Self-help, religious and spiritual books often promote the value of forgiveness. We’re told that the person who is offering forgiveness benefits from letting go of the issue that’s keeping them in bondage to the person who offended them. We also hear the benefits of forgiving ourselves so we can move on in our life. This sounds very positive, and it is helpful to some extent, but there are a few surprising drawbacks to forgiveness.

1. To forgive, we must first judge

Forgiveness can’t exist without judgment. We couldn’t feel offended or hurt unless we believed real harm was being done and cling to a value system that allows us to assess the damages.  Judgment always creates a rift between the one who judges and the one being judged. This rift continues even after forgiveness takes place. Why?  Because the person doing the forgiving has to believe the hurt was real, and was inflicted with harmful intent. Then they have to condescend to generously extend forgiveness where it is not deserved. This inevitably makes the person who was forgiven inferior to the one who has done the forgiving. Does that sound too harsh? No doubt many will think so, but this is exactly why Jesus told his followers not to judge. In this sense, forgiveness is actually a barrier to the deep understanding of unconditional love and oneness

2. Forgiveness makes this world real

If you’re playing a video game with a friend or with a group of people online, do you become incensed when they harm or kill your character? When you watch a movie or TV program do you become outraged when a character you identify with is treated unfairly or insulted? Do you feel like you need to take revenge or demand an apology? (Perhaps this wasn’t the best way to put the question since a lot of gamers and TV fanatics do get quite upset, but you get the picture.) In any case, you realize that a video game, TV show or movie isn’t real, even though it can feel very real at the time.  Quantum physicists have discovered that the material world is like a video game or movie. It’s a spectacular 3D virtual reality, but nothing that happens here is real.

Spiritual sages agree that this world is a game where we play out the experience of separation and specialness, but nothing real (our true Self) is ever harmed in the process. As Rumi pointed out, “Consider this world as it really is—just a bubble of foam of that great Sea.” However, there’s no doubt that the game we’re playing in this world has gotten extremely rough and it appears that many are being hurt in unimaginable ways. The problem is that most of us have forgotten this is a game, and so most of us suffer because we believe these hurts are very real.

3. Forgiveness reinforces separation

To experience separation and specialness, our virtual reality must be based on duality rather than oneness. But in reality, our universe is indivisible, interconnected oneness permeated by one shared consciousness. The material world appears to be real, but it’s an illusion. The real universe of oneness seems like an illusion, but it’s real. When we judge and then forgive, we’re looking at what a body appears to be saying and doing and forgetting the oneness that exists behind the body. Whenever we concentrate on what takes place in virtual reality the easier it is to feel separate and the easier it becomes to forget the oneness behind the body. Jesus was pointing to our indivisible oneness when he encouraged his followers to “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.” He knew that in oneness it’s impossible to do anything without doing it to everything in existence, including ourselves.

4. Forgiveness gives us a distorted picture of Ultimate Reality

 There is an unbridgeable difference between a God that allows real suffering to occur (and causes some of it) and one that allows a harmless game to be played. It’s odd that mental health professionals encourage forgiveness but also insist that we leave an abusive relationship where we’re expected to endure real harm but still love and forgive that one harming us. But there’s no need for us to remain locked into such an arrangement when we understand the ephemeral nature of this world.

5. Transcending forgiveness

Jesus’ beautiful parable of the prodigal son demonstrates how Divine love operates.  In the parable we are given reason to believe a young man has callously insulted and hurt his father at the deepest level. When the young man realizes his error, he returns to his father begging forgiveness. Does his father acknowledge the young man’s offences by forgiving him? NO. The father completely ignores the young man’s pleas, embraces him, showers him with gifts and throws a party! Why? Everything the young man had done his father had permitted, and no real harm had been done in the process. Let us emphasize; forgiveness was unnecessary. No harm, no judgment, no condescension, no forgiveness, only love.

We’re all in the same position as the prodigal son. We project the horror of our virtual reality because Ultimate Reality gave us free will and a way to exercise it. And in fact, no real harm is being done. There is no reason for forgiveness when no offence is possible. Our virtual reality allows us to pretend that we’re separate and allows us to try to be special even as we remain safe in the oneness of All That Is.  As long as we think this world is real, we’ll continue to be hurt and then face the struggle of dealing with the upset. Divine love is unconditional because it sees the unity behind the illusion of separation. Divine love has no reason to forgive because it transcends all need to find fault.

The only way we can look past the horrific events that are taking place in our world and retain our peace is by understanding that nothing real can be, or ever will be, harmed. In a universe of oneness (and in our projected game of virtual reality), there is no reason to take offence, hence there is no reason to forgive. We’ve all projected this world together; we’re all equally responsible for what we see. When we get tired of playing the game, we can wake to oneness, be embraced by the Divine, accept the gifts that are waiting for us and attend the homecoming party.