Loveology University LU Library Your Love Life The Power of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness
The Power of Forgiveness by Dr. Ava Cadell
What forgiveness is:
Forgiveness is for giving to yourself. It is a gift for you on your pathway to everlasting love, one that can help you clear up emotional wounds which may be hampering your success in finding and holding the right partner. Forgiveness means to free up those hurts inside you. Then you can breathe that clear, heady, elevated air of emotional freedom. And that's when you become open to the partner who is truly right for you. As a popular spiritual teacher puts it, "forgiveness is necessary in igniting the spark of love." Forgiveness is release. The word "forgive" literally means "to give up," "to give away." Forgiveness is a form of unburdening, removing emotional clutter that can keep you blocked from experiencing everlasting love. Forgiveness can lead to emotional freedom and that can lead to change. And it is your life that you want to change. Forgiveness is about uncovering hurts rather than denying they are there. Forgiveness has to do with acknowledging all those creepy crawly feelings that block you from your joy. One simple exercise is to forgive yourself each week for the mistakes you made. Set aside a few minutes to review what went wrong, and how you might better have handled the situation. A friend of mine, Jane, has learned to stop wasting her time blaming others for what they have done to her. Instead, she opens up her weekly forgiveness ritual with something like this: "I forgive myself for going out on a blind date and expecting love-at-first- sight," or "I forgive myself for putting up with a man who belittled me." By forgiving herself in this manner, she remains focused on her needs rather than what is lacking in the other person. As Jane says: "When I release my resentments this way each week, it clears me up inside. I don't hear that rumble of anger underneath my breath anymore. And it helps me to stay focused on me and my expectations." Forgiveness is for giving to yourself what you didn't get enough of as a child: attention, love, affection, and recognition. We all missed out on something. Whoever or whatever denied you your needs in the past can be forgiven --- released --- to make more room for what you want to experience in a relationship. Draw yourself out; don't wait for others to do it for you. Allow them the pleasure of knowing you better. Reward yourself by becoming the center of attention at a party; don't be afraid to stand out. Notice how other people will love you if you allow them. If you have a pet, take note of how that little animal loves just being around you. Permit other people to enjoy your company in the same way; let yourself be flattered by their attention. Pamper yourself with the affections of others. If you hug almost any human being, they will generally hug you back. And that one little hug per day can prove that the love you have to give is very, very worthy. Forgiveness is daring to become unencumbered by old stale resentments. Recycled trash is still trash. Rancor cankers, and it can manifest eventually as body illness and pain. You wouldn't dream of eating yesterday's garbage for dinner tonight, but that's similar to what you are doing if you keep recycling old hurts through your system. Forgiveness is daring to feel worthy of the love you seek, giving up what you may have accepted as love in the past, especially if it was wrong for you. Forgiveness is having the courage to confront a two-fold roadblock: self- forgiveness and for giving-up the limitations of others.
What forgiveness is not:
Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your personal feelings or your relationship values. We always have options, but we cannot always see them. Try forgiving yourself for "settling" for this or that situation. Ask yourself why you settled. Doreen dated Mike for a year who did not express the character or integrity she was seeking. It took that long before she realized he was not right for her. "I was angry at myself when it dawned on me that I had 'settled'," Doreen said. "I felt lower then an earthworm. But when I stopped beating myself up over this 'mistake', I suddenly realized there is no such thing as a mistake. I had learned something valuable with Mike. I was honestly able to face why I had invested so much in a relationship that wasn't all I wanted. And that made me feel better. I thought Mike and I had so much in common, that naturally the integrity element would be there too. It wasn't, and I was afraid I would never meet another man who shared common interests with me. I was scared to keep looking for everything I wanted in a man. I had to forgive myself for sacrificing my ideals, and then move on." Forgiveness is not what we have been conditioned to believe it is, all our lives: it is not instantaneous godliness. To quote English author Alexander Pope's wise observation: "To err is human; to forgive divine." Yes, we humans make social blunders, we make fools of ourselves daily -- that is, we "err." But forgiving these faux pas, in ourselves and others, is not a matter of taking our halos on and waving a wand. We tend to be hypercritical of our mistakes as well as those of other people, yet these little sticky social errors are usually just human stumbling blocks. Forgiveness then becomes a chance to help educate another person if his or her behavior is offensive or detrimental. Or forgiveness can mean learning about more appropriate forms of behavior for ourselves, so we don't keep repeating the same mistakes or issues. And these positive actions make forgiveness a truly divine opportunity to experience everlasting friendship, at least. A relationship ends when it needs to end. If the union was a mistake that only means it was a growing experience. It's okay to make relationship mistakes, if you don't keep repeating them. And in your next relationship, you'll make new mistakes; that's what growing is all about. Forgiveness is not a quickie emotion which magically lets you "forgive and forget." You know, it is more essential to forgive than to forget. As we have learned above, forgiveness is getting the venom out of your system so you won't carry the festering snake bite into your next relationship. But we don't want to completely forget those poisons and irritants we have extracted from our failed marriages, friendships, and partnerships. We have earned the right to retain the memories of our blackest, ugliest relationship experiences and turn them into shiny, attractive "black pearls." These hard-earned "black pearls" of garnered insight and wisdom will keep us from making the same mistakes over and over. And as you may know, a black pearl is more rare and more priceless on the market than a white pearl. Or shall we say, experience can be our best teacher?
One way to lift the burden of bitterness off your shoulders is to write a letter to each person you feel has wronged you. Let's look at how one young woman named Sandy handled this. Sandy was 28 when she began to confront the reasons her relationships with men were not working out. "I never felt that my father loved me when I was growing up, " Sandy said. "I felt rebuffed by his 'attitude' toward me, so I was too intimidated to ever ask him why he hated me so much." Sandy instead wrote down all the thoughts, feelings and remembrances of how her father had hurt her. "I let all the anger and hurt come out in a letter to him. I wanted him to know how seriously he had affected my adult life. I didn't realize how boiling angry I was until I wrote it all out and had it staring back at me on paper. I began by telling him about an incident that occurred when I was seven; he wouldn't kiss me goodnight and I had cried myself to sleep. This had made me afraid to show affection to men in later years. "Once Sandy began pouring herself into the letter, the grievances snowballed, as she wrote these things to him: "Daddy, you never told me I was pretty. And when I was a teenager and needed compliments and guidance from you the most, you gave me neglect or ugly words. For instance, remember the night I went out with my first boyfriend? Instead of telling me to have a good time, all you said to me was "don't come home pregnant or I'll kill you." I didn't even know how to get pregnant at that age. Then years later when my marriage didn't work out, you told me the divorce was my fault. How can you say that? How do you know anything when you were never there for me?" The acrimony in Sandy's letter made her cry for days. "I had never before known how much my father had influenced my adult relationships, so I told him that in the letter, too. I let him know how inadequate he had made me feel, and because of this I had trouble showing men affection or telling them I loved them." What Sandy did next is very important. She took the letter to her therapist and read it to her to get her feedback. By thus going over the letter with someone she trusted, Sandy was already healing the wounds. At the end of their therapy session, Sandy decided she was not ready to mail the letter to her father. "The act of writing the letter was at first enough for me," Sandy said. "I got everything out of my system. I was afraid to mail it because I thought my father would just get defensive and not care about my feelings. I only wanted closure at that point; I wanted to be rid of my rage. I began to see my father differently, to actually feel sorry for him that he had missed out on a real relationship with me. And I wanted to find better men than him." Six months later, Sandy took the letter out again. "I added a new paragraph at the end telling my father I forgave him his actions, and that I only wish he could understand me as much as I have tried to understand him. I told him that both of us had missed out on a real father/daughter connection with each other." Feeling strong and confident in her honesty, Sandy mailed the letter. A few days later, her father called her and asked to meet with her for coffee. To Sandy's surprise, they had their first heart-to-heart talk, right there in the coffee shop. He acknowledged her feelings, even though he was very guilt-ridden and uncomfortable. But soon he and Sandy were saying to each other: "Where do we go from here?" The two of them are now able to talk about what went wrong and how they can rectify the damage done. Not every situation like Sandy's has a happy outcome, but who knows? The act of forgiving and releasing the past may open the door for new communication. At least, by "writing it off", you have ripped the band-aid from the wound and it can heal faster. You might even think of these old emotional wounds as tax write-offs. Reflect on how good it feels each year at tax time to release outstanding debts that maybe customers or friends owe you. The government tells you to "write them off" so you can move on to the new tax year with a clean slate and a clear conscience. How to change your perception of forgiveness: Resentments seemingly protect the hurting heart until we are ready to experience the power of letting them go, in favor of our emotional freedom. Resentments may be "childish" in nature, a need to reaffirm our personal power in love by keeping score, getting even. But they are a treadmill to nowhere, not progressive steps toward everlasting love. It can be scary to admit the power our old wounds hold over us. They can go back decades in time. Once we realize, re-feel, our old wounds to the point of boredom, forgiveness becomes a much welcome relief. This is especially so when we realize what we are missing out there in the world. Rather than building up more resentment because we are "supposed to" forgive, real forgiveness (cleansing the hurt feelings, misinterpretations, and misunderstandings) can become as simple as taking the emotional trash out of our lives. Re-view the inner wounds until you see the distorted communications that brought them about, whether your fault or the other person's. Look at those hurts until you see it may be "the other person's problem" or maybe what you expected was not realistic in the situation. To site one dating scenario: Karen began seeing a fellow named Jack who acted as though he were available. But after a month, Jack suddenly declared he was already living with a girlfriend. "I was stunned and mortified, " Karen said. "I had only been in his apartment twice, but I had seen no signs of a girlfriend. And Jack kept on calling me, but he wouldn't talk about the other girlfriend he supposedly had." Karen thought she and Jack had had something good happening between them until he gave her this puzzling confession about another girlfriend." Jack had indicated he wanted a relationship with me," she said. "We had not become intimate, but we were becoming romantic." S he backed away from Jack, feeling betrayed and deceived, and was unable to forgive the wrong done to her. Raging emotions erupted within Karen; questions remained unanswered. But rather than fighting back the heavy feelings, Karen followed them through the emotional maelstrom. "I thought maybe Jack had a need to make women fight over him, or maybe he was scared we were getting too close," Karen said. "Looking at Jack this way, from another angle, made me realize I hadn't really known him, that I might have been falling in love with love." But Jack's unacceptable behavior did not lessen what he and Karen had shared. Karen retained good memories of her time spent with Jack. His unusual conduct on their last date did not mean that she didn't measure up; she didn't have to let it destroy her ego. "Jack wasn't what I wanted, and I thought he was," Karen said. "That's what really hurt." As Karen worked through this experience and released it, "forgave" it, she became more clear about the kind of partner she was really seeking. And she learned a lot about her own internal nature. She also learned more about her own special value as a partner. Perhaps Jack could not live up to her standards. She found out what she didn't want, in order to find out what she did want -- a man with a different level of emotional maturity. How to move beyond forgiveness: Forgiveness is two-fold, self-forgiveness and forgiving others. Self- forgiveness means getting the old, stale hurts and emotional confusions out of our way. That may involve grieving for what didn't work out, or grieving because we have to relinquish situations that are not for our highest good. Most of all, self-forgiveness is to pick up those emotional roadblocks and move them off the relationship highway; these hindrances don't belong there. And forgiving others means to get their emotional junk out of your life, so both you and they can move on and grow somewhere else. Forgive yourself for thinking that you cannot find everlasting love, for any ridiculous reason. To forgive the self is to stop the cycle of self-punishment long enough to look down better avenues that can lead to everlasting love. This will mean bringing up deep, suppressed emotions from time to time, but you will not be alone.
Below are a few simple, but effective, steps to help you clear the decks and move on. Perhaps you would like to share them with a friend or even a new love interest.
- Forgive for the sake of it. Refusing to forgive can hurt you more than it hurts the other person. Why should you carry the burden?
- Give up the grievance right away. You wouldn't hold a grudge against an aged, infirm person who unintentionally offended you. You might even view that person with pity. So why not discount everyone who offends you? Don't waste your valuable energy dwelling on the wrongs done to you. Other people don't always know what they are doing; sometimes they can't even help themselves. By making light of whoever is causing you grief, you are giving them less power to hurt you.
- Put the spiritual love potion to work. Bad thoughts about others just fuel the hatred, and that gets you nowhere. Good thoughts make up the love potion that will heal you, and may even bring your old relationship enemies into a more loving state of mind themselves. Bad thoughts are like hamsters running backward on their Ferris-wheel exercise toy. Good, productive, let's-move-on thoughts expand the possibilities for a good outcome. Remember, other people have been hurt too. We often don't keep that in mind when dealing with each other during our busy days. But every person on this planet has been hurt, sometimes over and over again. A friend of mine, Keith, puts it this way: "I'll bet if I were to tell you about all the times people have hurt me, you'd prefer your own hurts and troubles to mine," he jokes. "The grass isn't any greener in my backyard. I just don't let life's pains get me down." And Keith doesn't let hurt feelings bother him for too long.
- Unload your backpack. Get rid of your hatreds and hurts before they congeal and petrify. Unload your emotional backpack; don't let it weigh you down and impede your quest for everlasting love. Talk to yourself in the mirror, talk to friends, a counselor, an empty chair, a stuffed animal, a movie-star's photo, or even a pet. Just get the old emotions out in the open. Or write a letter to the person who harmed you. Bravely detail the situation clearly and calmly, without anger. Then you can rise above and beyond the pains with a healthy sense of power over your emotions. And always say "I forgive you" at the end, because life is too short to live it in hostility. Forgive others for the behavior they inflicted on you, and forgive yourself for allowing it.
- Expand forgiveness. Remember, forgiveness is not a one-time thing. You can forgive a person or situation again, as long as you do not become a doormat. The object in forgiving again is to keep cleansing out the hurts and move on to what will not be so hurtful.
- Forgive yourself and others freely; don't hold back. Create your own special forgiveness tape or affirmation. Say or write words that allow you to deeply let go of what is hurting you about the other person's behavior. Don't hold anything back. Make it unconditional. Then let the situation go.
- Look inside yourself. Take the brave quantum leap and fearlessly examine what keeps you trapped in being unforgiving. What's the payoff? What are the reasons for not forgiving? We can be reluctant to forgive because it might make us feel weak, we may lose our power in the relationship, we may feel taken advantage of, we may be afraid, or we may want to hold on to the hatred, just wishing people would die. Heaven forbid *gasp* but is it possible that cataloging your resentments is keeping you from experiencing the love you want? Real power in a relationship comes with clearing the blockages and creating more room for everlasting love. It takes strength to forgive; running away from forgiveness can be weak. The other person will not take advantage of your forgiving nature if both of you sincerely want a relationship to grow. You won't lose control by forgiving; in fact, your relationships can become more manageable by forgiving and working things out. And we all know that love and fear are like oil and water; they never mix. Love is strength; fear is weakness. Forgiving is a very bold act of confident love, and confidence in yourself. And love is real power that can be everlasting.
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