Our Forgiveness Blog

Love as Our Core

Today the music world mourns the passing of the great Whitney Houston, who died at the age of 48. The newspapers are calling her life tragic, marred by drug use and a failed marriage. The fame, beauty, fortune, and admiration were not enough, nor could they ever be, because at our core is a need to love and be loved.

I am just speculating here, but I suspect that at her core, Ms. Houston had much love taken away from her by others across her life. When this happens, we need a way to put back that love in our heart even if others will not reciprocate. Forgiving those who have hurt us is one way of restoring that love deep within our heart.

I do not know if Ms. Houston practiced forgiveness or not. I do suspect that such practice on a deep and consistent basis may have helped her in her struggle with drugs. Maybe, just maybe, we would not be reading the headlines today if this kind of love were more continually present for her as a response to the love taken away from her. It is for reasons such as this that I am so intent on helping others create forgiving communities–as a way to restore love in the heart and help others to thrive in their pain rather than to be crushed by it.

Reflection from Dublin, Ireland

“How can you tell me you’re lonely….and say for you that the sun don’t shine? Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of Dublin. I’ll show you something that will make you change your mind.”

The lyrics of that folk-song actually say “London” rather than “Dublin,” but we encountered a similar scene today in the Irish city. A young man asked our friend Lynn for some money and in the damp, pouring rain, she spend 20 minutes talking with him, treating him as a person of unconditional inherent worth. It turns out that he was abused repeatedly as a boy, suffered gravely, and in his extreme pain, cannot get a job and climb up out of the pit.

If I could give him one thing, it would be the insight to forgive (rightly understood, without the error of reconciliation at all costs) those who have abused him. It would give him the strength and purpose to go on. Lynn was suffering with and for this man as she sheltered him from the rain with her umbrella and in essence mothered him. I could tell by his eyes that he was surprised, delighted, and humbled that someone would pay attention to him and love him like this.

It was the lack of love in his past that brought him low. It will be the strength to forgive that very well might pull him out of this. Lynn’s stance in the Dublin rain shows us what is possible—to love those who do not necessarily consider themselves to be lovable. As he forgives, he will find that those forgiven are lovable and (surprise!) the one who forgives also is lovable.

A Question for the Group

Here is a question that I get frequently: When I forgive, should I go to the person and let him or her know that I have forgiven? Can I forgive from my heart and not say anything at all about forgiveness? What if my saying something will only make things worse? Do I have to go to the person under this circumstance and say I have forgiven?

OK, rather than the IFI giving the answer, what are your views? Let us allow the answer to emerge from the discussion.

Your Unfolding Love Story

We have come to a new year. Let us gently move forward one year from now to January 1, 2013. Let us do a mental exercise and pretend that 2012 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 2012 on the first day of 2013. How have you lived in 2012? What could you have done to make the world a more loving place?

Back to present-day January 2012…now is your chance to open the door of opportunity to this New Year. An opportunity to fulfill your January 1st, 2013 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 2012 a triumph of love worth remembering and celebrating next January 1st of 2013.

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. 2012 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 2012.

How can you start? I recommend starting by looking backward at one incident of 2011. 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 2012. 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 2012 in early January, 2013, 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 2012. The International Forgiveness Institute is here to support you as you add a new chapter to your book of life.

A Reflection on Resolutions

Another year, another set of resolutions. While we are on the topic, I have a question for you: “What did you resolve in the new year on January 1, 2011?” A show of hands, please from all of you who even remember what you resolved to do or improve in the 2011 calendar year. Another question: “For those of you who do remember what you resolved on January 1, 2011, did you follow through with the resolution?”

The questions above were asked to test your strong will. By that I mean your inner determination and behavioral manifestation of staying the course, finishing the race. When was the last time you heard a thorough-going discussion of the strong will? We talk in society about free will and good will, but rarely about the strong will that helps us stay the course.

To forgive requires a free will to say yes to the path of mercy and love, a good will to embrace mercy in the face of unfair treatment, and a strong will so that you do not stop persevering in forgiveness. To persevere in forgiveness is one of the most important things you can do for your family, your community, and for yourself. Without the strong will, you could easily be like the rowboat, once tethered to the dock, now loosened from the moorings as it slowly drifts out to sea. As the cares of the world envelope you, the opportunity to cling to the forgiving life may slowly fade until you are unaware that the motivation to keep forgiving is gone.

This New Years Day, my challenge to you is to resolve to have a strong will as a forgiver. This means that you will remember what you resolved; you will follow through with the resolution. You have the opportunity to make a merciful difference in a world that seems not to have a strong enough collective will to keep forgiveness alive in the heart. The choice is yours. The benefits may surprise you.

The Missing Piece to the Peace Puzzle

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