FORGIVENESS: Part 2 Sally Campbell Here are a few ideas about forgiveness that have been helpful for me.
- Forgiveness does not mean condoning. It does not make it all “ok”. It does not change what the other did (or what you did). It does change the relationship between the forgiver and what the other person did.
- It only takes one person to change a relationship between people. When one person makes a shift in perception, the whole relationship shifts. This can be so surprising! Many times it feels like a return to the self, to normalcy, as if invisible blinders have been removed. Often our closest friends have witnessed the troubled dynamic for years, and they are there, waiting for us to “see the light”. That’s why they are our good friends. They may have dropped a few hints along the way, but they have wisely followed the adage of my grandmother that we each must learn our own lessons in our own way.
- You can’t give what you don’t have. If we lack compassion for ourselves and our own imperfections, we cannot show compassion to others. This means we have to stop judging ourselves if we want to be able to stop judging (and forgive) another.
- When we remain unforgiving (in judgment) we expend a lot of energy in withholding. We armour ourselves for protection and only let in what feeds the story of the wrong: the anger, the resentment, the sense of victimhood. Canadian playwright Joanna Glass called this “our carefully-nurtured sorrows” (If We Are Women). If we move into forgiveness, we can tap into that powerful energy and transform it.
- We need to be specific about what we are forgiving. It may go in stages and small pieces in more complicated relationships. It does not need to be said out loud. In fact, if the other is angry with us, a verbal “I forgive you” is a sure way to fan the flames and up the ante a notch.
- In order to forgive, we have to let go of being “right”. Arrrgh. That can be so hard!
- Thinking shapes feeling and feeling shapes thinking, it’s that simple. If we continue to rationalize a situation in ways that keep us in the place of being wronged, we will continue to feel all those negative feelings that accompany that mindset. Likewise, if we engage upon a course of reinforcing and feeding our anger, our hurt, we will use our cognitive powers in service of maintaining those feelings. We will fight cognitive dissonance by refusing to allow or to consider seriously thoughts that don’t confirm
our negative feelings. The point is not to repress those feelings, but rather to notice them with compassion for ourselves. Give them the attention they deserve. (Maybe they are a signal we have to do something differently!) Then try to find ways to move through them. Often the skill of “reframing” can help in this regard. Putting a different frame on the picture we’re seeing. Taking ourselves from a place of what we do not like or do not want to what we do in fact want, to what matters to us. And then we can ask: What would that look like? What can I do to put that preferred scenario in place? This way of focusing on
the positive can help shift our mindset dramatically.
- Forgiveness involves tapping into all the aspects of our being: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. There is a general lightening up that comes with forgiveness work.
- The body has a memory. It holds emotional pain as well as emotional blessing. Being unable to forgive affects our health and our well-being.
(Some of these ideas are from the work of Barbara Ashley-Phillips, the work of Edith Stauffer,
Unconditional Love and Forgiveness, and the Dalai Lama.)