Your level of personal happiness throughout your life will depend upon your ability to completely forgive those who have hurt or offended you.
In point of fact, the emotional-spiritual skill of forgiveness is critical to becoming a resilient person, to acting effectively and to your physical and emotional health. And it is indeed a skill that can be learned by anyone, though it may seem terribly difficult to do at times.
Here's a short video to help you get started:
Forgiveness and Your Personal Resilience
What exactly happens to us when we refuse to forgive others, when we hang on to old hurts and nurse them, thinking about the false sweetness of revenge? Well, it looks like this:
- Dwelling on these negative emotions compromises your immune system in numerous ways and may eventually lead you to manifest serious physical symptoms
- You'll become increasingly vulnerable to negative emotions of all kinds and lose any possibility of inner, emotional freedom
- This will blunt your capacity to experience genuine love, since loving requires vulnerability and openness to the possibility of hurt - it's a risk
- You won't understand other people and see them as they really are, nor will you see reality as it really is. Your perspectives will become increasingly egocentric and deluded.
... and yes, I realize that can be a pretty long list of people!
Overcoming the Obstacles to Forgiving
Of course, there may be some obstacles along the way... You may feel you're unable to let go of your anger, your desire for revenge or justice. All of that's to be expected. So how do you get around it? Here are several tools to help you get started...
- First and foremost is that you'll never learn this critical skill unless you decide to. Until you make the decision to forgive, absolutely nothing will change, so you need to start by convincing yourself that you need to do this.
- One way to help get past the anger is to realize that people who have hurt you either did so unintentionally or intentionally. If it was unintentional, as most hurts are, you can begin by imagining how the way they've been conditioned all their life led them to act in a way that was accidentally hurtful to you. If they hurt you intentionally, again consider their prior conditioning, the strength of the delusion(s) controlling their behavior and realize they were not acting as truly free agents. As Christ himself said as he was being crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Likewise, consider that those who've hurt you intentionally are afflicted by the same insanity.
- Then go on to think about how your real mission is not to hurt them back and perpetuate the cycle, but to act from a higher viewpoint and help them come to their senses. Remember, all human beings act in ways they believe will bring them happiness. It's just that they're often quite wrong!
- Cultivating love and affection throughout your day will gradually teach you that the benefits of forgiveness vastly outweigh those of holding a grudge.
- You can easily use the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to manage the more acute feelings of anger that come up during the forgiveness process
A Common Misunderstanding on Forgiveness
In our conflict-averse culture, many people are so afraid of interpersonal tensions that they make forgiveness and reconciliation into a kind of panacea, if not a "false god".
The fact is that in many conflicts there are real issues that must be dealt with. Yes, you need to forgive the other party from the outset, but this does not mean the issues don't need to be dealt with openly and honestly. Quite the opposite, if the real issues are papered over with pseudo-forgiveness and a group hug, then that unresolved conflict will come back to haunt all of you.
So in the forgiveness process, everyone has to face reality.
Still think you're have trouble forgiving your enemies? Then start by remembering the old adage - "Forgive your enemies... it messes with their minds!"
NEXT TIME, I'll share with you perhaps the greatest example in the 20th century of how a simple act of loving forgiveness messed with the mind of an implacable enemy... and turned him into a friend.
~ Dr. Symeon Rodger