I am actually afraid to find my meaning in suffering because I do not want to look suffering in the eye. What do you suggest in a case like this?

Many people are afraid to examine their own degree of suffering or even their degree of anger because they see no solution once they “look suffering in the eye” (or anger in the eye).  Please remember that forgiveness is a strong solution to suffering and anger and so it is all right for you to stand in the truth and see your suffering and see your level of anger.  Forgiveness is your safety net.  As you see that suffering, bolstered by the confidence that forgiveness gives to you, then try to discern what meaning this suffering has for you.  The result is likely to be a significant reduction in that suffering.

Two Helpful Forgiveness Hints

When you forgive, be gentle with yourself as your anger subsides and as compassion increases. We usually change our thought first about someone who has been unjust to us. Thoughts are more under our control than are our emotions. Just because you have some anger does not mean that you are unforgiving. If your thoughts include “do no harm” and “I wish the other person well” then you are on the forgiveness path. A softened heart in the form of compassion can be a long road and so please be patient with yourself.Courage 3

When you forgive, be sure to exercise other moral virtues along with it. Aristotle counseled us never to practice any of the virtues in isolation. I recommend that you bring the moral virtue of courage on your forgiveness journey. Courage will provide the strength to continue on the journey when you get weary. Courage will provide another kind of strength to stand up to those who are treating you unjustly. The softened heart that is forgiveness will temper the courage so that you are not a roaring lion toward your offender.

Robert

Iranian Woman Blinded by Acid Attack Forgives Her Assailant

The Guardian.comAmeneh Bahrami, an Iranian woman who was disfigured and blinded in both eyes after having acid hurled in her face by a university classmate when she repeatedly spurned his offer of marriage, has forgiven her attacker. The pardon came just minutes before the man was to be blinded himself with acid in an “eye for an eye” punishment at Tehran’s judicial hospital.

Eye for an Eye“I feel very good. I’m happy that I pardoned him,” Bahrami said. “(Since the attack) I’ve been trying to pursue retribution and to prove that the punishment for an acid attack is retribution but today I decided to pardon him.”

Iran and Saudi Arabia are the only countries that take the Qur’anic decree of “eye for an eye” literally under Shari’ah law.  In a passage discussing the Law of Moses, the Qur’an says, “We ordained therein for them: ‘Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself.”

In November 2008, a criminal court in Tehran ordered retribution on Majid Movahedi after he admitted throwing acid at Bahrami, and entitled her to blind him with acid. Instead, she decided to forgive him. The prosecutor general of Tehran described her move as a “courageous act”.

Bahrami, who has an electronics degree and worked in a medical engineering company before the attack, moved to Spain with the help of the Iranian government where she has undergone a series of unsuccessful operations. She briefly recovered half the vision in her right eye in 2007 but an infection blinded her again. She has recently published a book in Germany, Eye for an Eye, based on her life.

Read the full story: “Iranian woman blinded by acid attack pardons assailant as he faces same fate”

The Will to Power, the Will to Meaning, and the Will to Love

Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century popularized a view of the world that he called the Will to Power.  His was a response to the emerging NietzchkeDarwinist view of evolution that there is a Will to Survive by all living things, not deliberately conscious (because, for example, blades of grass or turtles do not consciously reflect on such a will to survive).  For Nietzsche, the Will to Survive was not, well, powerful enough to explain how living organisms and systems work.  Grasses do not only struggle to live, but to expand territory by pushing out other living forms for a larger habitat.  Thus, even grass has the Will to Power, to control or even to (again unconsciously) dominate.

Viktor Frankl, a psychoanalytic psychologist, imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II, Viktor Franklhad a direct response to Nietzsche by saying that the primary human force is the Will to Meaning, a will to make sense out of life and particularly out of suffering.  Finding meaning, not a specific meaning common to all people, but finding a meaning itself has the survival value.  As people think of life as meaningless, then they die.  Yet, this contentless Will to Meaning has a contradiction in it.  It cannot be opposing Nietzsche’s Will to Power if, in finding meaning, one person’s meaning for life is to gain more influence over another.  In other words, Frankl’s deliberately contentless theme of the Will to Meaning must accommodate the content in some people’s minds that the Will to Power is their own personal meaning to life.  It is the way the world works, at least as some people try to make meaning out of a cruel world.  Yet, Frankl’s view, I think, is a developmentally more sophisticated worldview because it makes room for much more than the brutish vying for dominance and control in the world.

Jesus Christ, in contrast to Nietzsche and Frankl, has a different worldview.  It is the Will to Love.  Others, of course, have said this, too, but we must be scholarly here and give credit to the originalJesus - forgiven 2 proclamations.  This Will to Love consciously repudiates the need to dominate, to seek power.  Even if Nietzsche is correct that the Will to Power typifies the untrained, under-developed will of humanity, Christ’s challenge is to overcome that.  Nietzsche, in other words, takes what is and mistakenly presumes that this is what ought to be.  Frankl, in contrast, takes what is (we are presuming for now that the Will to Power is a natural tendency in humans) and is showing us that we can fill in the blank with other, perhaps better content when we ask, “What is the meaning of life and suffering for me?”  Christ, in contrast to Frankl, and in common with Nietzsche, commits to one particular content—in this case, love—as the central Will for humanity.

It seems to me that we have a developmental progression here in terms of a greater fulfillment of humanity, the fulfillment of who we are as persons.  We start in the mire of a Will to Power and can do great damage if we stay there, and if the world stays there.  The Will to Meaning is a transition in that it takes us out of the inevitability of seeking power.  The Will to Love, which honors the life of all, is the highest of these world views.  Why?  Because it is the only one of the three that is intimately concerned about all life.  If humanity will survive, our questing after the Will to Power is a dangerous path because in its conscious, extreme form, it destroys others so that one’s own domain can expand.

To those like Nietzsche who think that love and the equality of persons is a weakened view of humanity, my response is this:  How are you distorting the moral virtue of love?  How are you misunderstanding it?  To love is to help with the survival of all others, not to destroy for one’s own survival, dominance, and control.  In the seeking of others’ betterment, one finds vitality and joy and gives the freedom to others to do the same. The Will to Love is the only assurance of survival and the thriving of all, including the self.

Which of these world views will you bring to others today?

Robert

My friend stole some money from me while I was sleeping and when I confronted her, she denied it. But it is obvious that she took it because I had a $20 in my purse and then it was gone. How can I talk with her so that we can have a possibility of reconciling?

If you are sure that she took the money, then your first forgiving her will make dialogue easier because you will not be talking while deeply resentful.  After your anger has reduced because of forgiveness, I would then initiate the dialogue and look for what I call “the 3 R’s” of remorse (inner sorrow), repentance (verbally expressing regret), and recompense (repaying the money) on her part.  If she demonstrates the 3 R’s in a sincere way, this will be a first step to restoring your trust.  Trust is an important step to complete reconciliation.

Guest Blog: The Human Spirit Is Not Broken

There are moments when the human body may be stripped of its physical skills, but the human spirit is not broken.

Here is the story of a lady who is a testament to that. The year was 1989 and 26-year-old Laura Chagnon was merely walking down a Boston street. She didn’t know that would be the day her life would take a 180 degree turn. She was the victim of a senseless assault by one or more people; the detectives never caught the individual(s).

Poet Laura Chagnon
Poet Laura Chagnon

More important was the result, one minute ambulatory, Laura was now quadriplegic, legally blind with a head injury. To this day, her short-term memory is not very good. She was in a coma for 5 weeks and came out of it feeling a sense of loss. Her legs were no longer her legs because now she could not walk. She could no longer use her hands.

Four years in physical rehabilitation facilities followed. Doctors told her parents that her cognitive ability was minimal and to save the aggravation and put her in an institution for the rest of her life. They refused, their unconditional love was stronger than the doctor’s advice. The doctors said Laura would be a vegetable, still her parents would not break.

In 1993, Laura returned to live at home with her parents. She had caregivers around the clock to be her eyes and hands. She would not let life be a pity party and wanted to be a productive member of society. Laura started to dictate sentences to her caregivers and the sentences evolved into poems. One poem after another, each day more poems. Now, her identity changed, she didn’t feel like a quadriplegic woman, she proudly said she was a poet. Laura’s poems were of very good quality and were printed in local newspapers. She told people she was some day going to be a published poet with her book of poetry to be shared with the world.Laura Chagnon

She had no malice for whomever assaulted her. Laura simply said, “I traded my legs for the opportunity to write poetry.”

Let’s fast forward to the present. Laura has written over 5,000 poems. The doctors would be astonished. She is a shining example of overcoming adversity and not ever doubting the human spirit. Oh, by the way, that crazy dream of hers, to become a published poet: Laura met a publisher in June of 2013. He read some of her poems and was amazed. He said, “Laura Chagnon deserves to be published.”

For more than 20 years, her poetry was basically a well kept secret. If you read her works, I think you would agree she can hold her own with any poet out there. Now anybody can be the judge of that. Her published book, “Never Touched A Pen” the inspiring poetry of Laura Chagnon can be ordered at www.civinmediarelations.com.

Thomas Damoulakis

Why Forgiveness Education Matters

Do you see that 6-year-old over there?  He lives with his mother.  His father abandoned the family two years ago.  His mother does not know it, but deep down in his heart, he is saying this about himself, “I’m not much.  Dad left me and if I was more than ‘not much,’ he would still be here.”

As he grows to adolescence, this young man deepens his conviction that he is “not much” and now even believes that most people walking around on this planet are “not much.”  Deep down in his heart, he is saying this about others, “There is too much hurt in this world.  People are just mean.  They are out for themselves.  Even forgiveness is just an insincere move to keep a false peace….while we all walk around saying ‘no one is much.’”

Students-TeacherHow many children are heading toward this same set of conclusions about oneself and others?  Too many.

Forgiveness education helps young children, as young as age 4, to know this truth:  We all possess inherent worth.  We all have built-in precious value that no one can take away from us….not even those who proclaim to us, “You’re not much.”

Through forgiveness education, the student learns this answer: “Not only am I of precious worth, but so are you, the one who wants to convince me that I am ‘not much.’”

The world needs forgiveness education so that we can rescue the young from these lies….and so that they can pick themselves up…..and others up…….and create a more peaceful world.

Robert

Victim’s Mother Forgives Oscar Pistorius

Christian Today, London, England – The trial of Oscar Pistorius, a world-class Paralympian blade runner and the first ever double-amputee to participate in the Olympic Games, is causing a world-wide media frenzy. The South African athlete is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius claims hePistorius - Time Mag shot her by accident, mistaking her for an intruder.  The prosecution says he is a hotheaded killer who murdered his girlfriend in a moment of anger.

Amidst all the controversy, the victim’s mother, June Steenkamp, has stunned the world by saying she has forgiven Reeva’s killer.

“I’m not a person who hates another person. One has to forgive, otherwise I will sit with all that anger,” Steenkamp said in an interview with ITV. “One has to forgive, but we’ll never forget.”

During a similar interview on the Today show, Steenkamp said that Pistorius “made a mistake – an enormous mistake – and I’ve lost the most precious thing in my life – my beautiful daughter. But I can still forgive. I can forgive.”

In forgiving Pistorius, June is saying she will not let her anger consume her, and she will not keep it from stopping the process of reconciliation. She is choosing to find life in the midst of such intense grief and pain. Christian Today reporter Carey Lodge.

Read the full story: “June Steenkamp’s readiness to forgive offers a challenge to Christians everywhere.”

Do you think it is harder to forgive a person for one really bad offense or to forgive someone who constantly is doing small things to demean and does so almost every day?

The answer will vary by person and by how gravely serious the one offense is. Many people tell me that they struggle with forgiving those who hurt them on a regular basis. There are two reasons for this: 1) the 20th offense is harder than the first because there is a cumulative effect. The resentments get stronger as the problems persist; and 2) the person sometimes feels trapped, as if the problem will never end. This is why it is so important not only to forgive but also to seek fairness from the other. Living in harmony can occur when the one with a consistent pattern of unfairness comes to see this as unfair and is willing to change. Forgiving and correcting work well together as a team.

Does Forgiveness Make Sense without the Concept of Free Will?

We are all connected and so one person’s actions are not necessarily independent from others’ actions.  Is this true?  Some Eastern philosophies say this.  Some Western psychologies say this, too.  For example, family systems theory surmises that a misbehaving child likely is being influenced by pressures within the family generated by others’ behavior both inside and outside that family.  Psychodynamic theories in psychology say that an adult’s actions can have causes going back to how he or she was treated as a child.

Given all of the interrelated ideas above about our being interrelated in our actions, we can then make at least two moves in explaining people’s behavior: 1) no one can truly help certain actions because of others’ influences over us or 2) we all have free will and choose to act rightly or wrongly even if others’ make it hard to be good.

If we take the first turn on our journey of understanding persons, then we weaken such ideas as “right and wrong,” “justice,” and “forgiveness.”  After all, how can we say that one person acted wrongly? if we are all so interconnected, then this personFree Will is not acting with any kind of genuine volition.  In a certain way, his misbehavior can implicate his father, who can implicate his mother, who can implicate……..On it goes until we all share the blame which weakens the case against the original person and his actions under consideration.

If we take the second turn on our journey of understanding persons,  then we strengthen such ideas as  “right and wrong,” “justice,” and “forgiveness.”  After all, the person, even though pressed in on all sides by others, has choices.  One need not, for example, hit another person because of frustration. One’s mother has not so abused this person that she was left with one and only one option.  Yes, the mother’s misbehavior (whatever it was) may make it difficult for the daughter to control her temper, but control it to a degree she can.

Free will.  Independent choices.  Break the laws of morality (you will not take the life of an innocent person, for example), and you do wrong.  If the wrong is done to me, I can forgive.  If the other does not have free will, then an apparent wrong is just that—-apparent.  Do I then forgive a person for a wrong?  The conclusion is no longer clear.  We will have to re-define forgiveness in this case to keep the word.  Forgiveness becomes a kind of acceptance of all along with their actions, no matter how wrong they might appear to be.  We still retain such words as “compassion” and “understanding,” but the word forgiveness itself begins to fade.

Robert