Generalizing from the Particular to the Universal

You know how it goes.  You go into a department store and have an unpleasant encounter with the person at checkout…..and you never go back there again.  The particular incident has given you a bad feeling for the entire organization.

You break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and, at least for a while, you think that no one really can be trusted.  This one relationship makes you mistrustful of such relationships in general.

Generalization.  It can help us when the generalization is true and can distort reality for us when false.  For example, when we touch poison ivy in one woods, it is wise to avoid it in the next….and the next.  The effects of poison ivy generalize regardless of which plant we touch.  On the other hand, one boyfriend’s bad behavior does not predict another person’s behavior.  In this case, generalization closes down our mind and heart when there is no need for this.

When you are hurt by someone, you have to be careful not to generalize this to many, most, or all others.  Not everyone is out to hurt you.  Such generalization can form the unhealthy foundation for a world view that is pessimistic and inaccurate.  Has this happened to you?

If so, it is time to fight back against this.  Try saying the following to yourself as a way to break the habit of a false view of others:

I have been wounded by another person. For today, I will not let his/her wounds make me a bitter person who thinks negatively about people in general. I will overcome any tendency toward this by seeing others as having special worth, not because of what they have done, but in spite of this.  We are all on this planet together; we are all wounded.  Not all are out to wound me.

Robert

EVA KOR: “Let’s heal the world through forgiveness. Not bullets, not bombs. Just forgiveness.”


Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog by Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of the Holocaust who, with her twin sister Miriam, was subjected to human experimentation under Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Both of her parents and two older sisters died at the camp; only she and Miriam survived. Her recent video, produced by BuzzFeed, has drawn almost 5 million views on YouTube:                                    I Survived The Holocaust Twin Experiments.


“My Forgiveness”

by Eva Mozes Kor

Forgiveness is a way of healing oneself from pain, trauma, and tragedy. It is a means of self-liberation and self-empowerment.

Forgiving is not forgetting. In many cases, it is impossible to forget events that deeply affect our lives. They shape our lives for better or for worse.

Eva Mozes Kor, a Holocaust survivor, chose to forgive the Nazis.

Forgiving does not mean we condone the evil deeds of the Nazis or other perpetrators. But in some cases, giving amnesty clears the issue for the victim and for society. The question of justice is separate from the issue of forgiveness. 

This concept of forgiveness has little or nothing to do with the perpetrator. It has everything to do with the need of victims to be free from the pain inflicted upon them.

This concept of forgiveness has nothing to do with any religion. All people yearn to live free of the pain and burden of the past. If it is confined to one religion, then some people will not be able to access it.

Each person can forgive only in his or her name. One cannot forgive in the name of all Holocaust survivors. Forgiveness is a very personal thing, but if we feel troubled and hurt by learning about the victimization of others, then we have the right to take action or forgive the perpetrators when the time comes to forgive.

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where Eva Kor and her sister Miriam were imprisoned.

When we live in a place where our lives are in direct danger, the mindset of survival sets in, and survival and forgiveness do not go together. We can forgive only after the violence has ended, and the victim is at peace with his or her surroundings and wants to heal that chapter of his or her life.

However, forgiveness can prevent future violence. If we can teach people that when they are hurting instead of acting out of pain they can heal themselves through forgiveness.

Forgiveness is more than just letting go. It is proactive rather than passive. We become victims involuntarily, when a person or entity with power takes away our power to use our mind or body or both. Something was done to us that put us in a position of feeling powerless. Thus, the conscious choice to forgive provides healing, liberation, and reclamation of this lost power.

I would like to share some more ideas about forgiveness.

Miriam and Eva (right) at the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945

Forgiveness unclutters one’s mind and life, permitting us to view the world through unobstructed vision, see the beauty around us, be open to new positive experiences, and embrace the wonderful people in the wonderful world that we meet. If we did not forgive, we would not be able to experience these feelings.

Forgiveness is like a prescription or medicine for physical health and well-being. If we stay angry, this anger poisons our lives and our health. Some people say that the perpetrators don’t deserve forgiveness. That might be so, but if we can heal them and make them into loving, caring human beings, and therefore improve life for everyone in the world, I don’t see a problem with it.

Forgiveness in my opinion brings serenity, healing, respect, freedom, peace, and love. Let’s see what the opposition brings: pain, anger, revenge, and war. So I am puzzled that when people know all that, they are still willingly acting as victims, when they have the choice to live in peace and be happy instead.

Miriam and Eva (right) at the liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945

It would be nice if the great organization of the United Nations, with the upcoming anniversary in December 2018, 70 years to the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would add an addendum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a beautiful document, but it does not have anything for victims who have already been hurt. I think it should include that every human being has the human right 1. To be happy and 2. To live free of the pain and burden imposed on them by life or society. It would really help people if that came from an organization like the United Nations.

I would like to make an effort to use forgiveness in prisons. I believe that most of these prisoners were not born to spend their days in prison or to commit a crime. So my question is, were many of these prisoners victims before they became prisoners? I would say it is quite possible that every unhealed victim has the potential to become a perpetrator. (Read more from Eva Kor following the call-out text in the box below.)


I forgive you – In one of her many interviews following her release from Auschwitz, Eva told the anecdote of how she once sat in her room, imagining that Joseph Mengele was sitting right next to her. 

“I picked up a dictionary and wrote 20 nasty words, which I read clear and loud to that make-believe Mengele in the room. And in the end, I said: ‘In spite of all that, I forgive you.’ Made me feel very good, that I, the little guinea pig of 50 years, even had the power over the Angel of Death of Auschwitz.’ ” Source: The Vintage News


I also would like to help and have programs for veterans who have been trained to defend their lives on the battlefield, but they have never been able to heal themselves from that they have seen, experienced, or done. And the post-traumatic stress that they carry with them for years could be easily removed with forgiveness sessions and workshops.

I find it sad, and it pains me to know, that children who were born in the wrong place and the wrong time, who don’t get loving and nurturing families, end up in juvenile centers. We want to help them and teach them that it’s 1. Not their fault and 2. There is something they can do about it. We would teach them that forgiveness is a skill that will heal them. We cannot change their past, but we can teach them how to cope with it better.

And as I have been talking to Dr. Robert Enright in Madison, Wisconsin, he would like to start teaching forgiveness in first grade as a skill for life. And I agree with him 100%.

Let’s work together to heal the world through forgiveness. Not bullets, not bombs. Just forgiveness.

 

On Persistence for Well-Being

To grow in any virtue is similar to building muscle in the gym through persistent hard work. We surely do not want to overdo anything, including the pursuit of fitness.

Yet, we must avoid underdoing it, too, if we are to continue to grow. It is the same with forgiveness. We need to be persistently developing our forgiveness muscles as we become forgivingly fit. This opportunity is now laid out before you. What will you choose? Will you choose a life of diversion, comfort, and pleasure, or the more exciting life of risking love, challenging yourself to forgive, and helping others in their forgiveness fitness?

Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5359-5360). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

Persistence: The Path to Becoming Forgivingly Fit

To grow in any virtue is similar to building muscle in the gym through persistent hard work. We surely do not want to overdo anything, including the pursuit of fitness.  Yet, we must avoid under-doing it, too, if we are to continue to grow.
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It is the same with forgiveness. We need to be persistently developing our forgiveness muscles as we become forgivingly fit.
.
This opportunity is now laid out before you. What will you choose? Will you choose a life of diversion, comfort, and pleasure, or the more exciting life of risking love, challenging yourself to forgive, and helping others in their forgiveness fitness?
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Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5359-5360). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.

Checking in Regarding Your Unfolding Love Story

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.

Robert

I am trying to forgive my mother for some things that happened years ago. I am not feeling very angry now and so I am wondering: Am I over this or might I be repressing my anger? How can a person tell if they are repressing anger?

One test of repressed anger is this: As you think of giving the gift of kindness and compassion to your mother, do you feel free inside to give these gifts to her?  If the answer is yes, then you may be over the hurt (whether by forgiveness or some other means).  If you are hesitant to give these gifts to your mother, then you likely do have repressed anger. Starting a forgiveness process and being patient with this may reduce the anger.

Love and Forgiveness Prevail in the Face of Hatred

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C. – More than 30 witnesses, all relatives of the nine people Dylann Roof shot down in the Emanuel AME Church during a Bible study in June 2015, registered to speak during the sentencing portion of his trial. Before the Judge ultimately sentenced Roof to death, the witnesses spoke  directly to the self-avowed white supremacist for the first time.

Alana Simmons, granddaughter of shooting victim Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., reminded Roof of her message at his bail hearing that “hate won’t win.” She told him those words held true. Though he hoped to drive people apart, he instead brought people closer together, she said. He had failed in his mission to sow division through his twisted and bloody plan.  emanuel_victims_t580“Instead of starting a race war, you started a love war,” said Melvin Graham, who lost his sister Cynthia Graham Hurd in the shooting.

“I forgive you for you actions. You are just a body being used. You didn’t understand the presence of the evil that possesses you,” added Daniel Simmons, Jr., son of Rev. Simmons. “But thank God that he gives us the opportunity for forgiveness. Forgiveness is the heartbeat that pulls us to another level.”

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. days after the June 2015 mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others.

“Yes, I forgive you,” said another witness Felicia Sanders who lost her son Tywanza and her aunt Susie Jackson in the shooting. “That was the easiest thing I had to do. … But you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. May God have mercy on your soul.”

“You can’t have my joy,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister died in the shooting. “It is simply not yours to take.”

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” added Anthony Thompson, a relative of victim Myra Thompson. “But take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess.”

“Your choices brought us here, but our choice–to respond with love–has kept us here,” Alana Simmons said. “We are all moving on in love and moving on in strength and nothing you can ever do will ever be able to stop that.”

Read more about the South Carolina shooting and forgiveness for the shooter: