At the beginning of this year, we posted a reflection here in which we encouraged you to grow in love as your legacy of 2017.
One way to start is by looking backward at one incident of 2017 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 2017 is about 25% over. Have you engaged in 25% of all the loving responses that you will leave in this world this year?
This exercise is meant to show you this: You know love. Now the key is to persevere and deliberately strive to love on a daily basis.
Tempus fugit. If you have not yet deliberately left love in the world this year, there is time…..and the clock is ticking.
When we are treated deeply unjustly by others, we have a tendency to be wounded in at least eight ways. First is the injustice itself. Second is the emotional reaction, such as considerable anger or frustration or sadness. Third, we sometimes feel shame because others are looking and wondering. Fourth, all of the above can make us tired. Fifth, we sometimes can’t stop thinking about what happened. Sixth, as we compare ourselves to the one who hurt us, we see ourselves as coming up short. Seventh, we sometimes have to make unwanted changes in our lives. And eighth, we drift into pessimism.
One injustice, eight wounds. Now, suppose one person hurt you deeply 20 times. That is 20 X 8 = 160 wounds you are carrying around inside of you.
Suppose further that 5 other people have hurt you 10 times each……just wait a minute., please….doing the math here……That is 400 more wounds. Adding the first person who hurt you to the other five who hurt you and look. You are carrying around at least 560 wounds inside of you.
Injustice has a way of making us round-shouldered if you think about it. But be of good cheer. Forgiveness properly practiced can eliminate most of these wounds, allowing you to stand up straight perhaps for the first time in years.
Do the math…..then please consider forgiving.
Those of you who have the absolute perfect spouse, please raise you hand……anyone?
Now, those of you who are the absolute perfect spouse, please raise your hand…..I see no hands up.
OK, so we have established that we are not perfect and neither is our partner. Yet, we can always improve. Note carefully that I am not suggesting that you read this to improve your partner. I write it to improve you, the reader.
Here is a little exercise that I recommend for any couple. Together, talk out the hurts that you received in your family of origin, where you grew up. Let the other know of your emotional wounds. This exercise is not meant to cast blame on anyone in your family of origin. Instead, the exercise is meant for each of you to deepen your insight into who your partner is. Knowing his wounds is one more dimension of knowing him as a person. As you each identify the wounds from your past, try to see what you, personally, are bringing into the relationship from that past. Try to see what your partner is bringing from the past to your relationship.
Now, together, work on forgiving those from your family of origin who have wounded you. Support one another in the striving to grow in the virtue of forgiveness. The goal is to wipe the resentment-slate clean so that you are not bringing those particular wounds to the breakfast table (and lunch table and dinner table) every day.
Then, when you are finished forgiving those family members from the past, work on forgiving your partner for those wounds brought into your relationship, and at the same time, seek forgiveness from him or her for the woundedness you bring to your relationship. Then, see if the relationship improves. All of this is covered in greater depth in my book, The Forgiving Life.
We sometimes think that those who hurt us have far more control over us than they actually do. We often measure our happiness or unhappiness by what has happened in the past.
My challenges to you today are these: Your response of forgiveness now to the one who hurt you can set you free from a past influence that has been toxic. Try to measure your happiness by what you will do next (not by what is past). Your next move can be this–to love regardless of what others do to you.
Psychologists tell us that the thoughts and feelings of helplessness can devastate a person. When we think we are trapped with no way out, then we start to feel hopeless, which can lead to anxiety and depression.
The thought that there is no way out is the big lie.
Yes, you may not be able to do much about the current behavioral situation.
The actions in which you engage may be limited. This does not at all mean that your inner world is trapped with no way out. You can overcome the inner sense of helplessness by forgiving those who have contributed to your limited actions.
You are free inside to forgive, to reduce resentment, and even to cure this disease of resentment, which can be much worse than reduced behavioral options.
You are much freer than you think. When all around you are mean and unrealistic and hurtful, your inner world can be filled with a forgiveness that gives you joy and confidence and hope.
Am I being unrealistic? Put me to the test. Try to forgive and see how your inner world transforms.
And then never be trapped in that inner world ever again.
400…….since February, 2011…..six years and counting.
Over that time, here are 7 impressions which I have formed about the world of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is not one more light entertainment in a world that is constantly screaming at you for attention. In today’s frenetic world of marketing, unless there is a ton of adrenaline released by the recipient in response to any new marketing strategy, then that recipient might turn away. This new attention-getting device—-increase adrenaline of the hearer—-will not work with forgiveness. Why? Because forgiveness takes place in the context of the wounded heart. Wounded people usually do not seek the adrenaline high but instead the quiet encouragement and love that will help them to heal. Forgiveness is at odds with the whirlwind, adrenaline-pumping world.
- Related to point 1, we are easily distracted by the next “big thing.” The early 21st century is not a time of quiet persistence, but instead a time of flinging oneself from one interesting idea to another. A steady diet of one food is boring……..and so people come into the forgiveness arena, only to leave way too soon to follow the call of something new and shiny and exciting. Forgiveness is at odds with the shiny as it is more at home with the strong will, the daily persistence in offering compassion to those who have had no compassion on the forgiver.
- Forgiveness is a hard sell in contemporary education because,quite frankly, too many school systems have way too many requirements, sometimes taught too superficially just to get it all in, and so when an innovation such as forgiveness comes calling, there is not room for this innovation…….which can change lives.
- Forgiveness can help each of us to leave a legacy of love rather than a legacy of anger and bitterness in this world. Few realize this and so when they die, their anger lives on. Being aware of this can reverse a family tradition of bitterness.
- Anti-bullying programs need forgiveness therapy and it is very much off the radar of too many educators. Anti-bullying programs too often focus on bullying behavior (let us punish bullying; let us set up norms against bullying behaviors; let us try to discourage bullying; let us ask peers to help stop the bullying). Yet, conspicuously missing is a focus on the broken heart of those who bully. Give them a chance to forgive those who have broken their hearts and their motivation to bully melts away.
- Still, too often people mistake forgiveness for what it is not. To forgive is to move on from a hurtful situation, some say. You can move on with indifference or even annoyance in one’s heart. To forgive is to be more deliberately active in trying to be good to those who are not good to you.
- In the final analysis, helping students learn how to forgive may be one of the most important new developments on the planet. We need to awaken a world that is still a bit too sleepy to understand this. We sleep through this idea to the detriment of our young people…….who may grow up not knowing how to deal with cruelty……and that is not in their best interest.
LONG LIVE FORGIVENESS!
Think about the love that one person has given to you some time in your life. That love is eternal. Love never dies. If your mother gave you love 20 years ago, that love is still here and you can appropriate it, experience it, feel it. If you think about it, the love that your deceased family members gave to you years ago is still right here with you. Even though they passed on in a physical sense, they have left something of the eternal with you, to draw upon whenever you wish.
Now think about the love you have given to others. That love is eternal. Your love never dies. Your actions have consequences for love that will be on this earth long after you are gone. If you hug a child today, that love, expressed in that hug, can be with that child 50 years from now. Something of you remains here on earth, something good.
Children should be prepared for this kind of thinking through forgiveness education, where they learn that all people have built-in or inherent worth. One expression of forgiveness, one of its highest expressions, is to love those who have not loved us. If we educate children in this way, then they may take the idea more seriously that the love given and received can continue……and continue. It may help them to take more seriously such giving and receiving of love.
We need forgiveness education……**now.**