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Is the Search for the Holy Grail in some ways a search for “Forgiveness”: to forgive and to be forgiven. To explore this possiblity, in a modern context, let’s consider the Quest for the Holy Grail alongside a new method of Forgiveness called, The Four Steps to Forgiveness.
One of the things which makes this exploration challenging is that The Four Steps to Forgiveness is a secular technique to help people learn how to forgive. It does not mention religious terms like “pray”, “God”, or “Christ” or indeed any of the terms used in Christian Mysticism. Since the Grail story is very much about the mystical aspects of the Christian religion, you might wonder how it would be at all possible to link the two and relate The Search for the Holy Grail to The Four Steps to Forgiveness.
Yet, it is not so difficult. Any act of forgiveness has an element of the ‘spiritual’ in it. It is a calling to the higher and better parts of oneself to come forward and have the final say in a situation – particularly about what “meaning” we eventually attribute to the situation. Download Free The Four Steps to Forgiveness
We all know that prayer is – in essence – about what is going on in someone heart and mind; not so much about the words they say. If someone speaks the words of a prayer, but has no real honest feeling behind it, the words would be meaningless. Similarly if someone speaks, or writes, some words full of earnest yearning to forgive, or to be forgiven, it is, in effect, a prayer. It is a prayer even if the person doing it does not necessarliy realise that.
When a Knight of old went on the Quest for the Holy Grail. He was expected to ask some questions at the crucial moment. There are various versions of the questions in the literature, but for our purposes he was to ask: “What ails thee?” and “Whom does it serve?”.
“What ails thee?” can be rewritten as “What is hurting you?”. If we look at the The Four Steps to Forgiveness the first two steps are all about that.
Step 1. I want to forgive ___ for ____
Step 2: Write a list of Current Unhappy Feelings about the situation.
The things we need to forgive are a source of pain to us. Therefore these two steps give focus on what exactly have we not forgiven and what feelings do we have about it right now.
The next two steps in The Four Steps to Forgiveness are:
Step 3. Benefits – how would you benefit if you forgave the situation.
Step 4: Forgiveness Affirmation – affirm you forgive and accept the benefits.
The other part of the search, or Quest, for the Holy Grail is the question, “Whom does it serve?”. Another way of stating this is, “Whom benefits from it?”. Or; “What could you get out of it?”. “What benefits are available to you?“, “How can you reframe your thinking about what happened so you benefit from it?”
Step 3 and Step 4 are all about recognizing and accepting the specific benefits we will receive by forgiving the situation. Therefore these two steps fit very well with a rewording of, “Whom does it serve?”, as something like, “What potential benefits are in it for you?”.
The Quest for the Holy Grail is by definition a process. You go in search of something, but do not really know what you will find. Things are revealed to you along the way.
In doing The Four Steps to Forgiveness we don’t just go through it once – at least, not usually. We go through the steps a number of times and each time more and more of our capacity to forgive that situation emerges. Each time around we become clearer about our answer to “What ails thee?” and we become clearer about our response to “Whom does it serve?”. In this way The Four Steps to Forgiveness acts like a Quest for the Holy Grail as it takes us through the stages of the quest by helping us face the causes behind a real issue we have been dealing with and helping see and accept the benefits of forgiving it.
In this way our own Fisher King, the part of us which suffered from “a wound that would not heal” can finally heal. It can finally heal, because we can finally forgive. Then the “blighted lands” said to be around the castle where Fisher King lives can be restored to health.
When we look at the effects of an unforgiving state of mind around the person holding it – whether this be unforgiveness of themselves or unforgiveness of others – we can see that it does cause the “land” (the social situation around them) to become blighted. Their defensiveness, their bitterness and resentment, or their self-blame and self-reproach can come to taint their whole life – or at least that aspect of their life – till it becomes barren.
Only the Grail, the symbol of wholeness, can heal this type of wound. A return to wholeness come from accepting that the source of our pain is not so much what happens to us, but is caused by our unwillingness to forgive what happens to us. As we allow life to be “as it is”, without an internal rejection of it, we can move through it more easily.
We keep our wholeness away when we say “No” to life: “No, this is not right. This should not happen to me. This is not fair. ” Our wholeness returns to us as we learn to say “Yes” to life.: “Yes, this happened. Yes, I feel this way about it. Yes, I am ready to move on.”
It could be argued that the search for the Holy Grail is actually a search for Forgiveness. “Forgiveness” both in the sense of “being forgiven” as well as in being able to forgive. The experience of “being able to forgive” seems to be closely intertwined with the experience of “being forgiven”. Perhaps Forgiveness operates under a spiritual law along the lines of “You get what you give”.
We could consider The Four Steps to Forgiveness as a modern version of the Search for the Holy Grail. It is a handy and accessible way to go on the Quest for the Grail, for those who don’t happen to have the usual regalia required by a Knight of old – a full set of armor, a Charger, a Squire and so on.
Written by: William Fergus Martin
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Four Steps to Forgiveness
Four Steps to Forgiveness
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William Fergus Martin