Forbearance

Forbearance by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Gently I took that which ungently came,
And without scorn forgave:–Do thou the same.
A wrong done to thee think a cat’s-eye spark
Thou wouldst not see, were not thine own heart dark
Thine own keen sense of wrong that thirsts for sin,
Fear that–the spark self-kindled from within,
Which blown upon will blind thee with its glare,
Or smother’d stifle thee with noisome air.
Clap on the extinguisher, pull up the blinds,
And soon the ventilated spirit finds
Its natural daylight. If a foe have kenn’d,
Or worse than foe, an alienated friend,
A rib of dry rot in thy ship’s stout side,
Think it God’s message, and in humble pride
With heart of oak replace it;–thine the gains–
Give him the rotten timber for his pains!

The injunction “let not your heart be troubled” has beguiled mankind for over 2,000 years. It is a troubling thought to the human mind, because the heart is the realm of feeling and feelings are supposedly beyond control.

The heart is, of course, one of your central capacities for interacting with the world around you. More importantly, your feeing realm is the medium through which the voice of your inner self speaks. An untroubled heart is vital if the inner and outer – heaven and earth – are to be one.

A man or woman who has mastered the art of forgiving without scorn is one who can live unburdened by a blackened heart. You cannot, without significant side effects, control your feelings. You can, however, choose to which you shall give weight. Your heart receives all impulses with equanimity.

Learn this one point and you will never again confuse thirsting for sin with hungering for righteousness. You will begin to recognize that which “ungently [comes]” from your enemies or worse, your estranged friends or family as a godsend and not a curse. You will, dear readers, graduate from simply “getting by” to truly living.

5 thoughts on “Forbearance

  • I love your train of thought. To take a stand in our lives that we are not at the mercy to experience in our hearts everything that comes to it, is a tremendous relief. This is the secret, when it’s understood and practiced, releases us for complete freedom. I love the book “Heart Math” as it describes this seeming phenomenon in quantified scientific terms and provides practical exercises to retrain your heart to forbearance. I find it’s made it more natural to forgive and less likely to fan the flames of injustice in me.

  • People do comfort and excuse themselves with the thought that feelings are uncontrollable, and it is true that trying to overcome feeling impulses by force of will proves fruitless. However, a heart deliberately given to the spirits of love and truth can change its texture very quickly. We make a thousand choices in the course of a day, choices of orientation. Perhaps most of those are unconscious choices, but yielding to the calming, steadying influence of life’s creative impulse can be a very conscious, deliberate thing, and the results can be transformative far beyond oneself.

  • Once you realize that any satisfaction you get from holding a grudge ends up as “dry rot” as Coleridge puts it, it becomes easy to replace anger with forgiveness. When you truly learn to forgive, and to only give weight to the feelings that align with forgiveness, freedom from the oppressiveness of the human condition comes quickly.

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