Advantages of Forgiving
One of the greatest challenges that can face us is the challenge to forgive. For most of us it is something that is great in theory and a good idea for everyone else to do. It's comforting to think that other people might turn a blind eye to our shortcomings and excesses, but when it comes to ourselves, the challenge that we should forgive others is a much harder concept to apply.
The need to forgive is recognised in many philosophies, ethical structures
and religions. Within Christianity, for example, it is one of the central
concepts applying to Christian ethics. The prayer that Christ taught the
disciples includes the words, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them
that trespass against us”. The Gospels also report that, even as he was being
crucified, Christ said the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what
they are doing.” These may be easy words to say – hard words to live up to.
The challenge of forgiveness was a major one for me. But one of the thoughts that forced me to confront the need to forgive was the thought of what would happen if I did not forgive. It sounds like I was asking the question as a negative, not “What will happen to me if I forgive?”, but, “What will happen to me if I fail to forgive?” The forms of those questions are really the two different sides of a coin – same question, different slant. But as I say, I found it easier to ask it in the negative. If you have an area of your life where you need to forgive, try using the question in the negative like I did.
Forgiveness is for the Forgiver – not the Forgiven
The real beneficiary of a forgiveness exercise is not the person you are forgiving. The brutal truth of the matter is that the person may not even know or care whether he or she is forgiven or not. The hurt they caused you may have been intentional and completely callous in nature, or they may have hurt you in such a way that they hardly know they caused you pain. The real beneficiary of the forgiveness is you. You can’t change what happened in the past and you can’t change the attitude of the other person towards what they may have done. The only thing you can change is your mental attitude. By letting go the things of the past you will be putting yourself in clear water. By holding on to these
things from the past you will be keeping yourself in rocky and shallow waters.
You actually have a vested interest in forgiving. The consequence of not doing so is that the grudge you hold can become a sore in your mind. It actually takes a form of energy to “maintain the rage” against someone who has done an injustice to you or your family. That negative energy you are using can be like the negative energy of anger, hate and revenge. It forms a focal point in the past, always pulling you back, always turning your shoulder to the past. There is a scientifically proven explanation for this (proved by Professor Roger Sperry who got the Nobel Prize in 1981) and that is, negative thoughts attract negative thought which leads to negative action and in turn
to negative reaction. Ultimately this cycle (which we do to ourselves) leads to becoming a victim – why let the perpetrator win again (was my thought)?
Forgiving can be written “for giving” – nice isn't it. It's not as hard as you think. When you get to do the
forgiveness meditation the really nice thing is forgiving yourself, and, if you wish to read more about this I have an E-Report which is on my website, htp://www.calm.com.au, click here
Challenged by the Thought of Forgiveness
It is easy to understand how we may not even be able to entertain the thought of forgiveness. If this is uppermost in your mind and you do wish to move forward in your life then consider what Barbara did. (Barbara’s story was told in my books Switch on to Your Inner Strength and Creating Happiness Intentionally and is repeated below.) Even though Barbara knew that forgiveness was for the forgiver and that she was hurting herself by “maintaining the hurt” she could not bring herself to forgive. Her first step was to pray she might be able to start thinking about forgiving her husband. Rapid progress followed. If you can at least consider forgiving, then you can liberate your energy to the task of getting on with the now and moving into the future.
How do you Know you Have Forgiven?
I have found that people can easily say “I forgive …… (and they name the person) for ………(and they describe what for)” but have they truly done it? When a person feels the need to think or express the hatred, the blame, the resentment (and more) thoughts, or when this comes up automatically for them, and they feel the negative feelings that are associated with these thoughts, then the forgiveness process has not been completed. When people have the intention to forgive and actually do the forgiveness process in active meditation, some will find that they are not ready for forgiveness because they will not even be able to mouth the words of forgiveness during the meditation. Take heart – it is all OK – the process has started. The benefits will be exciting. Just take it easy – you may not achieve it all in one session. Work on it by doing the meditation many times.
Some additional steps may be to
release the anger on the situation. When the events are huge and traumatic
then other processes to use include Acceptance and Letting Go and Unconditional
Love. These three topics are described in additional papers on this website and
you may wish to receive my free E-Book Addressing Trauma, Grief & Loss Trauma, Grief and Loss – a Personal Journey, click here
Never Forgive Until You are Ready
When wounds (or deaths) are really raw (close to the event) then I believe that nobody should even think of forgiveness. If you are a supporter of anyone dealing with tragedy, then at this stage, don't even mention forgiveness. The process of hatred and anger and thoughts of revenge are natural and I believe healthy in the early stages of grieving.
When the victim of a tragedy (the survivor) is feeling extreme bitterness, hatred, unbearable ongoing hurt, anger, revenge, then do not even think about forgiveness. Every time you do (think about forgiveness) you will only feel more upset and hurt yourself. There has been enough hurt - you don't need any more. I say to express your rage! Vent your spleen, as much as you can, on the perpetrator, society, circumstances ... whatever you need to do to release your anger and hurt. In your mind this will help, because by doing this, you will be preserving the love for your departed one(s), you will not condone the actions of violence, you will not help the perpetrator, right now this is a way of reassuring yourself that you are being loyal to your loved ones.
Forgiveness is a choice. Only when you can bear to find out its meaning will you be able to investigate the purpose of forgiveness. For a fuller explanation which is on my website, htp://www.calm.com.au, click here
So now we know – we practise ‘forgiveness’ for our self! It is a very personal process. After all when you are doing forgiveness in active meditation who knows about it? Only you and your Maker! Remember this, forgiveness never condones the event and it is for the forgiver – not the forgiven!
It is worthwhile to carry out forgiveness exercises. In the Peaceful Place process of meditation you go back through your life and identify all the things still hurting you. Identify all the actions of other people you still resent and have not forgiven. It is absolutely imperative you do this because the net effect will be to dramatically improve your energy. Many times, not until you ‘forgive’ can you get on with your life. Remember it’s a two way street – the process is forgiving others and yourself.
I urge you to read the Success Stories below
Barbara is a woman who had suffered a terrible divorce and just couldn’t forgive her former husband for what he had done during the divorce. The resentment built up in her mind and played on and on like a broken record.
The marriage had been a happy one, she thought, and she had taken great pleasure in married life. After many years, when the children had left home, her husband formed a new relationship and started to flaunt the affair he was having with a younger woman. Barbara’s husband was absolutely determined that his new woman was the great love of his life. There was nothing Barbara could do to save her marriage.
At that time she was in her mid forties and she felt rejected, discarded, used, unloved, hurt and alone. She felt like a little bird, alone, its wing broken and watching the rest of the flock flying away from her, intent on their own survival. Above all, when the divorce and property arrangements were finally settled, she felt a real sense of injustice at what she had lost and that it was all his fault. Not only was she depressed about the whole thing, but she knew it was so unfair that she could never forgive her husband. She had a sense of righteous indignation about it! The funny thing was, that long after this when the anger had subsided, she realised deep in her heart that she still loved her husband very much. She knew it was a forlorn love, with no chance of fulfilment, as the man she loved seemed quite happy in his new marriage.
Love she might, but forgive she could not. She steadfastly harboured this for several years until the point came when she knew it was holding her back. About this time she attended a weekend study session with her church. She was encouraged to review her life, identify unresolved issues, draw a line on the past and look to the future. It was certainly an emotionally charged weekend both for her and the others as well. Early on the Sunday afternoon everyone broke into small prayer groups. She sat with the others in the quiet gardens of a secluded convent and poured out her sorrows. At the end they prayed together, each one in turn making very personal prayers. The closest she could get to forgiving was to ask God that one day soon she might be able to start praying for her husband. What a great moment this was for the progress of her mental attitude towards the objective. She wasn’t there yet, she hadn’t yet forgiven, but she was headed in the right direction!
On the weekend of the seminar the closest she could come to forgiving her husband was to pray she might be able to start thinking about forgiving him.
After the seminar weekend she continued working on the challenge and it was then only a matter of months before she could genuinely say that she could forgive. Now she is a much happier person, with the wounds of the past not being at the forefront of her mind. She is cheerful too, and sometimes when she talks of her past marriage she is even somewhat embarrassed when she recalls the great saga of her previously unforgiving nature.
This was a start and in the following months she achieved much more. The energy Barbara had used to perpetuate her hateful thoughts was replaced with the positive energy of her forgiving thoughts and her positive energy levels improved. Barbara’s Story, NSW
The background is that Joe's father left home when Joe was about two years old — that is just after the birth of his brother. Joe felt that his mother never loved him. Even his earliest memories, when he was eight or nine years old, he can remember staying out of the house as long as possible so that he wasn't verbally abused and put down by his mother. His brother was the pet. Always as Joe grew up, he could never do anything right. He often would recall being told by his mother that he would never be any good, no matter what he did. Joe never saw his father.
When Joe was about fifteen years old he left home, never to return. He did see his mother and brother for the next three years, when he would once again be abused and told that he was hopeless. Joe hated his mother and at the same time needed and craved her approval. Thirteen more years passed and Joe had seen neither his mother nor his father, nor his brother. He did however know the whereabouts of his father and that his brother had got married.
At the CHI Seminar when huge issues came up, Joe said to me that he still craves his mother's approval and he thought that he would never be any good until he had it. We talked about this and it came up that Joe said that he would be "racing off the property" if he knew his mother was on it. In other words, he could not even bear the thought of seeing or confronting his mother — such was his fear.
We chatted about the circumstances of his father leaving and one of the possible scenarios discussed was that his father doted on Joe and when he left the failed marriage, his mother really took it out on Joe.
This helped Joe in meditation to be able to visualise that his mother was on a ship at sea and that he was on another ship, as they passed. Gradually the ships passed closer and closer to each other until he was able to sight his mother. He took this a stage further and visualised passing his mother on the beach, while she was swimming in the water.
Over the next six months Joe met and talked to his dad and his brother. Another twelve months went by and Joe met with his mother. It was a very strained meeting, however progress was made. In his own words this is what he was visualising: "I picture my mum standing a few feet away. I shake her hand. I give her a hug, look into her eyes and say 'I love you'. After I do this I am completely drained of energy, I fall asleep for half an hour. It sucks huge amounts of energy".
Now, another 2 years later, the process of forgiveness and unconditional love is complete and changes in well-being are being experienced by Joe. By verbal agreement with Joe, Victoria
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