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The Art Of Forgiveness

2010 February 2

Within my social network I have recently read about a few people having to deal with forgiveness … the ability to forgive and if someone is “worthy” of forgiveness. It all started when I read a blog post about the pain of re-living past events … it was hard to read and I am sure, even harder to post! I commented on this “friends” (used loosely as “one who writes a blog I read” kinda way) post regarding my thoughts on forgiveness and I was surprised to read the comments from other readers. They ranged from “I am sorry” to “Screw the bastard” … I began to realize many people do not understand what forgiveness is, how to forgive and what is the next step after forgiving.

Forgiveness has roots in many religions – Buddhism talks about it as a practice to prevent harmful thoughts from causing havoc on one’s mental well-being. Christianity is largely based on forgiveness and Jesus often speaks to Christians about forgiving or showing mercy towards others. Asking for forgiveness is very much a part of the practice of Hinduism. Islam teaches that God (Allah) is ‘the most forgiving’, and is the original source of all forgiveness, along with that the Qur’an makes it clear that, whenever possible, it is better to forgive another than to attack another and in Judaism if a person causes harm, but then sincerely and honestly apologizes to the wronged individual and tries to rectify the wrong, the wronged individual is religiously required to grant forgiveness … religiously required, Seriously!?!?

Back in 1988 the Gallup Organization took a “large representative sampling of American people” on various religious topics and found that 94% said it was “Important to forgive” however, 85% said they needed “Outside help to be able to forgive.” Nobody understands … Forgiveness is NOT for the recipient … it is “FOR” the “GIVER” … the person who is able to forgive those who have wronged them – is no longer wronged. Do not read that as “I’ll let you do whatever you want to me and it’s OK” – but more like “Understand there are consequences for your actions, however, YOUR actions do not control me!”

Henri Nouwen said:

“When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”

This is a great quote … a “common search for life” is a perfect phrase because it’s what we are all doing on Earth. Living, learning, searching … when we understand that our pains are experiences that shape us into who we are and we can actually live in the pain and survive, we become empowered! For me, when I forgive someone, I am able to feel the pain – learn the lesson (trust me, there is one!) – So I can live my life as an example to others. My forgiveness is not for the person who acted against me. Honestly, I do not care how that person “feels” or if they are able to live with themselves. My act of forgiveness is my ability to let go of the action, understand that I do not control anyone other than myself. Learn the lesson by seeing the warning signs and not allow the same thing to happen over and over.

Being able to forgive takes practice, it is an art in ways. Forgiveness takes focus, determination, drive, passion and vision … forgiving is not something that “comes easy” … forgiveness HURTS … forgiving sucks most of the time. Just like any transition in life, changing one’s self is uncomfortable – however, the end result is so sweet.

What is your struggle with forgiveness? What do you find yourself agonizing over – when faced with having to practice forgiving those who do you wrong?

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. Sandi permalink
    February 3, 2010

    Amen, brutha! Someone asked someone if they were on my “shit list” because they hadn’t seen me for a while. My friend said “NO WAY! Sandi doesn’t even have a shit list!! She forgives everyone!!!” Amen! And I do! I am sooo not perfect. Things are dastardly in the world, but I forgive as a GIFT TO ME! And I am ALWAYS WORTH IT, Damn it! :)SO is everyone else!! 🙂

  2. February 3, 2010

    Beautifully put, Bill. Thanks for this post. I like your writing. Forgiveness has seemed so impossible to me at times, but then… all at once… it’s like exhaling a long breath… letting go… and there’s nothing left to hang on to… and nothing hanging on to me. Then, I’m free to love.

    I like your blog. I think I’ll link to it.

  3. Bill permalink
    February 3, 2010

    Sandi … I adore YOU … You are such an amazing woman!!!

    Fawn – thanks for the kind words – Exhaling is a perfect analogy.

    Bill

  4. February 3, 2010

    Forgiving is like throwing away emotional clutter and you know how I like to throw things away!

    I just wish it was easy.

    I’m also happy to be married to a man who knows how to forgive.

    I love you!

  5. Karma permalink
    February 3, 2010

    Bill, THANK YOU for those words! When I first saw your post on FB, I thought, hmmm is he talking about my posts from November and December?? Forgiveness has been a big struggle for me regarding several huge issues from my past. When I look at it as a gift to myself, it suddenly doesn’t seem quite so impossible. I agree that the exhaling is a perfect analogy. Hope to read many more such articles like this one. Be blessed, my friend!

  6. Pamela E. Owen permalink
    February 3, 2010

    Once again, a great post! I remember hearing that “forgiveness is a decision, not an emotion”. What a breakthrough for me. I had such unforgiveness towards my mom. I started with “I’m willing to be willing to forgive her”. Within months I was at the “I’m willing to forgive her” stage. Then one day God revealed to me in an amazing panorama what my mom’s life had been like. I started weeping. I felt such compassion for her. We were able to have a friendship until she died, which was only 6 years later. Forgiveness is HUGE!

  7. February 5, 2010

    Bill,

    Please forgive me for not making this comment sooner. I came down with a cold. 🙂

    When I first read your post this quote jumped off the screen for me. “Understand there are consequences for your actions, however, YOUR actions do not control me!”

    For one to continue to harbor anger, ill-will, sadness etc it takes so much energy and as a result closes us off from the wonder feelings, people and things that are waiting to come into our life.

    I find in some extreme cases I need to be aware of these feelings, process them and let them go. Even if it means doing this in my mind because sometimes an official apology to the person just falls on deaf ears and can even spark that conflict up again.

    In some cases the person is open to listen and might even learn from the experience.

    Great blog and wonderful article. I am looking foward to more Billosophy!!!!

  8. Carmel Lozano permalink
    February 24, 2010

    Good blog post! Great insight. I saw you on FB and saw your blog. Forgiveness is everybody’s struggle, and I agonized for years to let go of a bitter heart. (Probably for the same reason you have struggled, but I digress.) One day, God gave me a dream. In the dream I was riding in the back of a pickup truck with Jesus. An enormous boulder weighed it down so the wheels were stuck in the mud and kept the truck from going anywhere. Jesus turned to me and said “throw it off the truck.” I said, “I can’t” And at that point he helped push it off so we could get moving again. That was the end of the dream and it turned my life around. I think I wanted to hang onto unforgiveness until things were made right. But sometimes you just have to throw it off the truck!

  9. Bill permalink
    February 24, 2010

    Carmel –

    I dig it … “Throw it off the truck” … I think I am going to use that phrase for a while (I’ll always credit you though). Look around at your friends and family and ask them to explain forgiveness to you. I am pretty confident you will discover what I did … now you can help them Throw it off the truck!

    Thanks for leaving a comment!

    Bill

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