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.
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.
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.
400…….since February, 2011…..six years and counting.
Over that time, here are 7 impressions which I have formed about the world of forgiveness:
- Forgiveness is not one more light entertainment in a world that is constantly screaming at you for attention. In today’s frenetic world of marketing, unless there is a ton of adrenaline released by the recipient in response to any new marketing strategy, then that recipient might turn away. This new attention-getting device—-increase adrenaline of the hearer—-will not work with forgiveness. Why? Because forgiveness takes place in the context of the wounded heart. Wounded people usually do not seek the adrenaline high but instead the quiet encouragement and love that will help them to heal. Forgiveness is at odds with the whirlwind, adrenaline-pumping world.
- Related to point 1, we are easily distracted by the next “big thing.” The early 21st century is not a time of quiet persistence, but instead a time of flinging oneself from one interesting idea to another. A steady diet of one food is boring……..and so people come into the forgiveness arena, only to leave way too soon to follow the call of something new and shiny and exciting. Forgiveness is at odds with the shiny as it is more at home with the strong will, the daily persistence in offering compassion to those who have had no compassion on the forgiver.
- Forgiveness is a hard sell in contemporary education because,quite frankly, too many school systems have way too many requirements, sometimes taught too superficially just to get it all in, and so when an innovation such as forgiveness comes calling, there is not room for this innovation…….which can change lives.
- Forgiveness can help each of us to leave a legacy of love rather than a legacy of anger and bitterness in this world. Few realize this and so when they die, their anger lives on. Being aware of this can reverse a family tradition of bitterness.
- Anti-bullying programs need forgiveness therapy and it is very much off the radar of too many educators. Anti-bullying programs too often focus on bullying behavior (let us punish bullying; let us set up norms against bullying behaviors; let us try to discourage bullying; let us ask peers to help stop the bullying). Yet, conspicuously missing is a focus on the broken heart of those who bully. Give them a chance to forgive those who have broken their hearts and their motivation to bully melts away.
- Still, too often people mistake forgiveness for what it is not. To forgive is to move on from a hurtful situation, some say. You can move on with indifference or even annoyance in one’s heart. To forgive is to be more deliberately active in trying to be good to those who are not good to you.
- In the final analysis, helping students learn how to forgive may be one of the most important new developments on the planet. We need to awaken a world that is still a bit too sleepy to understand this. We sleep through this idea to the detriment of our young people…….who may grow up not knowing how to deal with cruelty……and that is not in their best interest.
LONG LIVE FORGIVENESS!
They are all hard to accomplish, said one.
They are all impossible if we are realistic about the human endeavor, said another.
They are all cruel ideals to make each of us feel inferior, said the third.
And yet, I wonder. Surely, one can forgive those who offend. Some can run the marathon. I know someone who finished the Boston Marathon nine years in a row. And contemplating great art is feasible as long as we let the beauty speak to us rather than our trying to define it and therefore reduce it.
Forgiveness, running the marathon, and contemplating great art all stretch us, ask us to see farther down the road, challenge us to grow beyond our current self.
They all awaken in us the call to greatness. They all challenge us to see that life is more than going to work, collecting a paycheck, and kicking back on the weekend, only to repeat the cycle seemingly endlessly until we retire.
Forgiveness is a heroic virtue because it asks us to so stretch ourselves that we are good to those who are not good to us. The marathon shows us that we can go beyond our expected capacity, that we have a reserve that can be discovered by the strong will. The contemplation of inspired works of art challenges us to see that there is more to this world than we can see and hear and taste and touch in our ordinary surroundings. There is a greatness awaiting us, if only we have the courage to look.
We all can begin by forgiving a loved one for a minor injustice. We all can start to walk and then run and lift that weight even if it does not translate into over 26 miles of challenge. We all can create and contemplate what others around us create even if none of these will see its way to a Florentine gallery. And we can keep raising the bar on whom to forgive, what exercises challenge us, and what magnificent art really is.
We all can start stretching ourselves today. Forgiveness, the marathon, and inspired great art are all calls to us to move forward, to be better than we are today, to reach and then achieve.
The presidential election results and the tumultuous aftermath have left people scarred and angry. I have heard often that people are afraid of the fallout in their own families: brother against brother, partner against partner. Here are 7 tips to help you bind the wounds and move forward well:
- It is important to realize that when you forgive, you are not throwing justice under the bus. Yes, forgive, but fight the good fight for what is good in the country.
- Each side has an argument against the other side. Yet, my questions are these: What are the intentions of the people at whom you are so angry? Do you think they are saying, “My method is bad and my desired outcome is equally bad”? Even if you disagree with the actions, can you see that the desired end—from the others’ viewpoint—is the quest for the good, even if you think that is misguided?
3. Did you know that many of the people on the other side once were children who suffered hurt in childhood. He ran to his mother when he fell down and bruised his knee. She talked with her father, through her tears, when bullied at school. These are real-life persons with real-life struggles and wounds that started a long time ago, when they were growing up.
4. You may not be aware of this, but those on the other side did not have an easy time in adolescence, because, well, few make it through that time period unscathed. Did you know that people on the other side have been wounded by rejection of peers when in adolescence, struggled with romantic attempts that were awkward for them, and fought through the demands of high school?
- Did you know that people on the other side have hopes and dreams? They, like you, are hoping for a little place to live, a well-meaning job, and meaningful relationships. And did you know that none of this is coming easily to many of them? Some are really hurting inside because of this.
- Did you know that each one of the people on your side and on the other side are striving for a little happiness in this troubled world? It is not easy to find that happiness. Sometimes we look in the wrong places, but it is for happiness nonetheless that we seek. Those who have hurt you are seeking happiness and it may not be the way you would have chosen, but that is their quest nonetheless. They are human. They are fallible. They share with you one important thing: a common humanity.
- Can you, each of you on the other side of the divide, commit to doing no harm to the other? I know you are angry, but what now will you do with that anger? Will you pass it along to your children? to you partner? to your co-workers? Or, will you stand with the pain, that eventually will end, for the sake of the humanity of those who have hurt you…..as well as for those who are innocent bystanders who now could be hurt by that anger?
Perhaps it is time to forgive as you seek justice. The two, forgiveness and justice, go well together.
Finding meaning in the pursuit of truth is yet another way of finding meaning after or while you suffer. When we are hurt by others who exert power over us, there is a tendency to blur the lines between what is the truth and what is a lie.
Consider the suffering of the psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who was in concentration camps in Germany and Poland during World War II. When Dr. Frankl was ordered to go on a march to do some slave work, I am sure that the soldiers controlling his behavior were convinced that they were doing the right thing. They likely had convinced themselves that those they had enslaved somehow deserved it. Dr. Frankl resisted their lies and consciously stood in the truth that what he was experiencing was unjust.
Enright, Robert (2015-09-28). 8 Keys to Forgiveness (8 Keys to Mental Health) (p. 120). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
Frankl, Viktor E. (Dec. 1, 1959) Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press.