Welcome to the third in my series of articles on The 8 Essential Ingredients of Healing … from Anything, Anywhere, Anytime.
Today’s Special Ingredient
FORGIVENESS: Make peace with yourself, others,
and past and present circumstances.
Forgiveness is the well in which the flames of bitterness, anger, fear, blame, guilt, hate, and judgment are extinguished. The mind and heart are cleansed, and the vision of Hope
The Gift of Forgiveness
Forgiveness lets us cross the bridge to freedom.
Forgiveness is an insight that your own peace of mind is not controlled by people, or past or present circumstances. The insight is wrapped in feelings of humility, relief, gratitude, and
compassion. Forgiveness is an understanding rather than a decision.
The greatest benefits of Forgiveness are experienced by the person who does the forgiving. When people have forgiven, they talk of feeling lighter-hearted, like a burden has been lifted. The burdens removed are anger and ill-will.
Fear of Forgiveness
Everybody wants to receive it. Some are reluctant to give it. Why would a gift so treasured to receive be viewed as dangerous to give?
Because the traditional view of Forgiveness is that it is something to be earned. And, in that moment, Forgiveness becomes contingent upon meeting external requirements imposed by
the potential forgiver. Judge and jury exist in one person’s mind.
Have you ever done something that someone viewed as hurtful-even when that was not your intent? In most cases we don’t intend to cause harm. But we do. And, so do others. So, we engage in creating a mental hierarchy of harm with corresponding levels of Forgiveness we are “willing” to bestow. We create yet another list of who is “worthy” of Forgiveness. No wonder Forgiveness becomes complicated!
The problem is that we become fearful that someone will take advantage of us. And, fear is the parent of anger and judgment.
Forgiveness is the Short-Cut to Peace of Mind
There are countless stories of people who forgave terrible acts and frightening events because they realized their own healing was at risk if they didn ‘t. They realized their capacity to forgive was their lifeline to move on to embrace life no matter what it included. When courts were involved, laws were executed and their peace of mind and healing was not contingent upon the outcome of the court’s decision.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I ‘ ll forgive, but I won’t forget.”? Perhaps the voice you heard was yours? Here’s the misunderstanding. Forgetting does not mean your memory bank
has been erased. Our memory stores everything to be called up when needed as a source of review, reflection, and learning.
To forget really means to “let go”. Let go of what? Harmful thoughts. To the extent we harbor thoughts of ill-will or revenge; we will not have peace of mind. Gripping painful thoughts is like gripping the blade of a knife. The only person being hurt is the person gripping the blade. Forgiveness does not mean condoning what was done. When you forgive, you do not lose your common sense and intelligence. If action needs to be taken, you will take it. You just won’t be fooled by greed. You won’t confuse justice with vengeance. You won’t mistake recompense with retribution. You won’t be burdened by anger, fury, and righteous indignation. Not only do they not change the facts, they actually impede the healing process.
Forgiveness Begins at Home
The greatest difficulty and greatest reward is in forgiving ourselves. To forgive ourselves requires that we look inward to consider our role in what we find painful. Avoidance makes it
easier to look outward for a villain. The search is fruitless because we can’t re-wind the tape of our experience.
Forgiveness removes the need for the labels of shame, guilt, fault, and worry which get in the way of seeing Hope and possibility for moving on. Again, it has nothing to do with condoning actions or behaviors. If there is a need, you will still pay your part of the appropriate price for what you did or didn’t do. But, I guarantee you will feel cleansed after you have forgiven yourself.
I was speaking about this subject some years ago, and a woman in the audience came up to me after my speech. She was in tears but elated. She had been harboring feelings of guilt for years because her child had been born with a disability. She had been convinced there was something she could or should have done or not done. Now, she was pregnant again. Burdened by these fears, she was afraid of the future over which she had no control. During my speech, she had an insight about how only she could forgive herself for any role she may or may not have played in her child’s disability. Imagine the relief!
Difficulty seeing the possibility of Forgiveness, or the unwillingness to forgive, hardens our hearts so that we cannot experience the full of joy in living. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel sadness or remorse. We will. They are normal human feelings just as joy is a normal feeling. But, they can be felt simultaneously within a state of Forgiveness. And remember, if we can’t forgive ourselves, we will not have the perspective to forgive others.
Forgiving the Past
The past is not our enemy. It contains the wonders and the blunders of our lives. Have you ever tried not to remember something? How did that work out? Have you ever had thoughts of the past intrude and take you on a journey down memory lane? I have. Sometimes, it’s fun. Other times, I make deep grooves in the earth dragging my heels. The fact is our past is here to stay! So, we may as well make good use of it. What can I do about my past? Nothing. This is where forgiving begins. As Omar Kayyam so eloquently stated in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner- “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on.”
Learning from the Past
What can I do with my past? Everything. This is where learning begins. The past actually serves us. It serves as:
-A reservoir of lessons to be learned.
– A reference point for the present.
– How have you already changed your assumptions, beliefs, biases, prejudices, thinking patterns, and point of view?
-A reflection source for the future.
– What experiences could you explore that might hold untapped lessons? What experiences do you have a willingness or desire to forgive related to yourself or others?
I know a man who had painful feelings about his father. When we first met, he was adamant he could not and would not forgive him. Several months later he said to me, “I’m not able to forgive him yet-but maybe I will later.” I hear hope and recognition of the possibility of Forgiveness in that statement.
The Power of Forgiveness
A single thought of the possibility of Forgiveness sets us on the path of healing. Imagine one thought as the first paving stone to repairing a relationship with yourself, your family, a friend, business partners, and your community. Imagine a single thought of Forgiveness having the power to have nations begin to listen to each other.
Listen to the wisdom of the millions of people who have experienced great loss and great trauma who discovered the power of Forgiveness set them free to engage in living a life of joy, meaning, and purpose.
Many books have been written about the physical, mental, and psychological benefits of Forgiveness. And, there are many. Blood pressure goes down, cardiovascular, immune, and neurological functions improve, and people feel less stressed and find ways to cope. What’s not to like? I’d like to add, all these books are well-intended.
However, when you are directed to steps and techniques to apply, your focus is on the external. What happens if you apply the techniques, but still can ‘t forgive? Have you failed? Do you need a different book?
Rather than looking externally for something to “install” in yourself, look inside at the ingredients of healing you already possess.
The power of Forgiveness does not reside in a ritual to be performed. Its power is in a single thought in a Clear state of mind.
A Final Word
It is never too late to forgive. There is no timetable. Forgiveness is an internal state of mind. The people and circumstances you forgive may never know it. Circumstances are over and can’t be erased. Some people may have moved or are no longer alive. Many people would have no idea they were on your “Forgiveness list” . Even more likely, they wouldn’t know why they were on it in the first place.
Forgiveness should not feel like a burden or an assignment. So, if I was forced to give advice-this is it. Forgive what you can now. The rest you can forgive later. Join Me Next Time When We … Discover Perspective
Think About It
Now that you understand more about Forgiveness, in what situation(s} has it helped you navigate the journey of healing? How did it help you? How did you notice its presence? What surprised you about your capacity to forgive? How will the discovery of Forgiveness enhance your sense of serenity?
Keep In Touch & Share the Wealth
I love to hear about insights my readers have. Share yours with me by clicking on the contact page of my website. Who knows? With your permission, your insight may help someone else on their path of healing.
By the Way …
If you missed any of my previous articles, click the archive link and everything will be at your fingertips! http:/ /www.serenecenter.com/serene-scene.html
By Penny Rock