If there is anything we can count on in life, it's that we will make mistakes. While it might be nice to sail smoothly on a straight course from birth to death without breaking a sweat, in reality, we lurch from one mistake to another like a drunk wandering down a narrow alley banging into walls. In fact, it may seem more like being a pin ball in a frenzy of bouncing off ugly situations. What's worse, since everyone is doing the same thing, we tend to aggravate our blunders by running into each other. Yet if the process works, we learn from our mistakes and regard every failure merely as an outcome. And success is not necessarily more valuable. We generally don't learn as much from success as we do from mistakes. And in fact, mistakes are necessary to reach greater wisdom and understanding. So like a cybernetic system, we self-correct and hopefully, our path becomes straighter.

It would seem presumptuous, then, to suppose that people never change, or that they should be judged by their past mistakes. Forgiveness is deemed the letting go of the past, and is obviously an acknowledgement that what is past is gone. And when we need to forgive others or our self, we do so by consciously deciding to put the past behind us. Yet, if someone has made a mistake that calls for forgiveness, it's a rare person who will forgive but not forget. The human mind works by remembering what has happened and then projecting that thought into the future and imagining it happening again. So we tend to be suspicious of those people we forgave, and if we were really hurt or aggravated, we will assume that the future will bring more of the behavior that resulted in our having to forgive in the first place. That's because the emotional charge we experienced created an ingrained sense of aversion. So forgiveness is usually one way, that is, into the past. We virtually never forgive a person for the future.

Forgiving someone for the future, rather than the past, may seem like an odd concept. Yet if we can let go of the past, why can't we let go of our expectations for the future? If we believe people can learn from their mistakes, then to forgive them for the future is an act of confidence in their ability to change. What's more, forgiveness may be an act of love, but then, it doesn't have to be. If we want peace of mind, we can forgive for our own sake, and in fact, the person we forgive may not even have to know about it. But if we encounter that person again, yet allow the same negativity to prevail in our relationship, we are not acting out of love or the highest conception of who we are. To really forgive in a loving sense requires us to look at the person we had trouble with in a new light, as more than a frail human being. To forgive a person for the future requires love, and out of that love, the ability to cleanse our emotions and grant that person a clean slate.

The matter doesn't end there, however. The person we forgive needs to forgive him or herself, and that sometimes requires an act of contrition, or a chance to make amends. So while the act of forgiving for the future only requires the granting of good will, the real act of love requires granting the other the opportunity to do whatever they need to start anew. Regretting one's acts can amount to a life sentence of pain. Not to offer that person the opportunity to restore the past is to be a harsh judge meting out a tough punishment.

Obviously, not everyone learns from their mistakes, and in some cases, it may not be wise to give the person another chance. Mentally ill people, for example, may repeat the same negative behavior repeatedly, as in obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it takes discrimination to determine whether a person is acting in good will when they ask for the chance to do it right, to make amends for the past. If it appears that the person is looking for another opportunity to make the same mistakes all over again, it is certainly not wise to permit it. But that entails a judgment call that should be balanced and reasonable, and not burdened with preconceived notions or negative baggage. Creating a loving life is our reason for existence. And because everyone is here for the same purpose, how can we deny others what we want for ourselves? We should practice, then, not only forgiveness, but for lack of a better term, pregiveness.

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