Are you are still holding on to a grudge, whether from yesterday or years ago? Are you still beating yourself up for some bad decision(s) you made in the past?
“If so, find compassion and forgiveness in your heart (it’s actually in your brain) and you will be healthier and happier.”
That’s the advice of 90-year-old Dr. Natasha Josefowitz, an internationally-known author and consultant who has spent her life educating herself and others.
“This issue (holding on to past hurts) can impact our own health,” Dr. Josefowitz wrote in a recent HUFFPOST article. “We know that anger is stressful, and stress releases cortisol which narrows our arteries, which in turn can cause heart problems.”
Behind every destructive behavior is some unresolved pain that is then acted out. Dr. Natasha Josefowitz,
“It is only when we can feel compassion that we can forgive,” Dr. Josefowitz adds. “Studies have confirmed that forgiving increases optimism and elevates mood whereas lack of it correlates with depression and anxiety. Forgiveness even increases blood flow to the heart.”
– How to let go if you are you still holding on to an old grudge, HUFFPOST, Sept. 11, 2017.
– How to Forgive; the Four Phases of Forgiveness, International Forgiveness Institute website.
– Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope, Dr. Robert Enright.
Is it possible that injustices against us are not as dangerous as our reactions to those injustices? If we do not realize the potential inner damage done to us by people’s unfairness, we could let evil grow in us. Think about that: A person “out there” does bad things and the result is evil “in here,” in you.
When those bad things are serious, when your own inner world is threatened with growing anger and discontent, is there anything at all in this world that can quiet the beast more than forgiveness? I do not think so.
Other people’s troubles can become your monsters within if you give them space, feed them, and allow them to grow. Forgiveness shrinks then eliminates those monsters within.
If you think about it, forgiveness helps you retain your humanity, and to even grow in that humanity at a time when others are trying to let the inner monsters out of their cages.
I was reflecting on all of the disorder within schools during 2015 and 2016. It has been reported that there were 35 shootings at schools in the United States in this two-year period. Think about that for a moment. The context of the shootings centers on innocent children, adolescents, and young adults (at universities) who are unarmed and innocent.
How many family break-ups were there in 2015-16 or acts of bullying that cut deeply into the very being of those bullied?
Forgiveness is a profound response to disorder. What do you think? Do you think any of those school shootings would have happened if the ones responsible for the mayhem had practiced forgiveness and rightly ordered their emotions from rage to calm?
What do you think? Do you think all of the family break-ups would have happened if both sides of the conflict practiced forgiveness? And perhaps the forgiveness needed to be toward people from years before because our left-over anger from childhood can follow us into adulthood and strike the innocent.
Forgiveness likely could have averted some of those break-ups if forgiveness toward each other in the present and toward parents from the past had been practiced. Forgiveness could have restored order……..and prevented disorder.
The same theme applies to bullying. If those who bully could only forgive those who have abused them, would the bullying continue or would the behavior become more orderly, more civil?
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for restoring order within an injured self, within relationships, and within and between communities. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet for preventing disorder.
It is time for individuals and communities to see this and to have the courage to bring forgiveness into the light….to restore and then enhance order while it destroys disorder.
CNA/EWTN News, Cleveland, Ohio, USA- They had to endure it all on Easter Sunday–grief over their father’s brutal killing, anguish because of a video of the actual killing posted on Facebook by the killer himself, and the agony of an ongoing nation-wide search to find that killer.
But through it all, the children of Robert Godwin Sr. still say they forgive the man who murdered their father.
“Each one of us forgives the killer. The murderer. We want to wrap our arms around him,” said Tonya Godwin Baines, one of Godwin Sr.’s 10 children. She said that it was her slain father who taught her, through the example of his life, how to forgive. “The thing that I would take away the most from my father is he taught us about God. How to fear God. How to love God. And how to forgive.”
On Sunday afternoon, 74-year-old Godwin Sr. was shot and killed in Cleveland while walking home from an Easter dinner with his family. Police said that the suspect, 37-year-old Steve Stephens, apparently chose his victim at random, and then uploaded a video of the murder to Facebook. The social media network removed the video three hours later.
Following a nationwide manhunt, authorities were notified by an alert McDonald’s employee on Tuesday morning that Stephens’ car was in the restaurant’s parking lot near Erie, Pa. After a brief pursuit by police, Stephens shot and killed himself while still in the driver’s seat.
Godwin Sr.’s children agreed to a live interview on CNN Monday night while Stephens was still on the run. Though shocked and deeply pained by their father’s brutal murder, the children said they felt sorry for his killer.
“I honestly can say right now that I hold no animosity in my heart against this man. Because I know that he’s a sick individual,” Debbie Godwin said about Stephens. “We want him to know that, first of all, we forgive him. We forgive him because it’s the right thing to do. It’s what daddy taught us. It’s the way we was raised…”
“You know what, I believe that God would give me the grace to even embrace this man. And hug him,” Debbie Godwin added. “It’s just the way my heart is, it’s the right thing to do. And so, I just would want him to know that even in his worst state, he’s loved and there’s worth in him.”
“Cleveland victim’s family: We forgive killer” – CNN news online.
“Easter in Cleveland” – KTSA Radio, San Antonio, TX.
“Family of Facebook murder victim: We forgive the killer” – CNA/EWTN News.
“How to Forgive“ – International Forgiveness Institute website.
Forgiveness Is a Choice by Robert D. Enright, PhD.
niyitabiti.net, Lagos, Nigeria – A 24-year-old Nigerian man, Iniubong Ime, was roused from his sleep just after midnight on March 6, 2017. He stumbled out of his bedroom and opened the front door where he was confronted by his longtime girlfriend, Lucy Daniel. Before Ime could say a word, Daniel splashed his face, chest and arms with acid then ran off.
Today, after nearly a month in the hospital recovering from the acid burns, particularly in and around his eyes, Ime says he has forgiven Daniel who is being sought by the police but is still at large.
When a reporter from the Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust interviewed Ime in his hospital bed, he asked the victim, “When you recover, will you seek vengeance?”
Ime responded, “That wouldn’t solve anything. I have decided to let it go and forgive her. In fact, I forgave her from the very day it happened. I thank God I’m still alive. I won’t take her back because I had long broken up with her before the incident. But I can relate normally with her. I have no hard feelings towards her. We won’t be lovers again, but she won’t be my enemy either.”
Read the full story at: Victim forgives lady who poured acid on him to punish him.
Editor’s Note: As a regular blog contributor to the online version of Psychology Today, Dr. Robert Enright (founder of the International Forgiveness Institute) has repeatedly received special recognition for his posts. Yesterday, his latest blog was given “Essential Topic” status meaning that it receives prominent placement on their website along with being featured on the first page of blog topics like“Education” and “Therapy.” Here is that blog:
Posted March 25, 2017 – Psychology Today
Let us keep the philosopher’s resentment and let us banish the other.
Yet, the psychologist’s kind of resentment all too often is not a polite guest. It seems to never know when to leave. In fact, if left unchecked it can take over the psychological house within you. Why is this? Consider three reasons.
First, we have all felt the initial euphoria created by a response of courage after another’s offense. We will stand up for ourselves. We will resist. Resentment can give you a feeling not only of euphoria but also of strength. Nurturing such a rewarding feeling can become a habit. I know of one person who, upon having his morning cup of coffee, would replay the injustice and feel the inner strength as a way of getting ready for the day. He did this until he realized that over the long-term, such a routine was leaving him drained before he even left for work. His temporary adrenaline rush was turning on him. This is a case of positive reinforcement for something that shows itself in the long run not to be so positive.
Second, once we realize that our short-term euphoria is turning against us, we just don’t know how to get the resentment to leave. How do I turn off the resentment? What path do I take to have some inner quiet? Taking up jogging might do it……but once you have recovered your energy from the run, the anger returns. How about relaxation training? Same issue: once the muscle relaxation is over, there is the resentment with its perverse smile looking back at you. “I just don’t know how to rid myself of the resentment!” is a cry I hear too often.
“Resentment could linger for the rest of your life unless you confront it.”
Third, and this is the most sinister of all, resentment can become a part of your identity, a part of who you are as a person. You move from showing resentful behavior to being a resentful person and there is a large difference between the two. Once you start saying that you are a particular kind of person, it sometimes is threatening to change the identity. So often people will live with an identity—a sense of self, a sense of who one is—that is compromising for them because they are afraid of change. The familiar is better than the alternative even if the familiar includes pain and unnecessary suffering.
So then, what to do about the unwanted guest? Try these 5 approaches:
- Try to see the inner world of the one causing the disturbance. Might he be carrying an extra burden of resentment, perhaps from times past? Might she be living with bitterness that is spreading to others, including you? Can you see the woundedness within the person who is wounding you?
- Commit to doing no harm to the one who is harming you. This allows for a new kind of inner strength to develop.
- Stand in the pain so that you do not pass that pain to innocent others. This, too, can strengthen you.
- Science has shown on many occasions that there is a resentment-buster in the name of forgiveness (Enright, 2012). To forgive is a way of offering goodness to the one who gave you the unwanted present of resentment. Rather than the strength of the clinched fist and jaw, the strength from forgiveness shows that you can soften your heart toward the one who infected your heart. This can bring you inner relief.
- Finally, be open to your new identity: I am someone who can stand in the pain. I am someone who can forgive. I am even someone who can ask resentment to leave……and it leaves.
Which is the better identity: a life lived with an unwanted inner guest or a life free to be a conduit of good toward others and yourself?
Posted March 25, 2017 – Psychology Today
Enright, R.D. (2012). The Forgiving Life. Washington, D.C.: APA Books.
Enright, R.D. & Fitzgibbons, R. (2015). Forgiveness Therapy. Washington, DC: APA Books.
MacLachlan, A. (2010). Unreasonable resentments. Journal of Social Philosophy, 41. 422-441.