Forgiving Myself and Others . . . Why Bother?

Forgiveness will not be possible until compassion is born in your heart.”

—Thich Nhat Hanh

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I recently had a rather intense conversation about forgiveness with a friend. She was adamant that there are some people that do not deserve forgiveness, ever. She went on to say that serial rapists and pedophiles do not deserve forgiveness period. And although there is very compelling evidence that forgiveness is good for the person who forgives, we came to an impasse.

I think a lot of us get stuck on the idea of what forgiveness actually means. Forgiveness is defined as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether you believe they actually deserve your forgiveness. Remember the act of forgiving is for you the forgiver, not the person you are forgiving.

Forgiveness does not mean that you gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offence against you. It does not mean forgetting nor excusing what has been done. It does not mean you have to reconcile with the person or release them from legal accountability.

As Anne Lamott puts it:

“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare.” 

Forgiveness is for the forgiver. It brings the forgiver peace and hopefully freedom from anger.

It took years of therapy to be able to forgive my mother. I was convinced she did not deserve forgiveness. She chose alcohol over her own children, dying and leaving me motherless at the tender age of 16. But when I finally reached a place of letting it go, it was so liberating! I felt lighter and more energized than I had in my entire life. Forgiveness is so freeing. It loosens the knot in my stomach that comes from resentment and anger at another person.

I love Jack Kornfield’s definition of forgiveness:

“Forgiveness is, in particular, the capacity to let go, to release the suffering, the sorrows, the burdens of the pains and betrayals of the past, and instead to choose the mystery of love. Forgiveness shifts us from the small separate sense of ourselves to a capacity to renew, to let go, to live in love.”

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for happiness, health and peace. And studies have shown that forgiveness can lead to better relationships; greater psychological well-being; less stress; lower blood pressure; fewer symptoms of depression and a stronger immune system. Just to name a few of the health benefits.

But as we all know, it’s a helluva lot easier said than done. Fred Luskin is a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. He offers us nine steps toward forgiveness:

1. Understand how you feel about what happened and be able to explain why the situation is not OK. Then discuss it with someone you trust.
2. Commit to yourself to feel better; remember forgiveness is for you and no one else.
3. Remember forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with the person who upset you; it does not condone the action. In forgiveness you are seeking peace for yourself.
4. Recognize that the distress now is coming from the hurt feelings and physical upset you are currently suffering, not from what offended you or hurt you when it happened.
5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response. Take a deep breath.
6. Stop expecting things from other people that they do not choose to give you.
7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.
8. Remember that living well is the best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving power over you to the person who caused you pain, look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you. Put more energy into appreciating what you have rather than attending to what you do not have.
9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.

One of the best ways I can get myself to a place of forgiveness when I’m feeling stuck is to journal. I write pages and pages about why I’m angry and resentful and hurt. I write until it’s all out. And then I usually talk about it, and occasionally even write an article about it about because as Anne Lamott tells us:

Now you get to tell it, because then it will become medicine – that we evolve; that life is stunning, wild, gorgeous, weird, brutal, hilarious and full of grace. That our parents were a bit insane, and that healing from this is taking a little bit longer than we had hoped. Tell it.

I’d like to close with a beautiful meditation on forgiveness with Jack Kornfield.

I’d love to hear about how you practice forgiveness.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.
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This Way Up!

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh


This Way Up! Here I go!

In my last post Smile,  I let you all know that I was asked to change the title of my book. As I said in that post, I felt frustrated and kinda old. However, what I learned was as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.

What a wonderful week of uncovering and abandoning old views.  I asked for help (ah there’s a novel concept!) First, I called my friend Tam in Seattle and we brainstormed together, from the red chair. Then I asked for ideas from my son Lukas. And then my incredible editor Annie and I brainstormed some ideas.  And finally, I sent off our top 5 ideas to Brooke at She Writes Press. Eventually it was a bit of an amalgamation of everyone’s ideas.

So the new title of my book, as reflected by the new look and title of this blog page is:

This Way Up: One Woman’s Path to Fullness and Joy

I’m so glad I asked for help, and that ultimately I was willing to let go of feeling old and stuck and embrace the new.

To honor the concept of asking for help, I’d like to close with a wonderful video, Bill Withers singing Lean On Me.

Please let me know what you think of my new title. I’d really like to hear your opinions.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

A Moment of Silence

“A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of shutting up.”

– Neil Genzlinger (American Playwrite)


I belong to a wonderful book club!  The No Guilt Book Club.  We go along to the group each month and have a glass of wine, or don’t; talk about books we’ve read, or haven’t; share some books, or don’t.  No Guilt, No Rules!  It’s fantastic!

Last night at book club, my friend Anne talked about the time she spent at Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Retreat Centre, Plum Village.  She explained that everytime a bell rang, a phone rang or any alarm sounded, everyone would take a moment to stop, be silent and mindful.  Imagine that, instead of rushing and hurrying everytime we hear a phone ring or an alarm sound to take just a split second and use that as a reminder to be silent and mindful.  When I asked her if she continued it after she left, Anne laughed and said no.  Of course not!  Who has time?  We are all so busy, who has time to take a moment to be silent every time a bell rings?

When I got home from book group last night, I got my newsletter from Daily Good.  In the email, there was a link for Fred Rogers’ (of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) acceptance speech for his Emmy for the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Now don’t get me wrong, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was never my all time favorite show, however I found this speech very moving.  He asked the audience to remember the people who had loved them into being.  What a wonderful way to put, to think about the people who have loved us into being.  He then asked the audience to take ten seconds of silence to think of the people who helped them become who they are.  It was very moving in that grand auditorium at the Emmy Awards, with everyone dressed in their finest to take a moment of  silence.  There were tears and a lot of emotion.

I don’t fool myself into thinking I will pause and be mindful every time I hear a bell in the future; but I am going to try to be silent for at least a moment every day – and to just breathe and just be, and perhaps think of the people who loved me into being.

Please take a moment to watch this speech by Mr. Rogers, and perhaps take a moment of silence to think of the people who loved you into being.

 

 

Please let me know your thoughts on this speech, and any methods you use to remind yourself to be mindful.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

 

 

Miracles around us!

“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh


Miracles!  They are all around us, constantly.  I have had a few people ask me why I chose the Aurora Borealis for my background.  My answer is, first of all because I think it’s so gorgeous!  But beyond that – to witness the Northern Lights, in all it’s spectacular majesty is to experience a miracle.

While I was living in Alaska, no matter how many times I saw the Northern Lights, tears would come to my eyes and I would stop speechless and breathless, and just behold the beauty and  – well the miracle of nature.

So I chose the Northern Lights to be the background for this blog to remind myself and hopefully others to stop for a moment and remember – as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us –  every day we are engaged in a miracle.

 

If you have had an experience witnessing the Northern Lights, I would love to hear about it.

As always, thank you for visiting my blog.  I appreciate it.

Miracles around us!

“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle..”

– Thich Nhat Hanh


Miracles!  They are all around us, constantly.  I have had a few people ask me why I chose the Aurora Borealis for my background.  And my answer, first of all is because I think it’s so gorgeous!  But beyond that – to witness the Northern Lights, in all it’s spectacular majesty is to experience a miracle.

While I was living in Alaska, no matter how many times I saw the Northern Lights, tears would come to my eyes and I would stop speechless and breathless, and just behold the beauty and  – well the miracle of nature.

So I chose the Northern Lights to be the background for this blog to remind myself and hopefully others to stop for a moment and remember – as Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us –  every day we are engaged in a miracle.

As always, thank you for visiting my blog.  I’d love to hear from you.