Holding onto anger, hatred, resentment, bitterness, self-pity, wrath (the wish to harm - others or ourselves), and other negative emotions towards others blocks our flow of love. Holding onto these negative emotions from past events blocks our flow of love to those in our present and future. The only way to overcome this is to learn how to forgive and let go.
Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. The first study to look at how forgiveness improves physical health discovered that when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems. Another study at the University of Wisconsin found the more forgiving people were, the less they suffered from a wide range of illnesses. The less forgiving people reported a greater number of health problems.
The research of Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University shows that forgiveness can be learned. In three separate studies, including one with Catholics and Protestants from Northern Ireland whose family members were murdered in the political violence, he found that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt, are more optimistic, become more forgiving in a variety of situations, and become more compassionate and self-confident. His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.
One study has shown that the positive benefit of forgiveness is similar whether it was based upon religious or secular counseling as opposed to a control group that received no forgiveness counseling.
THE EQUATION OF FORGIVENESS
Understand the mind and learn to forgive it's mistakes - in ourselves and others.
"Mistake - Regret - Repentance - Understand - Amend behavior - Forgive - Grow"
Understanding and changing behaviour must occur otherwise our relationships will become unhealthy. Experts state that "to forgive without requiring the other to change is not only self-destructive, but ensures a dysfunctional relationship will remain so by continually rewarding mistreatment."
THE ESSENTIAL TOOL OF FORGIVENESS
Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution.
- Learning how to forgive our ignorant behavior and the ignorance of others.
- Making a commitment to improve our own behavior, reducing our level of vice and heedlessness.
Forgiveness is a supreme life management and spiritual tool. Use it. Use it without compromise. It is an ever clear ocean of goodness and health. Jump in and swim in the divine, cool water of forgiveness. Let it wash over you and all others.
Forgiveness and compassion
This approach to forgiveness and peace of mind is based on the belief that forgiveness arises naturally when we live in the present moment with an open, compassionate heart. The group format helps participants learn to practice forgiveness in a weekly structured format, which provides refinement and reinforcement for their efforts.
Learning to live in the present moment involves releasing not only our attachment not only to past events and beliefs, but also to an imagined future. This is an ongoing process.
Learning to develop empathy and compassion through opening the heart is also an ongoing process. And change is never easy.
True forgiveness involves really getting into our psychology and processing what has long been our unresolved conflict. It means discovering the prompters, such as certain behaviours, attitudes, personalities, or situation, that propel us into immature and undesirable social reactions. It also means examining our family patterns of behaviour and generational dysfunctional behaviours - our conditioning.
First we must forgive ourselves. If we cannot forgive ourselves for our mistakes then how can we forgive other people?
Human life is a learning process. If people were perfect then we would most likely be completely lacking in compassion, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness. It is worth remembering that all tyrants and dictatorships have some belief in the perfectionism of "the elite and the chosen" and these tyrants then proceed to brutalize all others who are not a part of the elite group.
Because life is a learning process then we cannot really be successful in any area of life without learning the essential skill of forgiveness.
Every day we will need to forgive ourselves and others. Without integrating this necessary life skill then we will become holistically ill very quickly.
The skill and use of forgiveness plays a central role in any life-management practice. We need to understand and use this powerful tool if we are to be healed in any lasting and permanent way.
Forgiveness is the first step to changing our behavior towards the good and our apply mature and wise responses to other people's behaviour.
If we can perform a forgiveness activity at the end of every day - for instance; light a candle and think forgiving thoughts or prays - then we will never lose our light heartedness and love of life: All creatures great and small!
Forgiveness is a powerful tool and aid to successful and happy living for one and for all. It protects against resentment, the build up of anger and other negative states of mind. It helps us to create positive and virtuous states of mind, and thus protects us from illness of body and mind. Many illnesses have their origin within the mind and only manifest in the physical and emotional bodies after many years. Dis-ease meaning "loss of ease and grace", of internal comfort, of being at home with ourselves and with the world - and the beyond.
Forgiveness brings back that ease. As we learn the art of forgiveness, we begin to heal ourselves and others on a deep level. As we heal ourselves we find that bodily pains that we have carried for years begin to dissolve and we are free from that dis-ease.
Therefore, for the benefit of one and all, it is a very good idea to begin to forgive - right here and right now! We can start today and today is the only time to start these things. At the end of today, we can light a candle in a safe place - a small household one will do - and begin to forgive ourselves all those embarrassing and ugly things that we all do and we can forgive others too. Forgive our family, our friends, our work colleagues, our boss, our school teachers, everybody we know - because everybody is human and we all make mistakes. We know that if we were all free from suffering, then we would not do or say or think the things that we sometimes do, so if we receive inappropriate negative and unkind words or deeds, then we know that the sender is suffering, unhappy, and not in their right mind at that time - and we all know that that place is a horrible place to be - it is in fact hell.
Heaven and hell are experienced on Earth by the workings of our hearts and minds. When we learn the art of forgiveness, we find that the fires of our unextinguished resentments, hurts, agonies, and anguishes, begin to dissolve into the cool breeze of compassion and forgiveness. After many months of continually practice, we begin to re-discover our light heartedness, harmony, love and grace.
The following is a copy of the Pyramid Model by Everett Worthington, Jr.
- Recall the Hurt. When we are hurt, we often try to protect ourselves by denying our hurt. We think, often correctly, that if we don't think about it, it won't bother us. But if unforgiveness keeps intruding into your happiness or gnawing ulcers in your gut, consider forgiving. Recall the hurt as objectively as possible. Don't rail against the person who hurt you, waste time wishing for an apology that will never be offered, or dwell on your victimization. Instead, admit that a wrong was done to you and set your sights on its repair.
- Empathize. Empathy involves seeing things from another person's point of view, feeling that person's feelings, and identifying with the pressures that made the person hurt you. To empathize with your offender's experience, write a brief letter to yourself as if you were the other person. How would he or she explain the harmful acts?
- Altruistic gift of forgiveness. Empathy can prepare you for forgiving, but to give that gift of forgiveness, consider yourself. Have you ever harmed or offended a friend, a parent, or a partner who later forgave you? Think about your guilt. Then consider the way you felt when you were forgiven. Most people say, "I felt free. The chains were broken." Forgiveness can unshackle people from their interpersonal guilt. By recalling your own guilt and the gratitude over being forgiven, you can develop the desire to give that gift of freedom to the person who hurt you.
- Commit to forgive. When you forgive, you can eventually doubt that you have forgiven. When people remember a previous injury or offense, they often interpret it as evidence that they must not have forgiven. If you make your forgiveness tangible, you are less likely to doubt it later. Tell a friend, partner, or counselor that you have forgiven the person who hurt you. Write a "certificate of forgiveness," stating that you have, as of today, forgiven.
- Holding onto forgiveness. When you have doubts about whether you have forgiven, remind yourself of the Pyramid, refer to your certificate of forgiveness, and tell yourself that a painful memory does not disqualify the hard work of forgiveness that you have done. Instead of trying to stop thoughts of unforgiveness, think positively about the forgiveness you have experienced. If you continue to doubt your forgiveness, work back through the Pyramid.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the difference between interpersonal forgiveness and intrapersonal forgiveness?
When we practice interpersonal forgiveness, the goal is reconciliation; both parties mut be involved.
Intrapersonal forgiveness takes place only within the individual. It does not require the interaction between two parties, and reconciliation (although it may happen) is not the goal.
How can I reconcile with my spouse after a betrayal?
Forgiveness generally consists of three stages, each of which has cognitive, behavioral, and affective components. Furthermore, these stages seem to parallel a person's natural response to traumatic stress.
- We respond to the initial impact
- We attempt to give the event some kind of meaning
- Finally, we begin to move forward and readjust
"Moving forward and readjusting" means, we:
- develop a realistic, nondistorted, balanced view of the marital relationship
- are no longer controlled by negative feelings toward our partner
- have a lessened desire to punish our spouse
If I practiced forgiveness, would I be healthier?
Itâ€™s very likely that you would. Bearing a grudge and refusing to forgive can cause chronic stress to the body as well as the mind.
Lack of forgiveness can create an avalanche of stress hormones:
- It increases production of cortisol and epinephrine, which leads to changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- It raises levels of catecholamine and CD8, which suppresses the immune system thus increasing the risk of viral infection
- Leads to the release of histamines, which can trigger severe bronchoconstriction in people with asthma
Chronic stress also:
- Alters insulin levels
- Alters the acid concentratin in the stomach
- Causes plaque buildup in the arteries
- Causes or intensifies aches and pains
- Raises anxiety levels
- Causes depression
- Interferes with intimate and social relationships
- Affects sleep and appetite
- Affects job performance
Why can forgiveness be so hard?
Forgiveness may be hard because of such factors as:
- Lack of education and practice concerning how to forgive
- type and length of relationship
- history of hurtful behavior
- perceived intentionality of the offender
- elapsed time
- the risk of change
- biological deficits
What are the biological factors in forgiveness?
Brain imaging technology has shown that an unhealthy anterior cingulate gyrus and basal ganglia can cause:
- problems in shifting attention
- worrying, rumination
- holding on to hurts from past â€“ inability to relinquish grudges
- cognitive inflexibility
- conflict avoidance
These problems can greatly reduce an individualâ€™s ability to forgive.
Also, researchers have associated the temporal lobes and the deep limbic system with spiritual behavior and spiritual experiences. These parts of the brain can affect:
- personality and mood stability
- accurate reading of social situations
- control over temper
- access to spiritual experience
- positive mood and emotional tone
These factors can make it easier for an individual to forgive.
Are there psychological factors that influence the ability to forgive?
Not surprisingly, people who are inclined to forgive tend to be more emotionally stable; they are easy- going, less moody, more agreeable, and better able to handle negative emotions and criticism.
People who are inclined to forgive have a high capacity for empathy, whereas a narcissist is least likely to be able to forgive.
Narcissism is present in everyone to varying degrees. A certain degree of self-focus and self-regard is healthy. But a truly narcissistic individual â€“ someone with a personality disorder -- lacks empathy, is hypersensitive to criticism, has a sense of entitlement, and is insensitive to the needs of others. These are the individuals who, when they experience an injury, use vengeful fantasies in order to repair their self-esteem.
A useful forgiveness prayer
Forgiveness is a major key to maintaining balance and harmony on life's sometimes turbulent ocean.
Discover it, use it, and maintain a steady practice - It's great!