Forgiveness

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.’

Why forgive

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.

Intention

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.

Thinking

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.’

Imagination

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.

Action

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:

  • Judged.
  • Blamed.
  • 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

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5 reasons to forgive

Practise forgiveness

Judging, blaming, bearing grudges and forgiveness are closely related. Before you need to forgive you must have judged, blamed and felt a measure of fear. Otherwise there would be nothing to forgive.

It is not for you to decide whether the recipient deserves to be forgiven is not. Forgiveness is not about condoning wrongdoing, but is part of the process of righting wrongs and putting something better in their place.

Five irresistible reasons to forgive

  1. When we forgive, we free ourselves from anger, bitterness and resentment and create inner peace. Our bodies feel less tense. The incident becomes merely a memory, no longer charged with emotion.
  1. Everything we give out returns to us. When we forgive, the bitterness evaporates and we avoid being on the end of others’ bitterness in future.
  1. We take responsibility for our lives rather than expecting something outside our control to happen or someone else to change.
  1. We forgive not so much for the other person (they may know that we’ve forgiven them). We do it for ourselves. Who benefits the most when you forgive – YOU! There’s a wise old saying: Acid harms only the vessel that contains it.
  1. Forgiveness brings our awareness to the present. We let go of the past, stop plotting for the future, let go and move on.

Forgive yourself too

Guilt is one of most disempowering emotions and one of the most common. Many people fret over things they can do little about, and some even feel guilty knowing they’ve done nothing wrong.

Guilt is a futile emotion because it is rooted in the past which, of course, can’t be changed. All we can do is change our thoughts and feelings about it.

What about you? You deserve forgiveness as much as anyone else. What do you need to be forgiven for? You have made mistakes – we all have. Instead of feeling guilty, look for the lessons and don’t make the same mistakes again.

Do you find it hard to forgive?

Do you ever feel you’re not ready to forgive? You want to, you know it makes sense and yet those blaming thoughts keep coming.

If so, start by wanting to, then intending to forgive. The willingness to forgive is a major step.

  • Examine your beliefs about forgiveness. Do you believe that you have to get even for every wrong done to you? Do you believe that forgiveness is a sign of weakness? Do these beliefs serve you well?
  • Eliminate unforgiving thoughts. Sow thoughts of love, empathy and forgiveness. Affirm – Perfect order is now established in my mind. I am at peace.
  • Picture the person who you wish to forgive. Surround this image in white light and affirm, ‘From this moment on, I send you love and light.’ ‘See’ the two of you as connected.
  • Extend love, generosity and compassion to them and avoid petty acts of revenge.

 

©David Lawrence Preston 6.6.2017

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Love your enemies

A great teacher taught that we should love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. What did he mean by this?

Problems with others usually occur because our own thinking is in error. With no enmity in our thinking, we have no enemies! That’s why Abraham Lincoln observed, ‘Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?’

An adversarial state of consciousness is disempowering. It’s also detrimental to our health.

Go within and seek the peaceful side of your nature. If others don’t respond, send them a silent blessing and let it go. Their anger and aggression is their problem.

Be grateful to those who test you

Our so-called enemies are our finest teachers. Aim to make peace with them. Don’t even consider whether they deserve it – that’s just a judgement.

Eric Butterworth tells of a distinguished writer who visited a Quaker friend. Each evening, they walked to the street corner to buy an evening newspaper. The friend would be cheerful and pleasant, but the news vendor would always respond with a grunt. The writer commented on this one night. ‘Why are you so nice to him?’ he asked his friend.

The Quaker replied, ‘Why should I let him determine how I am going to behave?’

Be grateful to those who make life difficult, and don’t let them rule your behaviour. They are your greatest teachers.

 

©David Lawrence Preston 7.12.2016

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Self-esteem is happiness and success

Self-esteem is happiness, success and a whole lot besides. It governs your behaviour in every area of your life and without it you’ll almost certainly underachieve.

Self-esteem is the experience of feeling that you’re worthy of happiness and capable dealing with life. It’s a combination of self-confidence (beliefs about your capabilities) and self-respect (beliefs about your value and worthiness). It’s closely related to your self-image – the way you see yourself – and is absolutely fundamental to everything you do.

For example:

  • People with low self-esteem always underachieve. A poor self-image effectively places a glass ceiling on your achievements.
  • It’s also at the root of many health and psychological issues such as weight problems and most eating disorders.
  •  Much crime is caused by drugs, unemployment and/or poverty – all heavily influenced by low self-esteem.
  •  People with low self-esteem usually have problems in their relationships and social lives. Their constant need for reassurance can impose an intolerable strain on any relationship.
  •  It’s the fundamental cause of most marriage breakdown, parent-child friction and sexual problems.
  •  If you feel good about yourself, you are more willing to try new things and meet new people. You’re also more likely to be successful in competitive activities such as sport.
  •  If you have high self-esteem, you’re more likely to be interested in self-development because you know you’re worth it.

Your self-esteem is made up of three core sets of beliefs and feelings about yourself:

  1. The value you place on yourself; your feelings of self-worth. Key words: ‘I deserve’;
  1. Your beliefs about your ability to cope with life’s challenges, solve problems and think for yourself; your feelings of competence. Key words: ‘I can’;
  1. Your beliefs about the way you fit into society and relate to others. Key words: ‘I belong’ and ‘I am accepted’.

How you feel about yourself varies from day to day, hour to hour and situation to situation. You may be confident at work, but not in social settings; you may regard yourself as a kind and loving person, but hate your body. And so on.

Your self-image covers:

  •  Your physical make-up: health, fitness and appearance.
  •  Your emotional nature, e.g. are you a loving person, caring and considerate, or beset with anger, worry, guilt or fear?
  •  Your intellectual make-up: your knowledge, qualifications, skills and intelligence.
  •  Your social standing: beliefs about what other people think of you and whether you feel comfortable in social situations.

You are probably more deserving and more capable than you think. Remember, most of us only ever use 5-10% of our abilities – perhaps less. This means that over 90% of your talents waiting to be discovered and used. Isn’t that exciting!

How your self-esteem was formed

Your self-esteem was more or less established by the time you reached eight or nine years old. By then, the average child has already received over one hundred thousand negative injunctions from adult authority figures. The accumulated effect over many years can be very destructive.

Here are some examples from my own observations:

  •  A seven year-old girl is struggling to keep up with Mum on the way to school. ‘Come on. Hurry up,’ says Mum. ‘Mum’s cross with me,’ she thinks, ‘I’m not good enough.’
  •  A twelve year-old boy volunteers to take over the drum stool in a school concert at the last minute. During the rehearsal, he misses a beat. ‘I thought we had an intelligent drummer,’ sneers the teacher. (Sarcasm is very damaging to children; they take most things adults say literally.)
  •  As a girl, Diane was repeatedly told that ‘overeating runs in the family’. By the age of thirty, she is three stone overweight. On a similar theme, John, an obese 52 year-old, has a compulsion to eat everything put in front of him because, as a boy, he wasn’t allowed to leave the table until he’d cleared his plate.
  •  A small girl picks up a bag of sweets in a supermarket and asks her Mum if he can have them. ‘No you can’t’ comes the reply. ‘They’ll make your teeth drop out and you’ll be even uglier than you are now.’

Incidents such as these cause leave a child emotionally scarred for many years.

Sadly, many people go through life believing that they are unable to overcome their conditioning, but it is simply not true. Many happy and successful people suffered as children. In most cases, it they simply decided not to let it hold them back.

Without high self-esteem you’ll always feel as if someone else is in control of your life, but the exciting thing is, no matter what your background or your current level of self-esteem, you can improve. Big improvements can be made in as little as 3-6 months.

Forgive your parents

Whatever your childhood experiences, commit yourself to the first two steps to higher self-esteem:

1. Decide to do something about it.

2. Forgive your parents.

Forgiving your parents is one of the most liberating things you can do. Continuing to blame them for your lack of self-esteem prevents you from developing a healthy, adult relationship with them. After all, they were products of their own conditioning, and they probably did the best they knew how, struggling to raise you whilst coping with all the other pressures of life.

Whether they deserve to be forgiven or not is not the point. You’re only hurting yourself by hanging on to all that ‘stuff’. You owe it to yourself to be free of all the resentment and bitterness you’ve been carrying.

Remember, it is not the people, events and circumstances in your past that determine your confidence and self-esteem, but your beliefs about those people and events.

 

©David Lawrence Preston, 30 7.2016

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A Great Teaching of the Master: Non-resistance

Non-resistance is one of the greatest teachings of the Master Yeshua. It is not unique to him – all the great religions teach the same. It is closely related to forgiveness.

According to the Sec0nd Gospel (‘Matthew’), Yeshua said ‘You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ [1]

Obviously, he didn’t mean this literally. Yeshua was a skilled public speaker; he knew how to use symbolism and metaphor to get his message across. He was simply telling his audience, don’t resist, let it go; don’t meet evil with evil, instead – sow the good.

In saying this, he was reinforcing a passage in the Hebrew Scriptures[2]: “Do not say, ‘I will do unto others as they have done unto me; I will pay them back for what they have done.’”

Non-resistance is about overcoming negative thoughts of judgement, blame and vengeance with loving thoughts of acceptance, harmony and peace, and then allowing our speech and actions to concur. Of course, this is not always easy to do, but it is the only way for peace of mind.

When we feel attacked, abused or insulted, we should let go and let the universe handle it through the natural Law of Cause and Effect/Karma. Others have to face up to their responsibilities and learn from them, just as we do. We need do nothing. Lessons will be learned and natural justice will be done.

In the greater scheme of things fighting evil with evil simply doesn’t work. As Mahatma Gandhi (one of the greatest modern proponents of non-resistance) put it,  – ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ Besides, we all know revenge doesn’t change what happened and that anger merely clouds our judgement; it can lead to unwise actions which inadvertently sabotage our happiness and well-being.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but intuitively I think most people understand the sense of what I’m saying.

Some years ago I came across an idea which I’ve found very helpful in understanding and practising forgiveness and non-resistance. When we’re stressed, angry, facing tough challenges and finding it hard to see a way through,  we should ask ourselves not, ‘Why did this happen tome,’ but ‘Why did this happen for me?’

Why is this so valuable? Because everything that happens does so for a reason although we may not see it at the time. If we respond wisely, it contributes to our spiritual growth.

We live in a world of appearances. Sometimes the things we get angry about happen specifically for our benefit, but we can’t see it. This is the real meaning of ‘Turn the other cheek’ – allow life to happen, stay centred, look for the benefit, and know that everything that happens, happens for you.

©David Lawrence Preston, 26.4.2016

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[1] In the composite of sayings known as the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 38-39.

[2] Proverbs 24:29