Archive for September, 2014
We all quest after these three qualities of life: truth, goodness, and beauty. Too often, those who hurt us are not standing in the truth of who we are, they are not behaving in a morally good way toward us, and the outcome surely is not beautiful.
Those who hurt us leave a mess behind: a distortion of truth, goodness, and beauty.
Truth tells us who we are as persons. We are all special, unique, and irreplaceable. All persons have inherent worth.
Goodness conforms to truth. When we realize that all persons are special and possess inherent worth, our response of goodness should include fairness toward all as well as kindness, respect, generosity, and love.
Beauty is defined by goodness. If we are to respond to others with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love, then we have to express this well from the heart.
So, how do we clean up the mess left behind by those who are cruel?
We should try to forgive with truth, goodness, and beauty. How do we do this?
In truth, we have to start forgiveness by understanding it clearly. Even when someone is cruel to us, the truth is that this person is special, unique, and irreplaceable. Even if this person has hurt us, he/she has inherent worth.
In goodness, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of goodness compels us to respond with fairness, kindness, respect, generosity, and love. Yes, even toward those who are cruel to us.
In beauty, even when someone is cruel to us, the challenge of beauty is to transform our hearts so that all of the goodness is not forced but is given willingly as a gift to that person.
As we apply truth, goodness, and beauty to those who have acted unfairly toward us, we not only help to clean up the mess left behind but also we are doing our part to make the world a more beautiful place.
Do you have any tips for working on forgiving someone who is no longer here? My father was emotionally abusive when I was a child, and I would like to forgive him, but he died many years ago so I cannot ask him why he did it, or ask him to apologize.
It is possible to forgive your father even though he no longer is on this earth. You can do the work of seeing his inherent worth, not because of what he did, but in spite of that. You can work on reducing resentment. You can talk—in a realistic fashion—about his good points to other family members (when you are ready) so that you help him to leave a legacy in the family that is not all bad. All of this is part of forgiveness.
Never giving up. Perseverance. The strong will. Forgiveness is hard work and the more severely you are hurt by another person’s injustice, the harder will be you work. It is too easy to enter forgiveness with a kind of euphoria, full of hope that all will be well soon. As you then start to sprint, you realize that you are in a marathon……not a sprint. It is then that your strong will has to come into the picture to aid you in continuing to practice forgiveness until you make significant progress.
Learning to forgive those who hurt you deeply is analogous to starting a physical fitness program. You may start with a light heart and much enthusiasm, and these wane as the exercises get routine, as the muscles get sore, as the enthusiasm melts. It is then that sheer determination must help you through. It is similar with forgiveness. After a while, the practice of forgiveness may become a chore rather than an enthusiastic exercise of hope. Please note that the perseverance is well worth the pain of continuing the marathon. After a while you will notice an emotional strength building in you. After a while you will see that you are now stronger than the hurts against you. After a while you will see that through the exercise of your strong will, you are now forgivingly fit. Let the strong will help you to complete the journey of forgiveness.
“Ahhh…..I’m glad that’s over!!” How many times have I heard that….and even said it to myself. We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that if we go through a forgiveness process, such as the one outlined in the book, The Forgiving Life, then all is well and we are healed.
Yet, because forgiveness is a process that takes time, we cannot presume that if we go through that process once with a particular person in mind, then the journey is over. Forgiveness is not that simple for the deep injustices of life.
I was talking with a psychiatrist friend recently and he said this: “Sometimes I tell my patients that they will have to be working on the process of forgiveness for the rest of their lives.” He was not implying that they will never reach the goal of forgiveness. Instead, he was suggesting two things: a) Even when we have forgiven, the anger can creep back into our hearts and that is the time to open the door once again to forgiveness and b) As we forgive, we go deeper into its meaning and in new discoveries about the process; thus, as we continue to develop we have not finished forgiveness or perhaps forgiveness has not yet finished with us.
So, do not grow discouraged if you have been slammed by injustice. The road to forgiving will get easier and more familiar…..but at the same time you may be on that road for the rest of your life. Take heart because this is not a burdensome road. What happened to you may be burdensome, but the process of discovery about whom the other person is, about who you are as a person, and about humanity itself is filled with fresh and healing insights. After all, when you walk the path of forgiveness, you are walking in love. This is not such a bad path to be on, right?
Enjoy the journey of forgiveness.
How important is it for me to wait until the other person apologizes before I extend the hand of forgiveness? It seems that if I forgive unconditionally I am letting the one who hurt me off the hook.
I think it is a common error to think that the only way to receive justice or to have a chance to rehabilitate the one who hurt you is to wait for an apology. You might consider forgiving and asking for justice at the same time. You might consider forgiving and point out, as carefully and lovingly as you can, the person’s weaknesses that have led to your being hurt. Waiting for an apology is not the only way to achieve a just end.