I heard from a close friend a while ago: someone who I’ve known for years as a solid, “I’ve got it all together” friend. The call was to tell me that the “all together” thing was not necessarily true. The report was an adulterous failure in a longtime marriage. It was devastating, to say the least. The call was to ask forgiveness –from Me! There was no violation of trust, nothing directly failed me. But this person felt my trust was also violated, not just that of the partner. Of course I stated that, accepted the apology, though I made it clear that I needed no apology.
That phone call sent me back looking through the multiple TruthNewsNet stories I began to find one I started months ago but never finished or published.
I think the phone call was a sign telling me I needed to finish.
I added this “forward,” completed it, and publish it today for you and anyone else that might need to consider forgiveness. Believe it or not, we all do!
Forgiveness: the toughest thing to give OR receive
There are NO shortcuts. Whenever someone hurts or takes advantage of someone else, if the desire is to reach resolution, both parties to the conflict must take definitive actions. It never works if just one party to the problem refuses to engage in the reconciliation process. There’s NO peace without unified agreement.
“Dan, what the heck are you talking about this for? This story is not about politics. This is getting in a fight with your wife or husband and trying to make peace when one of the two lie to the other!”
Seriously, the lack of forgiveness has become what a majority of psychological experts feel is the most serious mental and emotional problem among adults. So if you have watched the American landscape as I have, you’ve watched as not only has the level of animus among Americans increased dramatically, but Americans have in great numbers stopped asking for and/or giving others forgiveness when wrongs occur. The issues in question can be everything from fighting over a dent to new car, who stole money from Mom’s purse, who broke the tv remote, or cheating with a secretary or boss at work. There are plenty of examples of ugly things that happen that scream for forgiveness.
But how does one get started in that process?
Uh-oh: that’s going to be a tough one. Being honest and transparent is an easy process to discuss, but it’s often impossible to implement in these situations. What’s the biggest problem with it? Admitting one is wrong!
There is really no need to elaborate on this one. Everyone knows almost every time a conflict arises who is the guilty party or parties to the conflict with mud on their faces. It’s really not difficult to know who is wrong.
Is there a path that can lead us out of the bitterness that makes rapid headway in so many lives? Is there no end to taking offense and forming grudges? Where is this now accepted social standard of getting even taking us? Does resentment build up within us over smaller and smaller things? And for those who have truly been hurt, where over time will their bitterness take them if left unchecked?
Consider an ancient solution — a way through —today’s vengeful cultural climate. Without taking on a preachy tone, and in the hope of sharing some thoughts on a complicated topic, this writer hopes to shed some light on forgiveness, and the inner peace, and the enhanced physical and mental health it can bring to anyone who decides to forgive.
Forgiveness has been explained in many ways, from the ancients to the Bible to scientific journals. Some describe it as the most important contribution one can make to the healing of the world. So let’s define forgiveness as “the active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings, whether the wrongdoer deserves it or not.”
This definition captures an often overlooked quality of forgiveness: it primarily helps the forgiver, usually far more than the forgiven, for the wrong done.
Wrongs that another does to us will almost always cause anger, or stress, or anxiety. This is not always the case, as some people, studies have found, are naturally more forgiving. Life for them, research shows, is much more satisfying, with less depression. Dr. Martin Luther King’s words come to mind: “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Overall, those more inclined to forgive will spare themselves the sometimes disabling burden that hurt and disappointment impose. Nelson Mandela, who left behind him almost 30 years of harsh imprisonment for his political activism, shared this about his lack of anger: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping that it will kill your enemies.”
Here’s where an interesting, recent survey comes in: performed by the non-profit Fetzer Institute. It shows that 62 percent of Americans say they need more forgiveness in their lives. So forgiveness has come to mean for them a release of anger, and of the resentment and hostility that go with it. In that release, there is then ample room for the feeling of empathy, compassion, and at times affection for the person who wronged you.
For many, calling it a “wrong” is a term that seems to minimize the cause enormous hurt some can cause. In his compelling as well as instructive book, “Why Forgive,” Johann C. Arnold wisely recognizes the near impossibility of forgiving such grim behavior as violent crime, abuse, bigotry, even what happens in war.
But here again, there’s something about forgiveness that the Houston Chronicle, in its review of this book, calls an eye-opening simplicity: forgiveness helps to check a side of our nature that can otherwise devour us.
The ancient, spiritual gift to those who forgive now has science to support it. Johns Hopkins Hospital’s director of their “Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic,” Karen Swartz, MD, reports that a decision to forgive and to keep forgiving lowers the risk of heart attack, improves sleep, even cholesterol levels, and in turn reduces blood pressure and the intensity of anxiety and stress.
Moreover, this forgiveness/health connection, Dr. Swartz tells us, increases with age. Conversely, getting older with continuous unforgiviness through life brings far more harm to us than to the person we need to forgive.
So when wronged, whether it’s a slight of some social sort, or strained family relationships, or gossip that gets back to us, or workplace tensions, or far more serious actions with sometimes even tragic outcomes, that is when we are presented a number of paths.
Some will take the path of adding to their collection of grudges, building upon a catalog of people and things to resent; some will go further, and weigh themselves down with plans on how to get even; some will remember and dwell on the wrong’s tiniest details, letting the bitterness grow over a long period of time; and some will believe, largely from self-pity, that they have been hurt too often or too deeply, so much so in their minds that they are an exception from the need to forgive.
All these paths, for those who choose them, lead to one miserable place – their own self-incarceration.
The path of forgiveness, however, offers recovery from an injury. It’s not based on fairness — fairness has nothing to do with it. Nor does it excuse the pain that is a part of life and relationships, and it’s certainly not forgetting or condoning a wrong.
Forgiving still acknowledges a hurtful act, but we see beyond it. That is the path to a new lease on life, a conscious decision to stop hating, in turn giving rise to a sense of inner peace. When this injury is done to us, we’ll never truly recover until we forgive. And as we have already seen, it is also a path to better health, and quite literally, a way to happiness and joy for those who hurt and those who get hurt.
What seems the most durable aspect of forgiveness is that it invariably proves to be a gift to ourselves. When we move past the resentment, the target of that resentment no longer has influence. It’s the conscious decision to stop hating that frees us from misery. Forgiveness puts in check a consuming side of our nature. And forgiving can be incredibly hard, one of the hardest things a person can do.
So here’s a common sense, step-by-step formula, cobbled together, if you will, from various scientific studies, but, primarily, the Bible.
First, reflect and remember the event, how you reacted, and how it has affected you since. Then decide to forgive, and expect absolutely nothing in return. Even if the offender refuses forgiveness, still offer it unconditionally. And if you cannot tell the person, tell someone else in confidence, or simply write it in a note to yourself.
Set no limits on whom you forgive, or how often in life you will forgive. Expel from your mind any thought of one-upsmanship or getting even. Confucius put it this way: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” His even better point: “To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.” And Jesus told us we should forgive “seventy times seventy times,” meaning how often we forgive has no limit.
Forgiveness gives to us a simple, liberating way to live in this fractured world in which fractures grow and seldom stop. To forgive both our enemies and our friends, and to make it our attitude, opens a new world for each of us, and a truly new outlook on life.
How many times in your life have you repeated “The Lord’s Prayer?”
Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever.
Jesus instructed us to pray this specifically “when we pray.” One verse in the prayer is the critical one for today’s conversation: “…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” That seems benign, doesn’t it? It’s anything BUT benign! From the Son of God we have the secret of forgiveness.’
We are actually when praying that we ask God to forgive us AS we forgive others that have wronged us! There’s the secret.
But it gets MORE interesting. When you have prayed that numerous times during your life, you are in essence asking God NOT to forgive you unless you forgive others who have wronged you. “As” means “at the same time, while, or in the same fashion,” as defined in Webster.
There’s no doubt forgiveness is a two-edged sword. It not only impacts the person who commits the wrong but also the person who was wronged — the one who is hurt when the wrong is perpetrated.
In summary, forgiveness is the most important human trait we MUST adopt in our lives to keep us sane.
Maybe this will open a door for you. Maybe it will close other doors that desperately need to do so. If you have been wronged — which I’m certain you have — forgiveness will give you peace. But maybe just as important is the fact that the person YOU have wronged when hearing your request for forgiveness has the ability to obtain peace for themselves if and as they forgive you!
Life is too short to fill it with unnecessary and deadly emotions. Why not empty any anger or hate you hold for somebody that really did you dirty. After all, what could doing so possibly hurt? Nothing. But the good for you and that person that will result will keep the needless angst that goes with unforgiveness out of your life.
And YOU control it!