Joy in the Journey

Forgiveness is hard work. I sometimes refer to it as “surgery of the heart.” No one looks forward to the process of surgery, but when people look beyond the procedure to what lies ahead once healing occurs, it is easier to bear.

The process of forgiveness includes bearing pain and finding meaning in suffering. It requires pain, emotional pain, as we look directly at another’s injustice and struggle to see him or her as a person, just as I-the-forgiver am a person.

The joy comes, I think, in triumphing through a challenging process and becoming stronger once the process is complete. You stand stronger because you have not let injustice defeat you.

You stand stronger because you are now more capable of receiving the other back into your life, if he or she can be trusted. You may play a part in this person’s positively changed ways as you stand strong.

You stand stronger because you know you have a way of meeting the next injustice, and the next, and the next after that.

Having a new heart as a result of forgiving and becoming stronger and helping others get stronger is a cause for joy.

Robert

I am trying to forgive my sister. I was very angry with her. Unfortunately, I dumped my anger on her and now she has to forgive me for doing this. What do you suggest?

It is common in close relationships that both people may have to forgive the other at the same time. There is nothing wrong with this. A key is this: Please keep in mind that each of you may be at a different point in the forgiveness process. For example, you may be very ready to forgive her, but she is still too angry to consider forgiving you. In a situation like this, I recommend that you go as deeply as you can in forgiving her and, at the same time, apologize to your sister for “dumping” your anger onto her. Your apologizing may aid her process of forgiving.

When Love Is Withdrawn from Us

Is it possible that we might change in a negative way when others withdraw love from us? Consider three issues, which might form a digression in our very selves.

  • In the first scenario, we can begin to withdraw a sense of worth toward the one who hurt us. The conclusion is that he or she is worthless.
  • In the second scenario, over time, we can drift into the dangerous conclusion, “I, too, am worthless.” After all, others have withdrawn love from me and have concluded that I lack worth, therefore I do lack worth. Here is where our own self-esteem is lowered because another or others are being unkind to us.
  • In the third scenario, and even later down the road, we can drift into the unhealthy conclusion that there is no love in the world and so no one really has any worth, thus everyone is worthless. It is here that we might settle into a pervasive pessimism, without even realizing it is happening.

This three-layer development of negativism toward the other, dislike of self, and pessimism in general can be overcome by being vigilant in forgiving. Forgiving another can reverse negative judgements about the one who hurt us, can be a safe-guard in preserving self-esteem, and can prevent a drift into negativism. Perseverance in forgiveness, then, is necessary.

Robert

What do you recommend in this situation. My friend has been deeply hurt by an employer. Yet, the friend refuses to speak with me about this. She, in other words, is not trusting anyone with her thoughts and feelings about this. What can I do?

The best you can do right now is to unconditionally love your friend. Her internal wounds are too new for her to talk. Being there as a support for her, even if she says nothing, may increase her trust. When she is ready, she will talk with you.

If a person seeks revenge instead of following the steps of forgiving and then that person reports great inner relief, could it be said that this is a form of forgiving? I say that because the revenge and forgiving both lead to the same end of feeling better.

Actually, no, revenge-seeking and forgiving are entirely different. Even if they lead to a similar inner conclusion, we have to remember that the outward conclusion is radically different for revenge and forgiving. In getting revenge, the person may receive retaliation from the other, in which case the “feel good” scenario melts away. In forgiving, the person who gives love may receive love back. Even if this does not happen, at least the other person’s quest for retaliation may not be present any longer. We cannot confuse revenge and forgiving by focusing on outcomes only. As one final thought, the “feel good” experience in revenge might be very short-lived. Revenge does not necessarily lead to a cure for resentment, but only a temporary reprieve from it.

What Finding Meaning in Suffering Is Not

When you find meaning in your life and in the suffering that you endured you are not doing any of the following:

You are not denying anger, grief, or disappointment because of what happened to you.  It did happen and your negative response is what we all go through.  To find meaning is not to put the pillow over your head and hope the pain goes away.

When you find meaning you are not playing games wit25h yourself by saying, “Oh well,  I can just make the best of what happened to me.”  Yes, you can make the best of what happened, but if this is your meaning in what you have suffered, you are not going after that woundedness inside of you.  The “oh, well” approach is so passive.  We need a more active approach to the pain.

When you find meaning you do not sugar-coat the injustice and distort reality by saying, “All things happen for good reasons and so I will try to see the good in what was done to me.”  Let us be honest: Maybe there was not any good in the injustice itself.  What you learn from it will have goodness, but the event itself?  Maybe you will find no good in that injustice against you and that is all right.

Robert

My friend, Margie, is upset with one of her parents. I can see that she would benefit from forgiving. Yet, she will not listen. What do you suggest that I do?

You do not want to pressure Margie into forgiving. At the same time, you do not necessarily want to ignore your friend who could be better off psychologically by considering forgiveness. I recommend that you be aware of Margie’s inner pain. When she expresses that pain (as fatigue or bodily tensions or deep anger), you could focus on that pain and ask her if she has a way of reducing or eliminating that pain. If she has no effect strategies in mind, it is then that you might consider suggesting forgiving as a way to get rid of the pain. I have found that pain is a great motivator toward healing and forgiving is one path to that healing.

Self-Care for Your Mental Health

Editor’s Note: The significant benefits of forgiveness are of little use to you if you aren’t around to embrace them. That’s where self-care comes in. Here are some basic tips from Brad Krause–self-care guru, writer and life coach–on taking better care of yourself. 

Self-care encompasses all the actions you do every day to keep yourself in good health, such as exercise, eating well, and brushing your teeth. However, it also includes the smaller, overlooked things you can do to help with your mental health. These are not always obvious to us, so it is useful to reevaluate our habits and routines to gear them toward a happier, less stressful life.

Take Time to Relax
This is perhaps the most important act of self-care you can do for your mental well-being. Set some time aside every day for unwinding but be mindful of what you choose to do. For many people, relaxing means binging a TV show, playing a video game, or browsing the web, which does not allow us to truly unwind.

This is why taking just 15-20 minutes to sit in absolute silence and focus on your breathing can be extremely beneficial for your well-being. If you can, create a dedicated space in your home for this, away from distractions and other people. Make it as comfortable and soothing as possible and make sure no one can interrupt you during your mindfulness practice. More information at: How to Design the Perfect Meditation Room.

Get Enough Sleep
For years, doctors have seen insomnia as a symptom of many mental health disorders, but according to Harvard Health, it could be the other way around. A lack of sleep can lead to mental health issues, and yet many of us continue to neglect our sleep habits.

Take the time you need to wake up and subtract eight hours. That is the time you should be getting into bed. From that point, all electronics should be banned because they can make sleeping difficult. For an extra touch, use a relaxing pillow mist or aromatherapy oil to lull you to sleep.

Learn to Say “No”
If you are a classic people-pleaser, consider whether your eagerness to help others is affecting your mental health. Being generous, helpful, and unselfish is a wonderful thing, but not to the detriment of your well-being.

Before saying “yes” to any request, consider the following:

  • Do I want to do this?
  • Do I have the time and energy to do this?
  • Is this person taking advantage of me by asking this?
  • Could this person easily solve the problem themselves?
  • Is this a one-off favor?

Depending on your answers, you may have to say “no.” Be firm but polite and do not let other people guilt you into changing your mind. A friend who tries to do this is not a good friend.

Let Go of Emotional Baggage
If you are holding onto past grudges, let them go. Leading thinkers throughout history have espoused the value of forgiveness in their lives, and for good reason, as Dr. Peter Breggin outlines in “How Forgiveness Can Change Your Life.” Studies have shown that forgiveness can have a positive impact on our physical and emotional health (see “Why Forgive?”), as well as helping us get into a more positive mind space.

Get Offline
According to Time Health, negativity bias is a phenomenon in which we tend to be drawn to news that will upset us. When you combine it with the decline of print media, it’s no wonder our Twitter and Facebook feeds seem overrun with terrible, anxiety-inducing news. At the same time, we tend to compare ourselves to the highly curated lives we see on sites like Instagram, which leaves us feeling terrible.

In this day and age, it can seem impossible to fully get offline, so just aim to consciously reduce your consumption of news and social media. When you catch yourself scrolling mindlessly through a feed, force yourself to stop and go do anything else.

Many of these bad habits have become ingrained in our daily lives and in the way we interact with the world. It takes some introspection to identify these negative patterns, and a lot of hard work to change them. However, the effort is well worth it.

Commit to taking better care of your mental and emotional well-being, work on forgiving anyone who has ever harmed you, and you will find yourself happier and more open to exciting new opportunities. 


More self-care articles from Brad Krause:


About Brad Krause:
After four years in the corporate world working 15-hour days, 6 days a week, Brad Krause demonstrated the ultimate act of self-care by leaving his draining, unfulfilling job behind. He now spends full-time helping others as a self-care guru, writer and life coach (SelfCare.info). He sums up his vision by saying, “We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves we can possibly be, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. And that’s what I’m here to help people discover!”

You can contact Brad at Brad@selfcaring.info.


 

Expanding Our Forgiveness Horizon

As we forgive one person, look what happens: a) We start to forgive others; b) We embody forgiveness, wanting to give it away to others; c) We see each person as special; d) Because forgiveness is part of love and beauty, we begin to love more deeply and to see the beauty of the world more clearly.

Forgiveness does not lessen what happened; it alters how we view the person in spite of what he or she did. It can alter how we see the world and how we interact with others. Forgiveness can give us our life back. It can be an offer to those who acted badly to change their lives so that love and beauty are expanded in their world as well.

Robert

My friend Samantha betrayed a secret I told her. It took us awhile to get back together. Believe it or not, she did it again! Do I have to forgive her for this second one?

You use the words “have to forgive.” Your decision to forgive is yours and so please do not feel grimly obligated to forgive immediately. It could take time because you obviously are angry. This second betrayal seems to be even more painful than the first one because your friend knew how much the first one hurt. When you are ready to begin the process of forgiveness, you will know. You might want to start the process of forgiving before you approach Samantha about this second injustice and how it has affected you. I say that so that you can approach her with patience and civility.