There is so much good work happening in the field of peacebuilding and conflict resolution that goes unnoticed and which is very inspiring. Especially heartwarming are the women peace makers who bring to the mix compassion, understanding and nurturance. With all the division and “us versus them” mentality, to heal these divisions and transform conflict we need to change our mindsets. This is where political forgiveness can come into play.
Political forgiveness not only includes individual forgiveness, but broadens the concept of forgiveness to the political arena. In a sense it can be seen as a secular version of what can be viewed as more religious or spiritual on an individual level and is about healing, not only individually, but on a community and national level as well.
The question becomes “are we ready for this?” Are we at a place where we are willing to let go of our need to be right, for the sake of others, and to really listen and hear one another, especially behind what is being said? There is so much fear that we are feeling. Fear of not having a place in society or fear of losing our place, or that we feel we do not matter. There is fear of losing control or not having control and the list goes on.
When we allow ourselves to engage in a political forgiveness process, we begin with the understanding that we want to come together and finally listen to one another. We are willing to acknowledge our part in whatever situation has been causing conflict, take responsibility for it, and work together in a healing capacity. There are many steps to a political forgiveness process, and in order to engage it begins with changing mindsets — a difficult process for some and a process which can be quite profound for others.
In transforming conflict, a political forgiveness process is necessary. Forgiveness on any level requires an inner shift within our beings. In an address to a joint session of the United States Congress in 1990, the former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, said that “without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, a more humane society will not emerge.” Stopping the cycles of anger, hatred, and fear which fuel so much suffering, requires a radical change in our thinking. Without this change we will stay stuck in the quagmire of violence and aggression, passing down to each generation the legacy of violence and guilt which will only perpetuate these cycles. If, on the other hand, we are honestly committed to transforming consciousness, then we will recognize that the true heroes are those individuals who are not afraid to look within, to change the way they think, and heal the pain of their heart. This kind of healing transformation is what forgiveness is about.
Healing ourselves, our communities and our nations is not easy work, but it is necessary if we want to live more peacefully with one another. The gift is that when we have the courage to do things differently and make changes within ourselves, our lives become richer, fuller and more meaningful. When we can listen to one another and help alleviate someone else’s fear by our compassion and understanding, we are creating more peaceful societies and a more peaceful world.