Staying Strong Series


Exercise Number  Ten   Forgive another.

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

The heel that crushes doesn’t smell the violet’s sweetness, but the violet does and this is why forgiveness is important.  Forgiveness has nothing to do with who you are forgiving and everything to do with your emotional health.

Do not confuse forgiveness with reconciliation or even forgetting.  Both are not forgiveness.  Part of the Reconciliation Movement in South Africa said for the races to reconcile required a confession, an apology and an amends.  The Truth and Reconciliation hearings were designed to offer opportunities for victims and their oppressors to reconcile.  A sincere confession of wrong, an apology and an amends make forgiveness easier and did much to let South Africa move away from the damage of apartheid.

When it comes to one on one forgiveness, waiting for a confession, an apology and an amends is somewhat like waiting to win the lottery.  Rarely happens.

The definition of forgiveness that I find most useful is the one put forth by Bishop Tutu.  He sees forgiveness as a conscious decision to refuse to seek revenge.  You don’ t have to forget and indeed, it might be foolish to forget; you don’t have to reconcile which means to come back together, and doing so might also be foolish.  All you need is to do is make a conscious decision not to seek revenge. Think how much safer the world would be, if we all stopped seeking revenge.

Sadly, letting go of  the hurt that makes us plot revenge, is often harder than deciding not to seek revenge.  But plotting revenge, thinking about the hurt done us, and the conscious or unconscious wish to hurt back eats our heart.  As the Buddha said, “Carrying anger in your heart is like carrying a hot coal in your hand.  You are the one hurting.”

Letting go of the hurt is easier when you have a philosophy that helps you understand why bad things happen.  Forgiving is easier if you start from a core understanding of why people behave in hurtful ways.

My basic philosophy  that most people want to get along and don’t take pleasure in hurting others.  At the same time needs conflict and someone who cares about you may take better care of their needs than yours.  That’s people and that’s life.  You probably do the same wittingly or unwittingly.

There are people who seem to take pleasure in hurting others.  The more power, the more hurt.  Sad, but also a part of our humanity.  My core assumption is that when a person takes pleasure in hurting others, something went terrible wrong in their life.  Sadly that something can just being going along with crowd without thinking.  Throughout the history of the world, humans as a group have down terrible things to other humans.  We are only beginning to move forward and if we don’t start moving faster, we may destroy the world.

How to practice forgiveness.   Start small and start with someone who you love and truly want to remain attached to.

  1. Find a quiet time.
  2. Get into a relaxed position.
  3. Take a Calming Breath.
  4. Think of one person.
  5. Think of one thing that person did that you wish to forgive.
  6. Name that thing.
  7. Now picture the person coming to you, not as they are now, but as a small child who knows they have done wrong also as a child who wants and needs your forgiveness.
  8. Say “I forgive you”
  9. Breathe calm and repeat the above until you can feel your heart softening.

If you find you cannot fully forgive, it is enough to say, “I want to forgive you.”  All skills take time to develop. For some people writing a letter as if the person who needs your forgiveness is the writer works better.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if the person is alive or dead, still in your life or out of your life.  This is for you.

To understand all is to forgive all.

Attributed to many people

The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mahatma Gandhi,  Indian Peace Activist

He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.

Martin Luther King, Jr., American Civil  Rights Leader

Let us forgive each other–only them will we live in peace.

Leo Tolstoy,  Russian author

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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