Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘forgiveness’

Practicing Forgiveness is Good for Your Heart!

In childhood it’s all about self but as we mature into adulthood we begin to understand the importance of being kinder, more forgiving and accepting of others. We start to see the world in shades of grey rather than simply black and white. This week the Pope’s message was to practice ‘peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.’ It seems that integral to doing this is to practice the art of forgiveness.

There is a reason that forgiveness is at the heart of healing. At a recent gathering in Manhattan 400 people were asked if they had difficulty and were not on speaking terms with members of their families. Over two-thirds of the participants raised their hands! Think about how many people are holding on to grudges and surrounding themselves with negative energy – it must be exhausting. Recognizing the importance of the topic, forgiveness is being further studied through the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

There are two common themes within all of this – forgiveness and its challenging cousin – judgment. When we think about an upset between family members or friends it seems to boil down to two things: assuming we hold the trump card on truth (believing that we know how others should feel or behave) and refusing to accept responsibility for any hurt we may have caused them through our practice of judging. Judgment can be felt without any words spoken.

When judgmental attitudes surface those half-hearted apologies of ‘I’m sorry that you’re upset,’ are not examples of respect or love. A true apology is recognizing what we have done that has hurt someone and then being courageous enough to verbalize it to them. In other words it’s about us – our actions – and not their reactions that are at play here.

The good news is that as we practice accepting responsibility for own own behavior we become stronger, more positive and happier people. We begin to realize that we don’t walk in another’s shoes and really have no idea about how difficult it is for them to learn their own life lessons. Maybe – just maybe – they are doing the best they know how at this moment.

Dr. Fritz Perls, the noted German psychoanalyst who emphasized Gestalt Therapy speaks to tolerance and acceptance of others in The Gestalt Prayer:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful…

When I read this prayer I think of a world in which true acceptance of differences is foremost in our thinking and behavior. Peace, tolerance and respect for self and others flows from this mindset. We become more rather than less as human beings.

We are all in a fluid state between independence and interdependence in life. Doesn’t it just make sense to look for the strengths in family and friends rather than focusing on what we perceive as their weaknesses? When we acknowledge their effort we show them that we have faith in their ability to handle difficult situations. We allow them to grow. As we learn to judge less and forgive more the value and significance of touching base or celebrating holidays begins to take on a greater significance. We learn to bring our best selves to the table and treat our family and friends as we would like to be treated.

Over the next few days let’s try to see how we can practice greater forgiveness and allow the Pope’s message of peace, tolerance and respect to take seed in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Is it Time?

Christmas is only one week away – where did the time go? As you are wrapping gifts to give to your family and friends how about giving one to yourself. I am not talking about anything that can be bought in department stores or shipped to you from the hundreds of online suppliers. No, what I have in mind is too big, too valuable to simply be purchased. I’m talking about the gift of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the magic elixir, the thing that can seriously change your life for the better. If there is someone that you have unfinished emotional business with or even open wounds that haven’t healed when we talk about peace on earth remember, the peace must first start in your own heart.

You can tell if a person has been sidelined due to their bitterness over something that happened in the past. When they talk about it (which they often do) they talk faster, louder and with such strong emotionally laden words that it sounds like it happened just yesterday. They seem to relive the time, date and place with such vehemence that you just have to wonder what toll it is taking on them on the inside. I wonder if they know about the research regarding the relationship between anger and cancer. Is it time for the gift of forgiveness.

Anger, bitterness or resentment can eat away at you. Even if you feel 100% justified in your feelings the only one paying the price is you – over and over again as you relive it in your mind. Simply put, you have allowed another person to rob you of today when you relive the negatives of yesterday. Sometimes we may feel that we want the whole world to know we were wronged. Here’s a news flash … the rest of the world really doesn’t care – not really – they are too busy dealing with their own challenges. Okay – something hurtful or wrong happened – now the million dollar question is do you really want to carry the enormous weight of that baggage on your shoulders for the rest of your life? If not, decide how long are you willing to carry it and write it down. Your answer determines how long you choose to be the victim.

Forgiveness is not easy but essential if you want to be truly happy. You might think that you are past the issue or do not want to give the person the time of day ever again. I get it – but just remember you are choosing to pay a steep price from your emotional bank account. If you continue to hold on to the grudge sooner or later you will be emotionally bankrupt as you join the ranks of the walking wounded. There are no blue ribbons for the person who has been hurt or wronged most deeply.

You can forgive but you needn’t forget. You have learned something from the experience and it has made you wiser more equipped to handle similar situations in the future. Perseverating on the past keeps you locked into a victim mentality. Little by little you begin to see others with a jaundice eye. Negative energy multiplies fast and will seep into your pores until you look for – even expect -more of the same in your life. You become primed for a hostile emotional take over and then wonder why life continues to be so tough. It all boils down to energy – negative attracts more negative.

Forgiveness is not simply a feeling it is a choice that you make. Are you ready to let go of the yuk from the past? Only you can decide if being in the role of victim, filled with grudges and unhappiness, is the role you choose for the rest of your life. Maybe it’s time to give yourself the greatest gift possible … forgiveness.

Have a great few days!

Remember the Love?

Is it difficult for you to forgive someone for a major or even minor situation that caused you to feel upset? Have you learned to forgive yourself for things that, upon reflection, you wish you would have done differently in your life? Don Miguel Ruiz author of ‘The Circle of Fire’ says, ‘ Before you learned to speak you loved and with no effort you forgave…it was natural to love and forgive…but then you learned to ‘behave’ from other people.’

Could it be that when we are drawn to the absolute innocence of a child we see and feel the unconditional love and remember, even long for, that feeling once again to surface in our own lives? Each of us started out with a clean slate. We loved, trusted and expressed pure joy in merely existing and then life began to happen to us and we internalized the messages of ‘do this, don’t do that or you are too… or not enough … and we began to create a subconscious map of reality that limited or restricted us in some way. In fact, we often become so good at accepting these messages as truth that we begin to create events and messages for ourselves which reinforce those false beliefs. At the time we may not have been able to label it but now we realize that it is fear – fear of not being just so, of not being accepted …of not being loved. As we grow and experience the difficult events in our lives without realizing it those early tapes in our minds become a stronger and stronger control mechanism that can often take the joy out of living.

The challenge is to recognize that not all of those early tapes were accurate and that we must work to correct the misinformation that we have stored in our memories. When we get to a point that we choose to look at our lives and realize that we want more – more peace, happiness and contentment we will begin the process of self correcting those early tapes. The amazing thing about the search is that we discover that what we are searching for has always been there, buried deep in the recesses of our minds, because as infants we were happy, loved and able to forgive quickly and completely. We begin, once again, to experience the feeling, long ago, of pure joy.

The next time we see a young child maybe it can trigger us to realize that the elusive butterfly of happiness that we are seeking is within us just waiting to surface once again. We do know love and forgiveness on a subconscious level and those feelings are just waiting to surface once again, in our lives.

Have a great few days!

Living with Joy

Piers Morgan interviewed American stage and screen actress Valerie Harper last night on CNN. After winning her battle with lung cancer in 2011, she has recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Her doctors told her that she has only weeks or months to live. She decided to go public with her health issue to remind us to focus on the things that are really important in life and to live life to the fullest. Knowledge of one’s impending death strips away the minors in our thinking and allows us to get to the majors – the true heart of the matter. She looked and sounded radiantly happy, even joyful at times, and it took my breath away. It was the kind of happy that we rarely see but recognize it as coming from somewhere deep, deep inside.

Some things she said she has learned and wanted to share were:

Don’t miss one hour of today thinking about tomorrow
Whatever lies ahead is just that – ahead – and not now
Refuse to think of the should haves, would haves or could haves in your life

Her point was to not let fear of your tomorrows or regrets of your yesterdays control your life. Since none of us gets out of here alive we need to learn to enjoy the ride. Each of us has our own unique lessons to learn and it makes sense to surround ourselves with positive energy as we are learning them. Yes, issues come up, challenges can momentarily reroute our path but everything that happens can be viewed in either a positive or negative frame – an opportunity to grow in wisdom or not.

Valerie also mentioned the topic of forgiveness. She said it is giving up the wish that the past could have been different and releasing the energy we are using to keep those regrets alive in our minds. Better to use that energy making today all that it can be.

When Piers Morgan asked her how she wanted to be remembered she said, “Up and off the couch!”

Valerie Harper is such an inspiration – a model – of how to accept the inevitable without anger or regret but simply with a sense of peace. A knowing and accepting in her heart that ‘all is as it should be.’ In facing her imminent death she is valiantly using the last bit of energy she has to reach out to us with a gentle reminder about the importance of truly living in the now. She is modeling a love of humanity that is so heartfelt it seems like her life mission. She is teaching us how to live as well as how to pass on with dignity and grace.

Watching her was both inspiring and humbling. I thank her for all that she has done to entertain us in the past and all that she is doing now to guide us in the present. Happy journey Valerie!

Let’s make it a great few days by putting her ideas in action!

Learning the Art of Forgiveness

In my last blog I suggested you make a list of family members and close friends and attach one word to each person to demonstrate the way they dealt with forgiveness. It is important to think about the messages you may have internalized up to this point in your life. It’s rather like taking a base line measurement to determine how you were trained to handle situations that were hurtful or demeaning. Some people stew about things for years and want to tell us at every opportunity how they were wronged. Others have learned to look at what happened and learn from it. They don’t forget an injustice but simply refuse to give it any emotional energy after the fact. They move on realizing they have learned an important life lesson but refuse to carry the weight or burden of resentment. They realize that withholding forgiveness will just harden their own heart.

Forgiveness is recognizing an injustice that happened but refusing to let it control your future. It is used when someone admits and takes ownership for something that caused pain to another. It is both an art and skill worth developing. Many times we can observe others and learn from them. In the book, A Course in Miracles, forgiveness was defined as letting go of all hope for a better PAST. When you think about it in those terms it makes sense. No one can go back and change the past. Better to learn from it and remember to be more prepared in the future than to hold on to the past and waste even one more second on what you wish had happened.

Who from your list of family or friends is good at forgiveness? Can you see this person dealing with a difficult situation but refusing to be sidelined through anger, revenge, isolation or other negative emotions? Who in your group is good at holding onto a grudge? Which person seems happier? Which person gives you more energy when you are around them? Who do you choose to emulate?

Learning to forgive yourself is the first step in learning true forgiveness. We bring to the game all that we have and know at the moment. We are not perfect and do not have all the answers but are learning along the way. Each life experience gives us the chance to become more fully functioning human beings or not – the choice is always up to us. Learning to forgive ourselves and others is a crucial step in living a life worth remembering.

Forgiveness is like all the other lessons we are presented with in life. Until we learn it, it will continue to resurface again and again in our lives. When we have a deeper understanding, we can stop the pattern. Tomorrow is a good day to start practicing forgiveness. Are you ready?

Have a great few days!

Forgiveness takes Work

Practicing the art of forgiveness is essential to a happier life. It is not for the faint of heart. Although it doesn’t cost any money and takes less time than perseverating on the injustices in our lives it is none-the-less a job that requires serious effort. As illogical as it sounds, however, many of us choose to use more time maintaining a list a mile long of grievances and hurts. The time spent reliving the injustices keeps us locked into a victim mentality.

Each time we remember a specific person or situation that hurt us deeply, as we mentally replay the tapes WITH THE EMOTIONAL FEELINGS ATTACHED it is, as if, the situation is happening again! The subconscious mind simply records the emotions felt at the moment. We may, in essence, live through a tragic, difficult or hurtful event millions of times in our minds. Each time, the memory of the event causes a deeper etch of pain in our minds and hearts. We continue to feel victimized.

Mentally replaying these tapes for years is not only unproductive but keeps us stuck in yesterday rather than looking forward to tomorrow. For example, I knew a person in his 60’s who continued to mention a roommate who 40 years earlier moved out and took some of his records! This may sound like a ‘light weight’ example but I use it for a purpose. Some of our ‘rememberings’ of hurtful events can begin to take on a life of their own. Whether big or small issues, they all constitute, over time, wasted energy that will leave us little more than vessels filled with hurts and grievances that we hold on to as proof that life has been unfair. Life may be many things – challenging, difficult and at times nearly impossible to comprehend but unfair- I don’t see it that way. It is just as we designed it to be no more – no less. It is what we do with the hurts and grievances that makes all the difference.

Granted, when we experience a challenging or hurtful situation we need time to process through it with someone we trust. It is important and necessary to verbalize what happened, what we learned from it and what we intend to do differently the next time a similar situation presents itself. Regardless of the time involved it is time well spent by analyzing the who, what, how and why the situation happened. Most importantly, it gives us confidence to know that we will recognize a similar situation in the future and be ready to manage it more successfully. We are changing from being a victim to circumstance to being a victor by developing our proactive problem solving skills based on our own real life examples. Therein lies the lesson of forgiveness. When we admit and take ownership for our own part in the situation we learn to forgive ourselves first then are able to apply the lesson of forgiveness to others.

Learning the art of forgiveness involves a process. It’s not simply a matter of saying to yourself that you choose to be more forgiving and then doing it. The first step is to examine – from whence you came – to unearth the beliefs behind the behavior. Your family members and close friends dealt with forgiveness in their own ways and served as examples or models to you. Before you were even aware you were internalizing their behavioral messages. It is important to consider what effect each had on your present ability to forgive. To start on the process of learning true forgiveness, make a list of the names of these people and then add the first word that comes to your mind when you think about them and how they dealt with forgiveness. As you make the list you may begin to see patterns that help you understand why you respond the way you do to issues. Keep the list for now and we will use it in subsequent blog posts as the process of learning forgiveness is further discussed.

Stay tuned, helping yourself learn true forgiveness is worth the time and effort! Make it a great few days.

Forgiveness and Moving On

Do you ever think about a particular person and feel anger, resentment, or even rage? Be honest with yourself and really think about it. If you feel that you have been hurt, rejected or even emotionally attacked by another in your past it is hard to let go of it. Each time the person’s name comes up or you even think of that person, you may feel tense, hostile or even a seething inside you. Check out your body language. Your eyes, face, even voice intonation says it all. When that person’s name comes up it is easy to see if you are still holding on to negative energy surrounding the situation.

In my book, Just Behind the Door, I talk about past hurts as if they were a backpack we are caring around. Every time we think about a particular event or person and feel emotionally stressed by the remembering, it is, as if, you are actually experiencing the event again. It adds another rock to your backpack making it heavier for you to carry. I can visualize a person hunched over from the weight of past hurts struggling to put one foot in front of the other. The weight of the world seems to be on their shoulders and they seem to be a magnet that attracts more negatives in their life day after day.

Forgiveness releases the hold, the weight we are carrying. It doesn’t mean that we don’t remember past hurts. But rather we remember them without emotionally getting hooked into the negative feelings associated with them. You might be thinking that what happened wasn’t right or fair. In reality, what you lived through was PLANNED by YOU for this lifetime to teach you some valuable life lessons. When you can look back and release the anger associated with the experience and forgive yourself AND the other person you will have learned the lessons you set out to learn. It is not easy to emotionally let it go but it is extremely important to do so. Until those particular lessons are learned and your mind and heart lets go of the anger, similar situations will continue to surface in your life. When you accept responsibility for the choices you made for this lifetime and let go of the anger towards others, you exhale deeply, your shoulders relax and you view the person or situation in terms of ‘life lessons learned.’

The noise in our minds fueled by negative remembrances drowns out the sounds of love and forgiveness from the Universe. It keeps us locked on, like a GPS, to a path that will attract more of the same. Our minds and hearts can be filled with either love or fear. If you find it impossible to forgive a particular person, force yourself to look at what you truly feared most about the past circumstance involving them. Fear is the operative word here. That fear is your lesson in disguise.

We can live a life of love, acceptance and abundance or remain stuck, reliving the hurts of yesterday and attracting more negative energy into our lives. The choice is always up to us.

Have a great few days!