Archive for January, 2016

How Evil Works

There seems to be a pattern with evil that is so patient, so long-term that many people will miss just how it works. The short-range effects of evil seem to take on two patterns.  First, many people freeze when evil comes. They are numbed by the contrast between living life without that evil and now dealing with its stark contrast. Evil can so shake people to their core that they deny evil’s existence.

A case in point: I recently saw a photograph of workers at a German concentration camp of World War II. The workers were all sitting together smiling as a musician entertained them with his accordion, fun times being had by all….except by those experiencing the brunt of the evil. Even in the more recent evil of the mass shootings in Paris, many people in the theater froze when the gunmen entered. It was as if the freezing is showing us that those affected are not really sure that the horror is happening. The people at first do not react and this freezing and denial allow evil to have its way in the short-run.

After the initial denial by those who are indirectly affected (as in the accordion playing within the concentration camp example) or directly affected (as in the Paris murders), many people see and react to the evil by calling it by its name, by labeling it, understanding it, and trying to defeat it. This can take a long time, even decades. An example of this is people’s awakening to human trafficking, the using of others for the more powerful people’s own selfish ends. I still am not convinced that the world is seeing this evil in all of its fullness and ferocity. It sometimes takes great lengths of time to see and to act, yet act some people do.

Once the current evil is contained or even defeated (as in the Nazi example or the Paris shooting example), I have come to realize that the defeat is only a first-wave of the war on evil. Hitler’s Third Reich demise was not the end of that evil because the poison of that evil took up residence within those affected and within their loved ones born after the first-wave of evil was gone. Here is where the subtlety of evil is missed by so many. The evil itself, the killings, the exploitation, the hatred, may die, but the effects of these live on in those directly affected and those now affected by those who were directly affected. And this kind of evil—the secondary effects, or second-wave, of the first-wave—-are just as dangerous or even more so because they are unseen, missed. If we do not see that the evil lives on in this second-wave, then we cannot defeat it.

Yet, we must begin to see that the second-wave of evil can lead to discouragement, hopelessness, hatred, depression, substance abuse, child and spousal abuse, indifference and even hatred toward the divine (because the problem of evil cannot be fully comprehended), and the passing on to generations to come of a cynicism that robs people of inner vitality and thriving.

Beware of the second-wave of evil. See it. Know it. Defeat it through the practice of forgiving—within hearts, within families, and within communities.  Physical combat is the recourse to defeating some kinds of physically-present first-wave evils. Seeking help is another. Forgiveness-combat is the recourse to defeating the psychologically-present second-wave evils. Forgiveness-combat gives the gift to new generations of reduced skepticism, reduced hopelessness, and an increase in psychologically thriving. Forgiveness gives people their lives back.

If we are to defeat this second-wave of evil, wherever it is, then we need forgiveness education………


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In your experience, have you found that there is a particular kind of person who is hardest for most people to forgive, for example, a romantic partner or a father?

Yes, in my experience the hardest person to forgive for many people is—–the self. We tend to be harder on ourselves than on other people. So, if you have broken your own standards of right and wrong, consider self-forgiving and please be patient with yourself.  Whatever you have offered to others in forgiving them, please offer to yourself, and please make amends with (ask for forgiveness from) those you may have injured in breaking your own standards.

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Forgiveness and Helplessness

Psychologists tell us that the thoughts and feelings of helplessness can devastate a person. When we think we are trapped with no way out, then we start to feel hopeless, which can lead to anxiety and depression.

The thought that there is no way out is the big lie.

Yes, you may not be able to do much about the current behavioral situation.
The actions in which you engage may be limited.  This does not at all mean that your inner world is trapped with no way out.  You can overcome the inner sense of helplessness by forgiving those who have contributed to your limited actions.

You are free inside to forgive, to reduce resentment, and even to cure this disease of resentment, which can be much worse than reduced behavioral options.

You are much freer than you think. When all around you are mean and unrealistic and hurtful, your inner world can be filled with a forgiveness that gives you joy and confidence and hope.

Am I being unrealistic?  Put me to the test.  Try to forgive and see how your inner world transforms.

And then never be trapped in that inner world ever again.


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Bearing the pain of the other person’s injustice seems so difficult to me. Have you ever encountered a person who could not bear the pain of what happened to them so that they could not forgive well?

Yes, I have met many people who do not even think of bearing the pain of what happened to them. When that pain persists, too often I see that they either take that pain out on themselves (neglecting good health habits, for example) or they displace their pain onto other people, trying to make those other people miserable. These ultimately are self-defeating ways. For those who truly want to forgive, who are patient and persevere in their forgiving, I have not seen anyone who was overcome by the pain and was unable to bear it, at least to some degree. We do not have to bear the pain perfectly or be rid of the pain entirely to find thriving and joy in this life. We can learn to live with some pain, knowing that by forgiving we have diminished that pain to a manageable level. It is here that we have triumphed over the pain.

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Your Unfolding Love Story for 2016

We have come to a new year. Let us gently move forward one year from now to January 1, 2017. Let us do a mental exercise and pretend that 2016 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 2016 on the first day of 2017. How have you lived in 2016? What could you have done to make the world a more loving place?

Back to present-day January, 2016…now is your chance to open the door of opportunity to this New Year. An opportunity to fulfill your January 1st, 2017 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 2016 a triumph of love worth remembering and celebrating next January 1st of 2017.

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. 2016 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 2016.

How can you start? I recommend starting by looking back at one incident of 2015. 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 2016. 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 2016 in early January, 2017, 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?logo-blog-100Welcome to 2016. The International Forgiveness Institute is here to support you as you add a new chapter to your book of life.


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