10/19/2012 12:14 pm ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Just Undo It!

Most of us act unwisely or unfairly at times -- then live to regret our words and actions, often when it seems too late; the wronged person(s) have passed or moved on. The belated slap on the wrist or bitten tongue won't help once the deed is done. Apologies are after words, which do not erase memories. Seers, saints and scriptures plead for forgiveness -- all too often it feels like lip service rather than regret.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the late physician who worked with terminal cancer patients, often children, noted that those patients who had a clear conscience, who had resolved issues with troublesome relationships in their lives, endured the end of earthy life far more easily than those who remained bitter to a bitter end.[1]

I fess up to less than loving feelings toward a brother-in-law who, broken by the burden of caring for my sister during her last long illness, asked her to die already. This same sister had wished our mother to do the same. What goes around does seem to come around.

Neither my mother nor sister in their present form, or lack thereof, presumably nurtures hatred in their hearts toward anyone. Perhaps if we indeed get do-overs in future lifetimes, it would be wise to end the cycle and achieve closure ASAP. If we can! But how to undo the past?

Dr. David Hawkins teaches that the answer depends on the degree of spiritual sophistication we possess at any given stage of development.[2] Without making anyone wrong for any reason, just realize that if the accused could have done better he/she would have done better.

This simple re-framing of any incident, within the boundaries and circumstances of existing overriding conditions of time and understanding, automatically relegates the matter of forgiveness to its rightful realm.


"The truest grace is not to forgive but to have never found fault." -- Richard Paul Evans

"Forgiveness is God's greatest gift." -- Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

"When you begin to see that your enemy is suffering, that is the beginning of insight." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

"View your life with kindsight." -- Karen Salmansohn

Since we can observe the world through no other mechanism than our individual consciousness, we would not recognize another's behavior if the same qualities were not present within our own awareness.

I am reminded of the cautionary tale of two monks walking through a forest. They arrive at an angry stream, through which a comely young woman is battling to navigate. One of the monks assesses the situation, strides forward, scoops the frightened girl up in his arms and deposits her safely on the other side.

He returns to join his holy brother. They continue in a strained silence until, unable to restrain himself any longer, the agitated monk erupts:"You know we are forbidden to touch women! How could you break your vow and act as if nothing immoral happened?" His companion calmly replied, "I put her down half an hour ago. You are still carrying her."

I reflect on this observation by gazing into the mirror of my memory when tempted to condemn another. Better to defer judgment to the highest authority, divine discretion, only then we can undo, forgive and be forgiven.

"Judge not that ye be not judged" -- Matthew 7

For more by Irene Tanner, click here.

For more on forgiveness, click here.


[1] Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Family. Tavistock Publications Limited, 1970.

[2] Hawkins, David R., M.D., Ph.D.. Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior-Author's Official Revised Edition 2012. Veritas Publishing, 2012.