Along Tug Fork near the Big Sandy River in Kentucky the descendants of Ephraim Hatfield and William McCoy became involved in a family feud that lasted many years (1865 – 1891). It became one of the most famous episodes in American folklore.
The McCoys lived on the Kentucky side of Tug Fork and fought for the Union Army in the American Civil War. The Hatfields lived on the West Virginia side and fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
In 1865 Asa McCoy was murdered. Jim Vance, the uncle of “Devil Anse” Hatfield, was suspected of the crime but never brought to trial. Thirteen years later an argument developed over the ownership of a hog. The feud further escalated after Roseanna McCoy began an affair with Johnson “Johnse” Hatfield (Devil Anse’s son). She left her family to live with the Hatfields in West Virginia. Between 1880 and 1891 the family feud boiled over resulting in more than a dozen members of the families being killed.
The clans stopped fighting each other in 1891. The last trial associated with the conflict took place in 1901. In 1979 their descendants came together to appear on the TV show “Family Feud.” A formal reconciliation occurred in 2003 with a peace treaty signature by both families in Pikeville, Kentucky.
The Hatfields and the McCoys eventually reconciled and forgave each other. What can we learn from this affair?
As we continue our spiritual journey it’s important to understand the mechanics of nature and how it functions with regard to this topic. Of equal importance is to comprehend what restrains us as human beings, disallowing us to let go. We may often ask the question, “why is it so hard to fully embrace forgiveness?”
Although we each may have our own definition of what forgiveness means, we can generally agree that it is a healing process to an episode of resentment, hatred, bitterness, indignation or righteous anger resulting from a perceived offense.
How well we deal with the violence of desperation, prejudice and the urge for revenge depends upon our level of consciousness. For some people the identification with the ego is very strong. Their world is defined by allegiance and loyalty to family and clan only. Events are often viewed as either black or white. An “us versus them” attitude is often displayed. “It’s my way or the highway.” But for others the ego is less rigid and is expanding daily to include more qualities of the universal SELF.
As consciousness expands the imprint of experience on the mind becomes less and less. The winds of time and change and their resulting vicissitudes fall more softly on our psyche. Less indelible become their influence. Just as dragging a stick in the sand makes a deep furrow not easily covered up, swiping the stick through the air makes much less of an impression. So to, as our individual consciousness grows the impact of experience softens.
As we continue our meditation practice individual consciousness grows along with strength and stability. Mediation helps us to more easily forgive and heal.
Lower blood pressure
Less stress and hostility
Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain
Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse
Decrease in medication use
Reduction in depressive symptoms
A decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge
Primarily about serving ourselves
Healing through self reconciliation and letting go
Bringing the event to a conclusion that will set you free
Freedom from the pain of the past
Greater happiness in the present
Improved sleep quality and decrease in fatigue
Positively associated with better health
Better conflict management
Improved relationships (not just with the offending party)
Increase in purposeful, altruistic behaviors
A sign of profound personal strength, not weakness.
Not dwelling on the event is also important. Through the regular practice of meditation the mind slows down that incessant tendency to relive the event over and over again. Inner silence brings peace and contentment while the blessings of forgetfulness blossom.
Forgiveness cultures and softens the heart. It opens us to greater empathy and understanding of other people. We begin to “see with new eyes,” as the forgiver observes the other injured party. They too have family, friends, and plans for the future.
We also need to forgive ourselves for self inflicted wounds. Sometimes we wish that we could turn back the clock and relive it again. We are resolved that this time we would act differently. However, the past is gone and cannot be brought back, so better to forgiving yourself and move on with your life.
Under the influence of the three qualities of nature (creation, preservation and destruction) our true essence remains hidden and we have become entangled in the illusion (Maya) of creation. Ignorance (Tamas) persists and causes us to not recognize our fellow man/women as brother and sister.
Although revenge may seem to bring instant justice upon those who committed the offense, it binds you to a continuing cycle of hate and violence. That millstone perpetuates negative feelings and thoughts, prevents new ideas and prosperity because your attention is blocked, and seems to bring new conflicts your way. Do not carry that yoke.
No one can escape the immutable laws of nature. As a physicist we can point to Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Or in other words, “as you sow so shall your reap.” Nature has a long memory and does not forget. All individuals face the consequence of their actions; good and bad. If it sometimes appears that justice was not served in this lifetime, rest assured that it will be served in the future.
For those that do not believe in reincarnation, justice is served by judgment after death. For those who believe in reincarnation, justice is served either in this lifetime or in another. Either way, it cannot be escaped.
The goal of cause/effect is not reward and punishment, but reunification in peace and harmony.
The enlightened individual has a different relationship with action induced cause/effect.
“Having cast off attachment to the fruit of action, ever contented, depending on nothing, even though fully engaged in action he does not act at all.”
(Bhagavad-Gita, chapter 4, verse 20)
Identified as the universal SELF the enlightened person “witnesses” the play and display of creation. Remaining uninvolved he/she is untouched. That is a supreme platform for forgiveness.
Meditation and expansion of consciousness broadens our spiritual footprint. Forgive yourself and others. Live every day in peace.