Finding a way to extend forgiveness to ourselves is one of our most essential tasks. Just as others have been caught in suffering, so have we. If we look honestly at our life, we can see the sorrows and pain that have led to our own wrongdoing. In this we can finally extend forgiveness to ourselves; we can hold the pain we have caused in compassion. Without such mercy, we will live our own life in exile. We have all been blinded, we have all suffered. Pema Chodron tells this story:
A young woman wrote about finding herself in a small town in the Middle East surrounded by people jeering, yelling and threatening to throw stones at her and her friends because they were Americans. Of course she was terrified, and what happened to her is important. Suddenly she identified with every person throughout history who had ever been scorned and hated. She understood what it was like to be despised for any reason: ethnic group, racial background, sexual preference, gender. Something cracked wide open and she stood in the shoes of millions of oppressed people and saw with a new perspective. She even understood her shared humanity with those who hated her. This sense of deep connection, of belonging to the same family, is the awakening of the great heart of compassion.
Alan Wallace illustrates this truth from the Tibetan teachings:
Imagine walking along a sidewalk with your arms full of groceries, and someone roughly bumps into you so that you fall and your groceries are strewn over the ground. As you rise up from the puddle of broken eggs and tomato juice, you are ready to shout out, “You idiot! What’s wrong with you? Are you blind.” But just before you catch your breath to speak, you see that the person who bumps into you actually is blind. He, too, is sprawled in the spilled groceries, and your anger vanishes in an instant, to be replaced by sympathetic concern: “Are you hurt? Can I help you up?” Our situation is like that. When we clearly recognize that the source of disharmony and misery in the world is ignorance, we can open the door of wisdom and compassion.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are”