In March of 2014, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2014.
The challenge was this: Give love away as your legacy of 2014.
Our challenge to you now is this: Give love away as your legacy of 2015.
One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2015 so far. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague.
Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?
Can you list some specific, concrete ways in which you have chosen love over indifference? Love over annoyance? If so, what are those specifics and how are they loving? We ask because 2015 will be 50% over as we move through June. Have you engaged in 50% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?
Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.
Reuters, Mount Pocono, PA – “It doesn’t do you any good to hate somebody for whatever they have done to you, because all it does is eat you up. And in the end, what does it do for you? Absolutely nothing.”
Those are the words of Bryon Dickson, father of a slain Pennsylvania State Police trooper who said Sunday that he and his wife have forgiven their son’s alleged killer. Bryon and Darla Dickson said forgiveness has helped them move on and avoid becoming bitter.
Police Corporal Bryon Dickson II was killed by a sniper outside his barracks last fall. The defendant, Eric Frien, is a survivalist now awaiting trial on murder charges that carry a possible death sentence.
“Justice lays behind (us), where Eric Frein must be held accountable for what he did to our son,” Darla said. “Forgiveness, however, lays before us. It is our hope. We know as Christians we will see Bryon again.”
The Dicksons spoke about the death of their son and the healing power of forgiveness during three “Blue Sunday” services honoring law enforcement at the Community Church in Mount Pocono, about 110 miles north of Philadelphia.
“The only alternative is bitterness,” the church pastor, David Crosby Jr., added. “Forgiveness is the difference between becoming bitter and getting better.” Darla and Bryon Dickson nodded in agreement.
Parents of slain Pennsylvania trooper forgive accused killer, Business Insider (Reuters – US Edition).
Forgiveness ahead for Trooper Dickson’s parents, The Standard Speaker, Hazleton, PA.
Parents of slain trooper declare forgiveness for man awaiting trial, Las Vegas Review-Journal.
You are right in that the majority of case studies, reported in the media, of people forgiving offenders for extreme cases of injustice seem to possess a deep faith. If you look at the News items on this website, you will see many such cases. Not all are Christian as seen, for example, in Eva Moses Kor’s forgiveness of Nazis who imprisoned her and her twin sister at Auschwitz. Mrs. Kor is Jewish.
Aristotle taught over 2,000 years ago that there are developmental movements in forgiveness from superficial to deep and profound. Most people can forgive others for small issues and we have worked with people from various belief systems (and no belief at all) to forgive significant injustices. Yet, the extreme injustices, again as reported in the media, do point to the theme of transcendence. By “transcendence” I mean going beyond the material, the concrete, what can be sensed in this world, to something more—something bigger. I think this theme of transcendence is important and worth taking seriously with regard to your question. Those who see that there is more to the body, more to this life seem to have the capacity to transcend resentment in a way that, as you suggest, is surprising.
I am not implying that atheists or agnostics cannot or will not transcend in their forgiving. I am saying that it may—it may—be harder for them to do so because materialistic philosophies do not assume that there is more beyond the physical bases of existence.
Teaching can be a difficult profession—-the constant pressures to help students achieve, the layers of discipline from students’ inattention to downright disrespect, few breaks to prepare for the demanding instruction, and discouraged colleagues.
I struggled to get a doctoral degree so that I could try administration, but once I did achieve that educational milestone, the administrative door stayed closed for so long. There seemed to be an implicit understanding that I first take an administrative position in one of the rougher areas of town which was something I did not want to do. So, I stayed at my present job and did not climb “the ladder of success.”
I had to forgive the system for creating this expectation that was not at all clear until I earned the degree. I have forgiven and I am content serving the students as I teach rather than administrate. The entire experience could have left me bitter, but it did not. Forgiveness saved me from such bitterness.
I am sorry that you are having to endure this criticism. I am sure this is very difficult. My first question concerns fairness. When you forgive, do you also ask for fairness? Forgiveness does not mean that we put up with unfair treatment. My second question concerns what forgiveness is. Are you responding mercifully to your husband? Are you excusing him as you forgive? Forgiveness does not find excuses. Regarding how long to forgive, if you are not in danger and if you are asking for fairness and if you are forgiving as a true expression of mercy and kindness toward him, then forgiveness can be a psychological protection for you. The hope is that your husband will respond to your call for him to stop, see your compassion, and then change for the better.
OK, everyone, it is time to reflect on those good old school days of yore, those care-free days when everyone thought we did not have a care in the world. Yet, sometimes we carry burdens from those days and we do so in the silence of our own hearts. When was the last time that you, as an adult, had a discussion about your days in elementary, middle, or high school? When was the last time you had such a discussion with an emphasis on the emotional wounds you received back then? I am guessing that such discussion-times have been quite rare.
I wonder how many of you reading this still have some unresolved issues from the good-old-days. It is in school, within the peer group, at recess, on the sports team that our current sense of self is shaped, at least to a degree. Sometimes we are influenced by those days to a greater extent than we realize.
So, it is time for a little quiz. Please think about your days in school and see if you can identify one person who was unjust to you, so unjust that when you think about the person now, it hurts. This person is a candidate for your forgiveness. I have an important question for you: How has this person inadvertently influenced your own view of yourself? How has this person’s actions made you feel less than who you really are? Do you see that it is time to change that?
My challenge to you today is to take steps to forgive him or her for those behaviors long ago that have influenced you up to this very moment. It is time to take a better look at what happened, to forgive, and then to ask the question after you forgive: Who am I now as I admit to the injustice, admit to it negatively influencing how I have seen myself all these years, and who am I now as I stand in forgiveness?
Perhaps the good old days will seem a little brighter once you forgive. You will have lifted a silent burden.
Fibromyalgia News Today, Dallas, Texas – Fibromyalgia patients who suffered abuse during childhood achieved “significant improvements in forgiveness, anger and overall fibromyalgia health” after a forgiveness intervention administered as part of a new study conducted by the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.
Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder characterized by widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body, headaches, sleep disorder
and mood alterations. Fibromyalgia can affect people’s ability to conduct simple daily tasks, compromising their quality of life. Women are usually more affected than men.
Medical researchers believe that childhood abuse or trauma may change the body’s response to stress, potentially leading to the development of fibromyalgia. In fact, people with fibromyalgia have a higher prevalence of childhood abuse compared to the U.S. population in general.
According to the study, clinicians may be able to help patients cope with fibromyalgia through a forgiveness intervention and the changes that it induces in the patient’s mental and physiological state.
The study is entitled “A Forgiveness Intervention for Women With Fibromyalgia Who Were Abused in Childhood: A Pilot Study.” It was published in the September 2014 issue—Vol. 1(3), pages 203-217—of the journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice®, a publication of the American Psychological Association. Study team leaders were Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI who has been studying forgiveness for more than 29 years, and Yu-Rim Lee, UW-Madison Department of Educational Psychology.
Read the full story: Forgiveness Intervention Helps Women with Fibromyalgia Abused During Childhood Improve their Condition.
Read the complete Fibromyalgia Study: A Forgiveness Intervention for Women With Fibromyalgia Who Were Abused in Childhood: A Pilot Study.
It takes steadfast courage to finally decide, “I will forgive.”
So often we know in our mind, through reason, that forgiveness is the right path. Yet, we are hesitant to begin the journey. What if it proves to be too painful? What if I get lost along the way and do not know how to forgive? What if it comes out all wrong?
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We at the International Forgiveness Institute, Inc. are here to support you as you begin the life-giving journey of forgiveness.
As we have said on other occasions, forgiveness is a choice of the one who was treated unjustly. Over time, as I write in the book, The Forgiving Life, people develop such a love of this virtue that it becomes a part of them. It is at this point that some people now feel obligated to forgive and to pass that knowledge on to others. If this obligation to help others starts to develop in you, please remember that you have chosen to make this your obligation. Others still may not feel the same sense of obligation as you and we should not condemn them for that.
The answer depends on your realistic assessment of your degree of danger in staying in the group. If there is no danger, then forgiving people in the group and even forgiving the group itself may help you to endure the negative attitudes. Your forgiving even might help the people to see your loving response, thus changing negative attitudes to positive. This could take time and so please be aware of that. Group norms do not usually change overnight.