I’m often struck by the spectacle of people who’ve just suffered some tragedy – like a close relative being murdered – being placed in front of the TV cameras and being asked one of the most stupid of stupid questions – how do you feel? Soon after the event, they’re usually too shocked to say anything sensible. Often they just burst into tears.
Sometimes they express their anger and their desire for vengeance. They say things like ‘how can I sleep until the killer has been brought to justice?’ or ‘If I could get my hands on them I’d tear them limb from limb…..’ They tell how they can’t sleep, their health has suffered, they can’t work because of the worry that consumes them – a natural response to shock in the short term, but in the longer term a sign they haven’t really dealt with it.
Then time passes, the culprit is caught and the same people say, ‘How can I ever forgive them?’ or ‘No punishment can repay what they did.’ ‘Some even say, ‘I don’t want to forgive? Why should I?’
We all know revenge can’t bring back one’s loved ones or change the facts if a terrible accident has taken place.
Fortunately most of us are never in that situation. We suffer various lesser setbacks, we perhaps feel someone has cheated on us, stolen from us or done us harm in some other way. Our instinct is to try and get our own back, ‘I’ll show him’, get angry, seek revenge or perhaps cut them out of our lives completely.
But there’s a problem – several problems in fact.
- Anger clouds or judgement. We find ourselves doing unwise things, and sometimes inadvertently sabotage our own well-being.
- Anger, bitterness, resentment etc. make us ill; they flood the body with toxic stress chemicals, cause the muscles to tighten, leading to physical problems.
It’s said that acid only harms the vessel that contains it.
There’s an old Chinese saying, ‘If you’re going to seek revenge, you’d better dig two graves.’
But let’s not be glib about this – forgiveness isn’t easy. It’s all too easy to say you’ve forgiven because it’s what people want to hear, even though you’re doing it through gritted teeth and deep down you haven’t forgiven at all. And the reason Oscar Wilde gave to forgive isn’t very helpful either. He said, ‘Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys then so much.’
Here are four reasons to start with:
- When we forgive we heal our pain. Our bodies feel different – less tense. The person or event we’ve forgiven becomes a memory, no longer charged with emotion. You’ll be able to meet the other person as if the situation had never happened between you.
- Everything we give out boomerangs back on us. Fear and anger come back to hit us. But when we forgive, when we radiate positive energy, negativity dissolves and the boomerang effect doesn’t take place.
- Forgiveness is not about condoning wrong doing. It is not saying you’re glad it happened or that you would like someone else to change, but about taking total responsibility for your own life. I often hear people say, ‘Why should I forgive after what they did? How can anyone forgive that?’ But that’s not the point – you don’t do it for them – you do it for you. You do it to get rid of the harmful ‘stuff’ you’re carrying around with you.
- Above all, you open up the possibility to creating a better future. When you forgive, a transformation takes place in your life. You let go and move on. It brings space into your life for new thoughts and new experiences.
To say, ‘Just forgive,’ is too glib. There are times when we’re not ready to forgive; when the wrongs we believe we have suffered are too great. We must ask ourselves if we would really like to be able to forgive, if it is something we would like to move towards?
Simply having the intention to forgive – wanting to – sets you on the way to making it happen. That’s why I feel sad for those people who say ‘I’ll never forgive, I don’t want to forgive, why should I?’
The way forward is to create more understanding, more compassion, more wisdom into ourselves. Then over time the pain will ease and the tension gradually fades away.
When we express the willingness to forgive, we’re taking a major step towards letting go.
Examine your beliefs about forgiveness. If you believe that you have to get your own back for every wrong that has ever been done to you or it’s a sign of weakness, think about this carefully. Is this belief serving you well?
Work on eliminating unforgiving thoughts. Listen to your self-talk. Tell yourself you don’t want to think this way. Release the energy you’ve been putting into holding on to blaming thoughts.
Use Affirmations – establish in your mind positive attributes such as love, compassion and forgiveness.
Affirm: ‘I now establish forgiveness in my consciousness. Perfect order is now established in my mind. I am at peace.’
Make a mental image of the person with whom you are angry and send them love. ‘From this moment on, I send you love and light.’ Surround this image of them in pure white light. ‘See’ yourself as connected to this person. If you cannot yet forgive, imagine yourself looking down on the situation from a higher perspective. Very often the Earth-bound self cannot forgive, but the Higher Self can.
Inwardly or expressly thank those who made life difficult and tested you. They have contributed to your life’s purpose. If you respond wisely, they have aided you in your purpose and your growth.
Stop taking those petty actions of revenge. Extend your generosity and compassion to all. And hardest of all – go to that person and ask forgiveness, or do it in your imagination (they’ll pick it up one way or another).
The Spiritual Perspective on Forgiveness
What about you? What do you need to be forgiven for?
In order to forgive you must have done several things:
- Experienced fear (or become defensive through fear).
Once you stop judging and blaming, forgiveness is no longer an issue. If you had never judged or blamed another, there would be nothing to forgive.
And don’t forget to forgive yourself – you deserve it as much as anyone else! If you’ve been judging another harshly, you too must be forgiven.
True forgiveness is a permanent state of being, not just an occasional act. Let go and let the universe handle it through the natural Law of Cause and Effect. Others will have to face up to their responsibilities and learn from them, just as we do. We need do nothing. Lessons will be learned. Justice will be done.
Wouldn’t it be good to let those people on the telly have the good news? It would save them a lot of suffering.
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©David Lawrence Preston, 19.2.2017
How To Books, 2007