Archive for November, 2019
Editor’s Note: Eileen Barker is an internationally recognized mediator, facilitator, and forgiveness teacher. She is also a pioneer in the movement to integrate emotional healing and forgiveness in conflict resolution. She wrote this essay for our website:
I’ve met plenty of people who told me they ‘thought’ they had forgiven. What they mean is they formed the mental intention to forgive, only to later discover that the judgment and resentment were still there. Does this sound familiar? I call this “forgiving from the neck up” or “emotional bypass.” It may provide temporary relief but it is not lasting. I also frequently encounter people intent on analyzing their experience. They seem to believe if they fully understand the situation, it will enable them to forgive, but this is not the case. True forgiveness cannot be intellectualized.
You can say the words “I forgive” and have the thought “I forgive” until the cows come home, and still not have actually forgiven. The mind can only take us so far. At some point we must enter the arena of feelings in order to release the anger, blame, resentment, and so on. They must be addressed. Of course feelings are vulnerable and possibly unfamiliar, which is why we might want to avoid them, but the only way to heal is to walk through them. Feelings are the true pathway home.
So, how do you enter the emotional realm? How do you forgive from the neck down?
One of the keys for me is guided meditation. I start with the breath and then bring awareness to the body step by step. This creates the foundation for all the other work. For some, it might feel uncomfortable and even unsafe at first to bring awareness into the body, so we go as slowly as necessary to create safety. When we can feel our body and not push our feelings away, we discover that the body has vitally important information for us, information far more reliable than that acquired from the mind alone.
Here is a powerful passage on the topic of embracing our emotions and forgiving, written by Eckhart Tolle in his book
The Power of Now:
Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so to let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realize that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life — to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering, a greatly restricted flow of life energy, and in many cases physical disease.
The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind. Non-forgiveness is the very nature of the mind, just as the mind-made false self, the ego, cannot survive without strife and conflict. The mind cannot forgive. Only you can. You become present, you enter your body, you feel the vibrant peace and stillness that emanate from Being.
A potent reminder that we are so much more than our minds, thoughts, beliefs and words.
Eileen Barker is a San Francisco Bay Area (CA) litigation lawyer who rejected the traditional adversarial role. Instead, she has focused her practice on mediation and conflict resolution for the past twenty years, helping thousands of people resolve disputes outside of court. This work led her into a deep exploration of forgiveness as it relates to resolving conflict and making peace, both with others and oneself. She is the author of the Forgiveness Workbook and Forgiveness Meditation CD. In 2016, Eileen received the Champion of Forgiveness Award from the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance (along with Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu). Visit her website: The Path of Forgiveness.
The Samuel Mazzuchelli Medallion recognizes those “who cultivate intellectual and spiritual resources to empower others.” One of the College’s highest honors, it is named for Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli, who founded the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa in 1847.
“Tonight we recognize a compassionate educator and voice for healing, Dr. Robert Enright,” said Sr. Maggie Hopkins, O.P., Assistant to the President at Edgewood College, in her opening remarks at the Nov. 4 Award Presentation Dinner. “His vision, direction and scientific research served as groundwork for the International Forgiveness Institute he founded in 1994. To date, his Forgiveness program has impacted more than thirty countries around the globe, inspiring and assisting others to examine and navigate what can seem a difficult and sometimes an insurmountable path to personal freedom – the process of forgiveness.”
According to Sr. Hopkins, the Nov. 4 award presentation date was significant because Fr. Mazzuchelli was born on that date in 1806. She outlined how the Catholic priest, an immigrant from Italy to the US frontier, was a compassionate “voice for the voiceless” in the new American wilderness. His missionary vision, she added, centered on his conviction to offer healing, comfort, forgiveness, hope and justice.
“Similarly, at the heart of Dr. Enright’s vision and teaching is the conviction that forgiveness is a choice as well as the space where transformation begins. As Fr. Mazzuchelli sought to build up others in his time, TODAY through research, learning and expansive outreach, Dr. Enright continues to teach people to choose compassion and forgiveness, to see ‘the other as sister, brother, and friend.'”
Following Sr. Hopkins’ presentation, the Mazzuchelli Medallion was presented to Dr. Enright by Dr. Mary Ellen Gevelinger, O.P., Ed.D., Interim President of Edgewood College–a liberal arts Catholic college that has 1,460 undergraduate students and 700 graduate students. Founded in 1927, Edgewood College has been named to the 2019 “Best National Universities” list by U.S. News & World Report and one of the top ten colleges/universities in the country for promoting social mobility.
- Read Sr. Hopkins’ full Award Presentation Remarks: click here.
- Edgewood College is located on a 55-acre wooded estate on the shore of Lake Wingra in the heart of Wisconsin’s capital city of Madison. It was donated to the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa in 1881 by Cadwallader C. Washburn, a Civil War general (Union Army) who built an industrial empire (founder of the company that became General Mills) and who became an influential politician (two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, three terms in the U.S. Senate, and Wisconsin’s 11th governor from 1872-1874).
- Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa (formally: The Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary of the Order of Preachers) are dedicated to preaching and teaching the Gospel. Today, more than 400 Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters serve in the United States and abroad (including missions in Bolivia and Trinidad and Tobago). Their General Motherhouse, the Sinsinawa Mound Center, is located in southwestern Wisconsin.
- Dr. Mary Ellen Gevelinger, O.P., Ed.D., is a seasoned leader and administrator with decades of experience at the helm of complex organizations. She served as both Vicaress(Vice President) and Prioress (Chief Executive) of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa congregation. Earlier in her career, she served as Director of Personnel and Planning for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, with responsibility for more than 100 Catholic schools.
- Sister Maggie Hopkins assists the Edgewood College President, leadership and the College community in assuring the consistency of the Dominican Catholic school’s identity and tradition. She became a vowed member of the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa in 1966 and has served Edgewood College since 1991.
Is it possible for someone to actually improve in forgiveness? If so what do you suggest as some keys for me to do that?
Forgiveness is not a superficial action (such as saying, “It’s ok” when someone is unfair to you). Instead, it is a moral virtue, as is justice and kindness and love. Aristotle told us thousands of years ago that one challenge in life is to become more perfected in the virtues. In other words, we do grow more proficient in our understanding and expression of the virtues, but only if we practice them. It is a struggle to grow in any virtue, including forgiveness. So, first be aware that you can grow in this virtue. Then be willing to practice it, with the goal of maturing in love, which is what forgiveness is (loving those who are unkind to us). You need a strong will to keep persevering in the struggle to grow in forgiveness. In sum, you need: understanding of what forgiveness is, practice, a strong will, and keeping your eye fixed on the goal of improving in love a little more each day.
For additional information, see Forgiveness Defined.