions, thoughts, words and deeds, and evaluate these things based on my own ideas of who I want to be. I don’t use society’s standards, or any outside person’s idea of who I should be. I don’t evaluate in terms of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but instead in terms of ‘works to achieve my goals’ and ‘doesn’t work’. I ask myself “who am I, who do I want to be, how do I get there, what needs to change, what is working right now?” And I keep this as judgment free as possible…