HOW DO YOU FORGIVE? I find Bishop Tutu’s advice useful:
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger. These emotions are all part of being human. You should never hate yourself for hating others who do terrible things: the depth of your love is shown by the extent of your anger.
However, when I talk of forgiveness I mean the belief that you can come out the other side a better person. A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred. Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator. If you can find it in yourself to forgive then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator. You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.
But the process of forgiveness also requires acknowledgement on the part of the perpetrator that they have committed an offence. I don’t like to talk about my own personal experience of forgiveness, although some of the things people have tried to do to my family are close to what I’d consider unforgivable. I don’t talk about these things because I have witnessed so many incredible people who, despite experiencing atrocity and tragedy, have come to a point in their lives where they are able to forgive. Take the Craddock Four, for example. The police ambushed their car, killed them in the most gruesome manner, set their car alight. When, at a TRC hearing, the teenage daughter of one of the victims was asked: would you be able to forgive the people who did this to you and your family? She answered, “We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.” How fantastic to see this young girl, still human despite all efforts to dehumanise her.
Tutu also makes the point that one does not have to forget and indeed that may be asking the impossible. He says forgiveness only means not seeking revenge. Honor killings, pay back in any form perpetuates hatred. Tutu’s way is better.
As Tutu points out forgiveness requires the other person’s acknowledgement of wrong-going. When you need forgiveness and we all do, for we all fail to do the right thing, and often what is right for us, may not be right for another person, the Dave Letterman way to pursue forgiveness has much to commend it.
STAYING STRONG TIPS
Tip number one: Forgiveness requires practicing, but is possible. My Daily Exercise Program suggests making it a point each night to forgive those who have hurt you through out the day. Just say “I forgive” as you think about the hurts of the day.
Tip number two: Forgive yourself. Say “Forgiven” as you think about the things you have done or not done that must be forgiven.
Tip number three: Spinoza said, “To understand all is to forgive all.” This has also been cited as an old French proverb. When trying to forgive another, it is useful to have a philosophy of understanding. Therapy is useful because it often helps us understand the reasons why we and others do what we do that needs forgiving.
Tip number four: When trying to forgive it is also useful to have a philosophy that teaches acceptance. The Buddhist saying “It is all alright.” is an example of such a philosophy. We don’t know all the reasons why, but to assume there is a higher order of reason their our own desires and that a greater good for all living things. This is a helpful foundation for forgiving, particularly random acts that destroy.
Share, care, and stay strong.