Grateful for Forgiveness

Editor’s Note: This is a Guest Blog written by Elior Nerel, a Holistic Coach and Educator in Indigenous Healing. Her web link is at the end of the blog.

Growing up in one of the most violent regions in the world has taught me that anything I care about can be taken from me at any second. As a child, I recall witnessing horrifically violent images constantly appearing on the television screen, and I still have memories of being confined in a bomb shelter during the 1991 Gulf War. Somehow because we were children, my peers and I accepted this routine –the common ritual of periodically fitting gas masks on our heads in case a chemical attack should occur— as “normal”. We internalized the fact that any time we rode the bus there might be a terrorist attack against it (and many times there was), and we would be left to deal with the turmoil which was the reality into which we were born.  We grew up with friends whose family members were brutally murdered in the middle of the street and who lost body parts or suffered horrific burns in terrorist attacks. Under these conditions, it was, and is, easy to hate and stereotype these “terrorists”, to wish them harm and never to consider what their lives are really like and what kinds of trauma they too have suffered.

But who are these “terrorists”? Do they have a name? A family? A dream for a safe home to return to? Is our pain from their attacks any greater or lesser than their pain? Although comparing pain is a slippery slope, one cannot help but wonder if we would all become “terrorists” if we were living under the same circumstances.  As it is simply expressed in the Native American proverb:


“Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.”


We can easily dwell on our personal traumas and forget that violence and loss are universal conditions that people experience every minute all over the world. Perhaps an even greater challenge is to remember which roles each one of us passively plays in the construction of violence and abuse, such as through discrimination, consumption, and unfair trade. We fight and compete for resources, land, jobs, and recognition. The battle is real, and we may even have evidence to justify it to a certain degree, but what does it do to our bodies, our health, and to our past, present and future relationships?

What I have learned from my personal experience and relationships with those families who have lost loved ones is that forgiveness is a practice. In order to move through the trauma of my early years as an Israeli I chose to adopt forgiveness and peace-work as a way of life. I understand how extremely short and fragile our lives are, and how crucial it is to place harmony with our environment as a priority. I have determined that spending our time in bitter punishment instead of restoring balance doesn’t help anyone. Forgiveness is not easy, but when done authentically and with a supportive group of professionals, it is a sustainable alternative to entrenched hatred and violence. A successful practice in forgiveness can become a building block in the joyful and meaningful lives we are all seeking to build. Practicing forgiveness has been restoring lives in many conflict stricken areas around the world such as Northern Ireland and South Africa.

How can we balance our needs to survive in our competitive modern world with the need to be compassionate and forgiving? For me, this juggling act of balancing the fragile scales of justice and mercy became easier once I uncomfortably realized that the capacity to inflict harm dwells in all human beings and that I myself cause harm unintentionally pretty much every single day. This understanding created an overwhelming emotion which left me feeling stuck in some surreal Stanford experiment. But I do believe we have a choice in transcending these animalistic tendencies by daring to embrace forgiveness and compassion, for the lives of all those involved in the conflicts. This path of action is not a quick fix, but nevertheless, it is possible. As my colleague Siobhan Chandler (Ph.D) explains, sometimes the first step in understanding how to move forward in a situation where there are multiple competing interests is to be intentional in asking for an outcome that is for the highest good of everyone involved. I believe that when we compassionately and respectfully consider the needs of others, we open a new gate of communication which re-humanizes our enemies and inches us towards a solution where it is possible that everyone’s needs are met.

My exposure to violence and conflict have opened me to participating in the growing forgiveness movement. More and more groups around the world have formed councils, restorative justice programs and healing circles, and have learned to overcome the trauma of human violence, to sit together, to talk, to listen, to forgive and to co-exist peacefully. These are people who have lost children to murder; who have lost their homes to bombing; who were betrayed and were left penniless. They have still managed to overcome the loss because they have realized that the enemy has a name, and a face, and a family and a story, just like we all do.

When the wounds of human violence are open and bleeding, delicate care and emotional sensitivity is required. The healing process often requires material and verbal reconciliation and restoration, but the foundational step is to recognize that a lack of forgiveness or justification of anger and revenge only destroys us, not our “enemy”, and makes us more physically sick, emotionally lonely and socially isolated. What if this form of “justice” doesn’t work, since whether it is us, or someone else committing a crime, when we place the stereotypical innocent victims against heartless criminals, both sides lose their humanity? As author David Wong said: “But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.”

I believe that deep down we all want to heal from the pains of losing that which we care about, to make sense of the losses we all experience in this hurting world. I wonder if at the heart of healing and forgiveness is the recognition that we all share excruciating moments (whether we admit them or not) of losing the irreplaceable – loved ones, romanticized dreams or unique possessions which we have cherished so deeply. Perhaps through this fundamental human recognition, we can decide to start healing by taking a small step and make forgiveness the topic of discussion over our next meal with those dear to our hearts.

by Elior Nerel

Elior Nerel

Holistic Coach and Educator in Indigenous Healing

http://www.hodaya.org

Nigerian Man Splashed with Acid Forgives Perpetrator

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.

Does an act of forgiving lead almost automatically to feelings of positivity or does it only open the door to the potential for feeling more positively? Can one still feel positively without forgiving?

Although some people can begin to feel quite good upon starting to forgive another, these positive feelings can take time because the process of forgiving itself can take time. So, it is typical that a decision to forgive can and does open the door to feeling well, but we then need patience to keep on the path of forgiveness. As we do that, anger begins to diminish and feelings of well-being begin to emerge. Even if the anger does not go away entirely, many people then say that their anger no longer controls them.

Can people feel well if they do not forgive? This depends on the severity of the offense. If the offense is profound and shocking, then a person may not feel well in a general and on-going sense without forgiveness. I do not say that to put pressure on anyone to forgive. I say it, instead, because this is what I observe in those with extremely challenging injustices against them.

A Reflection on “Do No Harm”

In the process of forgiveness that we have outlined in two different books (Forgiveness Is a Choice and The Forgiving Life) there is one part of the process in which we ask the forgiver to “Do no harm” to the one who has been unjust. This idea of “Do no harm” isDNH actually transitional to the even more difficult challenge to love the one who has hurt you. Yet, “Do no harm,” even though an earlier and supposedly easier part of the process, is anything but easy.

To “Do no harm” means three things: 1) Do not do obvious harm to the one who hurt you (being rude, for example); 2) Do not do subtle harm (a sneer, ignoring at a gathering, being neutral to this fellow human being); and 3) Do not do harm to others. In other words, when you are angry with Person X, it is easier than you think to displace that anger onto Persons Y and Z. If others have to ask, “What is wrong with her (him) today?” perhaps that is a cue that you are displacing anger from one incident into your current interactions.

It is at these times that it is good to take stock of your anger and to ask, “Whom do I need to forgive today? Am I ‘doing no harm’ as I practice forgiveness? Am I being vigilant not to harm innocent others because of what I am suffering?”

My challenge to you today: Do no harm to anyone throughout this entire day…..and repeat tomorrow…..and the day after that.

Robert

I am reading your book, “Forgiveness is a Choice,” and I am wondering… Does forgiveness apply in the case of a husband who is constantly mean and untrustworthy? The examples in the book seem to all be regarding a single past hurt, or an offense that occurred in the past. What about offenses that are ongoing but unrepented of and unresolved? I am Catholic, so I very much agree with forgiveness and starting over, etc. But I don’t know how to respond to unchanging behaviors that are sinful against me. Continual forgiveness?? Is it possible to not be resentful and bitter?

First, we have to realize that to forgive does not mean that you abandon the quest for justice. Forgive and from this place of diminished anger, let your husband know of your wounded heart and exactly why it is so wounded. He may reject your feelings at first, but this does not mean he will continually reject the truth.

You need to practice continual forgiveness, every day if you have the strong will for this. And pray about when it is the best time to once again ask for justice and even compassion from your husband. Was he deeply hurt as a child? If so, he may be displacing his anger onto you. Perhaps you both need to read Forgiveness Is a Choice…..together.

Forgiveness: How Anyone Can Learn This Virtue

MercatorNet.com, North Strathfield, Australia –

The world is overshadowed by atrocities which cry out for justice – and forgiveness: the World Aseabrutality of ISIS, the abductions of Boko Haram; the Boston Marathon bombing; terrorist attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Sydney, Paris; the Charleston massacre…

We asked Robert Enright, a psychologist and founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute, as well as author of a new book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness, how some people manage to forgive even crimes like these, and whether it’s an art that can be learned.

That’s the introduction to an article published today by MercatorNet, an Australian online news and commentary site whose goal is “navigating modern complexities.” In the article, Dr. Enright explains:

  • Why some people forgive while others remain full of hate;
  • Why forgiveness is so much more than just a coping mechanism; 
  • Why forgiveness education should be a learning staple for all children; and,
  • How forgiveness, including self-forgiveness, can be learned by anyone in the world.

“Forgiveness is about having love in the heart for those who have not been loving to you,” Dr. Enright explains. He adds that the “how to” of 8 Keys to Forgivenessforgiveness, including even how to forgive yourself, is spelled out in his just-released book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is open to all people in the world if they choose to exercise this particular virtue when hurt by others,” the article quotes Dr. Enright as saying. “Our research includes people of many faith traditions, as well as those with no faith. When those who choose the forgiveness path finish the work, their well-being tends to improve as seen in the research findings.”

Read the entire article: Forgiveness: why we need to have mercy on the merciless. . .and how anyone can learn this virtue.