The following is taken from the commentary on the January 31st entry in Consuming Fire, the daily devotional version of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.
Unforgiveness is a child of self-deception. Having attained the middle of the middle-aged reflective stage of life, I spend a lot of my time considering the complexities of the human thought process, mostly trying to bail myself out from life-long habits that are unhealthy and counterproductive. So I think about things like this. This is my take, so far.
If we want to forgive truly, and find it difficult, the answer is not found by examining the person who has wronged us, wondering how he could have done such a thing, comparing his sins with the rest of ‘normal’ humanity and trying to find him not so bad by comparison. The key to full, free, and permanent forgiveness actually lies within the self, and is found when we become willing to uncover self-deception.
Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote that everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. For me, there are a few things in particular that drive me nuts, judgmentalism and self-righteousness moral lecturing being near the top of the list. From Jung’s point of view, darkness inside humanity is not a single person’s problem. It is a sort of floating cloud of ‘sin,' settled deeply inside of each of us, which he calls ‘the shadow’. We all own it, there is no part of the shadow that belongs to one person and not another. It’s a corporate thing. Quite a bit like the Biblical concept of sin, when you think about it.
I started looking more closely at my own reactions to things I found ‘unforgivable’ in others, mainly by reflecting on my own response--digging deeper into what it is that really bothers me and why. To my surprise, what I found was that I, the hater of judgement, was judging the judgers! I was doing the very thing I hate, and being self-righteous about it at the same time. The impatience, anger, and downright disgust I felt for those I deemed judgers was really at its core a form of self-loathing. It’s the part of the shadow I react to the most, because it is my area of weakness as well as strength. For every light, there is a darkness.
To see this is to accept the self as it is. Once accepted, the shadow inside is the holy ground of forgiveness. The discovery that we not only can but do behave in the very ways that upset us the most is disturbing, and there is a battle against seeing this that everyone who would forgive in truth must win. Forgiveness is really nothing but the recognition of reality.
Life is a soul school. The events that happen here can be used to bring the soul closer to being what it was meant to be, or take it further away from truth, depending on our response. The delusion that we are better than anyone else, or that we would not do the same thing in someone else’s shoes, is really a fight to distance ourselves from the shadow within our own souls. The refusal to forgive is not simply the rejection of a person who has wronged another; it is the rejection of the self as well as the work of the Resurrection. Jung (while not himself a professed believer of Christian doctrine) still manages to hone in on the heart of the issue, I think. He wrote:
"The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life. That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ -- all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ."