If someone has acted in a way that is unskillful towards me then they have wronged me. They owe me an apology. Hopefully, I am able to forgive them for what they have done. Let us look at this more closely. The action has happened and one can’t change that. But the critical question is what is the true intent for their action? Every single one of us has a history about who we believe we are based primarily on unmet psychological needs and inner child wounding. Our stories and subsequent reactions play out automatically, spontaneously, autonomously and subconsciously. Every action is an attempt to make us feel safe, loved and worthy. Do you know what your next thought will be? What you will say? What you will do? It is questionable if we really have free will. What is happening is that our brains subconsciously process what is being experienced and then it comes into our consciousness. We believe we thought it but in reality, we are just aware of what our mind has already created.

We are all victims of our history. We act to compensate for our perceived deficiencies and inadequacies. From that perspective every action is skillful from a personal perspective. We are just trying to survive in this world.

More extreme behavior such as stealing, using drugs and alcohol to excess, harming others and acting without control are just behaviours and strategies that individuals learned in order to survive from what is often perhaps a more extreme history of physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child.

In understanding this universal misguided intentionality, perhaps we don’t need to forgive someone for their actions but bring an understanding to why they have done what they have done. This understanding also applies to ourself. We are all the same in the sense that we act unknowingly.

If we just knew their and our own story there would be no need to forgive. In understanding that we act from a place of suffering, in response we would act from a place of compassion for self and other.

However, even though we act from an intention to survive, we are still responsible for our actions and need to express regret, take responsibility and act to make amends as indicated.

by Dr. Phil Blustein
March 8, 2024