Archive for January, 2013
OK, class, it is time for a few questions. If you “google” the word “forgiveness,” how many hits will you get? Right, 54 million. How about if you google the term “current films”? Right again, 519 million. One more: What if you google the word “chocolate”? How did you know? You are right, 704 million hits.
We are being overwhelmed by novelty. If you spent your life (and you could spend your life plus more lifetimes) clicking on each of the “chocolate” hits on google, and spent one minute on each, it would take you approximately 1339 years to do so. So much chocolate….so little time.
My point is this: We are rarely reinforced in our societies these days for engaging in repetition. After all, there is one more “chocolate” hit waiting for us on google, one more current film site to visit.
Yet, Aristotle impressed upon us the need for repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. I can see you growing weary just reading that previous sentence. Nonetheless, the point of today’s post is this: We must resist the temptation of always looking for the next novelty item in our over-stimulated world. We must not forget the repetition and to forgive well means to engage in the repetition of forgiveness over and over and over again.
Novelty vs repetition. Novelty is winning in today’s world. Aristotle would not be amused.
STV Edinburgh, Scotland – Jean-Paul Samputu survived one of the worst genocides in history–a massacre that claimed not only the lives of his parents, his three brothers, and his sister, but the lives of more than one million people who were killed in his country in just 90 days. All were killed by those who had once been their neighbors, their friends.
The 1994 mass slaughter took place in the central African nation of Rwanda where violence between two ethnic groups–the Hutu majority and the Tutsi–had festered for years. Jean-Paul, a well-known Tutsi musician at the time and a marked target, had already fled his home and travelled to Uganda.
It was more than a decade before Jean-Paul learned that his own family’s killer was a man he had once counted on as a friend. He came face to face with Eugene Nyirimana at the war tribunals in Rwanda in August of 2007. It was there that Jean-Paul spoke with the man and somehow found the courage to forgive him.
“I don’t think I’m a strong man or a particularly good man because I forgave, because I don’t think I made a deliberate choice to forgive. I think it was my only choice,” Jean-Paul says. “The man who killed my parents, he went to prison. As was right because he had committed a crime. But my prison was far worse than his. I was trapped, killing myself everyday with anger and bitterness. It was horrible.”
“I had to choose to forgive. It was the only way out for me,” he explains. “I had to do it for myself, to learn to love myself, to get the healing that I desperately needed. And when I found its peace, I knew I wanted to help others find it too.”
Jean-Paul now spends his time travelling around Rwanda and the world to share his story through discussion and music.
“It’s so important that people realize that forgiveness isn’t for the offender – it’s for you,” insists Jean-Paul. “We have a culture of revenge in our society at the moment. Generations pass their hatred onto the next generation and so on and so on. We receive the mistakes of our parents.”
“Instead of a culture of revenge we need a culture of forgiveness if the cycle is ever to be broken. Forgiveness is my message. Education is the answer. To teach our children that a culture of forgiveness is the only way to end pain.”
Read the full story: “A lesson in forgiveness from genocide survivor Jean-Paul Samputu“
When you are trying to forgive a person now for a recent injustice and you find yourself having trouble forgiving, please try this: Think about someone in your past who hurt you in a similar way. Have you forgiven this person from your past? If not, then he or she may be the stumbling block for your forgiving a person now.
Take some time to go back in time and repair your heart from the previous person and incident. Once your anger is diminished from that, then try forgiving the present person for the present injustice.
You see, you may have double-anger now, at the present person and the past person. Eliminating your anger from the past may free you a little more to forgive those in the present.
We have come to a new year. Let us gently move forward one year from now to January 1, 2014. Let us do a mental exercise and pretend that 2013 is now over—gone forever. What you have said and done has now gone out to others for good or for ill. Regrets? Guilt? Remorse? These could be part of the package as you reflect back on 2013 on the first day of 2014. How have you lived in 2013? What could you have done to make the world a more loving place?
Back to present-day January 2013…now is your chance to open the door of opportunity to this New Year. An opportunity to fulfill your January 1st, 2014 hopes and dreams that you just reflected on—to make them whole, peaceful, joyous and a reality. Despite the unforeseen trials and hardships, regardless of others’ injustices and unfairness, you have the power to make the year 2013 a triumph of love worth remembering and celebrating next January 1st of 2014.
You are not the master of your fate in that you can prevent the unwanted. You, however, do have a strong influence on all of this if you make a commitment with me now to love. 2013 will be the year that you grow in love, give love to others, give love to those whom you do not think necessarily deserve it. The kind of love connected to forgiveness is that which serves–out of concern for the other. You have within you now the capacity to give this love freely, without cost, without anyone earning it. Go ahead, try it. Give love away as your legacy of 2013.
How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2012. Please think of one incident with one person in which you were loved unconditionally, perhaps even surprised by a partner or a parent or a caring colleague. Think of your reaction when you felt love coming from the other and you felt love in your heart and the other saw it in your eyes. What was said? How were you affirmed for whom you are, not necessarily for something you did? What was the other’s heart like, and yours?
This kind of love will not necessarily be a two-way street in 2013. You may have to extend the love through forgiveness, a hard but joyous road. Forgiveness is part of your unfolding love story. Forgiveness, which serves the other through compassion and gentleness, is not always reciprocated. Yet, one thing is certain: When others reflect upon 2013 in early January, 2014, they will remember your kindness, your unconditional love, your forgiveness. They will see who you really are. And as for you? Well, you will have added a chapter to your unfolding love story. How do you think that will feel?
Welcome to 2013. The International Forgiveness Institute is here to support you as you add a new chapter to your book of life.
Today I had the privilege of giving a forgiveness education workshop for faculty in a school in the Czech Republic. They have decided to implement a forgiveness curriculum for children from age 4 through about age 10.
This is not an easy endeavor for them. They have had to hire someone to translate teacher guides from English into the Czech language, and these guides are rather extensive as you can see in our online Store.
One impression I had that is quite important is this: Some of the faculty came into the workshop equating forgiveness with reconciliation. In other words, the thought was that if I forgive, I have to go back for more abuse. Seeing that this is not the case was freeing for those who misunderstood what forgiveness is.
Another impression I had was their surprise to hear that forgiveness education can boost academic performance in those students who are excessively angry. After all, if you are fuming inside, it is difficult to learn. As the resentments melt, there is more energy and focus for the academic tasks of school.
You can read a scientific paper, published in 2008 in the Journal of Research in Education, showing this boost in academic performance for a small group of middle school students who were at-risk for academic failure. They went from a D+ average to a C+ average the next academic year: Can School-Based Forgiveness Counseling Improve Conduct and Academic Achievement in Academically At-Risk Students?
We at the International Forgiveness Institute wish the administrators, faculty, and students well in this Czech school as they embark on the exciting new journey of forgiveness education.