This is the second in a series of articles looking at how our feelings affect our lives and bodies. It is powerful knowledge that can help eliminate pain in all areas of your life. If you are struggling with something, send me an email or call.
Healing happens when you forgive
This is a more in depth look at a component of forgiveness, that we often don’t acknowledge.
Forgiveness is essential in every major religion on our planet.
The final words uttered by Christ during his suffering reinforce the importance of forgiveness: “”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned” — The Buddha
“Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand.” — Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9.4
What is forgiveness:
“Forgiveness is the act of consciously deciding to let go of resentment or vengeance toward another entity who has harmed you in some way (whether or not they’re actually deserving of that forgiveness)”, according to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
Forgiveness is NOT forgetting or condoning a behavior. It is simply a desire on your part to let go of the burden of carrying the anger, rage and vengeful thoughts…..and giving them to a higher power.
It sounds like a paradox. Forgive, not forget? How do you do that?
I think letting go (forgiving) happens more easily, the more tired you are of carrying the heaviness of those negative feelings. It can be the hardest thing you ever have to do, but conversely, it is also one of the most freeing and miraculous things that can ever happen to you.
The moment you become willing, a space opens up for miracles to occur. Relationships are healed, physical healing occurs and suddenly personal peace and joy is in your life.
I spent years working on forgiving my father. I wanted a loving relationship with him. What we had was too painful for me. I wanted to be able to tell him how I experienced my childhood, but he was not open to that. So I had to do the work by myself.
Today, the memories of my childhood in his house are still there, but the pain, the emotional charge, the hurt and suffering, are gone.
Forgiving a parent is difficult. Our whole outlook on life was developed because of what and how we experienced life with them. I remember the violence I experienced when I look at my father’s hands, but today I just feel love and want to hold them. With the grace of God, I see beyond my father’s unloving behavior, understand the origin of it and see the love behind it.
How I forgave:
There are many different ways you can tackle forgiveness toward others.
Letter writing is one way: You put all your grievances on paper and then burn that letter, or bury it.
There are many forgiveness meditations that walk you through the layers.
Sometimes you have the opportunity to discuss our pain with the offending person.
When I started, I had no idea how to go about it.
Somehow, I prayed my way through it, asking for guidance to find a way to let go, I stepped outside of my wounded self and learned to view my dad as the child he once was. Looking at his childhood, his parents, his upbringing and seeing a little boy who had to develop these coping skills that left him so emotionally crippled made me want to cry.
I imagined how life must have felt to that little boy. He grew up in pre- World War II in Germany during the rise of Hitler. Not only is he a product of the German culture: strict, efficient, judgmental, quiet, orderly, not known for being warm and caring. He also had an incredibly uneducated, abusive father and an although kind, but submissive mother. I can almost see that frightened little boy, growing up without any hugs or praise. Never a gentle word or any encouragement.
There were 4 kids in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment in “a child is to be seen, not heard” world. There were plenty of brutal beatings and degrading, critical comments. At the age of 10, he was inducted into the Hitler Youth. That meant living in a camp with other boys and severe, exacting caretakers for 4 years. I have no idea what kind of abuse he endured there, because he refuses to talk about it.
I don’t believe my dad could allow himself to be loving and soft. He had to develop some hard, twisted ways to cope with that cruel childhood of his. Love was a superfluous emotion.
I was deep in my adulthood, when I realized that he shows his love by feeding you. If he takes you out to eat, or cooks for you, you know he cares.
During the process of forgiving my dad, I sometimes thought I was finished, all done, nothing more to forgive. Yet, when I least expected it, another layer of stuff came up. But I was determined and it was worth it.
We have good conversations now, because on some level he feels that I no longer consider him guilty. We both learned to become softer with each other, trust more and share more intimately. On the other end, my brother, has not been able to let go of his anger toward his father. He still talks about many painful occasions as if they happened yesterday. Their relationship is strained and uncomfortable.
The path less taken:
Typically, when you think about forgiveness, you think of others who have wronged you.
Yet, the most profound act of forgiveness is self-forgiveness. I think few of us dare to look at the depth of pain we have caused. I don’t know why it is so difficult to forgive ourselves? We are unbelievably hard on ourselves.
It is so deep and heavy that you’d rather not acknowledge it. You might break under the realization that you have caused harm and suffering for others. At times, you may glimpse some of the damage you created. This kind pain can bring you to your knees with self-hatred.
No wonder you don’t want to look at it.
These are the parts that you hide from yourself, from others, that you cover up with a facade, a mask, with lots of activity to keep from having to deal with it.
As a matter of fact, most of us are so good at this cover up that we aren’t even aware of the complex, deeply layered protective mask we have created. I am including myself in this. We are masters at it, the greatest actors of all: Keeping busy, acting defensive, covering up! We can spend our whole lives like that.
When this awareness comes up, it is not a time to do busy work, turn on the TV, get a drink or do anything evasive to avoid it again.
When the pain comes up, it is time to get still and pay attention. Listen to it. What is it telling you? What do you need to look at?
Don’t be afraid! Your fears are just thoughts. They can’t harm you.
This kind of pain wreaks havoc with your body, your mind, your relationships, your daily life.
My father is not able to look at himself. His pain must be enormous, because he has punished himself with such severe physical pain and lack of relationships that it breaks my heart. His body barely functions anymore, he spends more time in hospitals than home and feels alone and unloved.
Because, you see, when you can forgive yourself, there is only understanding and compassion left for others. There is only kindness and gentleness left………and self-esteem!
We see in others what is in us. How can you see goodness out there if it isn’t in you first? The people in our lives are a reflection of ourselves.
“Where there is forgiveness, there God resides — Kabir, page 137
In this self-forgiveness miracles happen. Our DNA literally changes, because our insides are no longer twisted up and our cells can work properly again. Healing begins!
There are many who have been healed physically and emotionally through forgiveness. I am incredibly blessed that some of these exceptional human beings are my friends. Exceptional, because they tackled the work of forgiveness. Check out Dr. Vernon Sylvest’s miraculous healing on http://www.vmsylvestmd.com/
What I have learned:
We all need teachers and guidance at times. One of my teachers is an amazing woman, who has been healed of cancer twice, and joy and happiness literally ooze from her being, even across distance. Lauren Lane Powell http://www.harmoniesofhealing.com.
We met when I was writing “How to Create Passion Spirit Adventure” http://amzn.to/2svA4iW and interviewing people who love their work. She subsequently walked through the valley of the shadow of death twice.
Lauren has been teaching me that the pain and anger is lodged in our bodies and cannot be released simply by thinking it away.
She taught me a practice that puts awareness into the body and allows release at the cellular level. This requires energy and sometimes I don’t have it. But there is always more than one way to do forgiveness work. What’s important is doing the practice, NOT pushing the difficult, painful feelings away!
Pain, Sorrow, Fear, Sadness are our travel companions in this lifetime. I don’t know anyone who can escape them. Why not make friends with them, acknowledge them? When you shine a light into the darkness, the power of the fear diminishes. It lessens the intensity of the negative feelings and allows the positive to return more quickly.
Let me know if I can help or if you would like to learn a powerful forgiveness practice.
God bless you!