We just received this beautifully-stated image from someone recovering from abuse through practicing forgiveness:
“I have always viewed my recovery work like studying a tapestry. In the beginning, I stood up close, with all of my attention on the threads of abuse, which prevented me from seeing the full beauty of the tapestry. I thought with an up close view, I would be able to unravel the pain that it caused me. With each step in recovery, I am able to step back from the threads of abuse, and see a grander view of the tapestry that is my life. Each time I make progress, I allow the abuse to fade into the background of the tapestry. The abuse is becoming a fiber in the background, which is how everyone, but me, has viewed my life.”
This person is more than each strand of abuse suffered. There is a beautiful tapestry of this life to be seen and appreciated.
Thank you for the email. Thank you for the courage to heal through forgiveness.
Little do they know that we have a far more powerful weapon: forgiveness. Forgiveness-as-love can deflect any weapons meant to hurt us. The beauty of our weapon is that, once it destroys the effects of their intent-to-hurt us, it is used for good–to positively transform self and other.
Those who wish to hurt us think that they have the powerful weaponry. They are wrong. Theirs is rendered powerless in the face of genuine and persistently applied forgiveness.
As you evade with forgiveness attacks against you, the one who is trying to hurt you eventually will exhaust himself in this struggle to hurt. Once tired, she finally may be open to your gesture of unconditional love. If not, you have done the best that you can….and you have done so with love.
While talking with a friend recently who has had his share of injustices, he made an insightful comment which may prove helpful for you. Several years ago he had a break-up with a friend, a long-standing friend. To mask the pain of this break-up, as he explained it, he basically put the person and the event out of his mind, not to be cruel but only because the friendship seems to have dissolved. He refers to this state as “sleepwalking.”
Yet, two patterns are worth noting. First, whenever he meets this friend, the pain and anger well up within him again. It is as if his sleepwalking abruptly ends, he awakens with anger, and then goes back to sleepwalking when not in the friend’s presence once again.
A second pattern is this: When the friend makes overtures to reconcile, it is precisely at that time when the anger wells up the greatest, with great pain and suffering. Why? I think it is because the full weight of the injustice is now felt because of the contrast between the abandoning state and the state of mutual love and respect. That contrast at that moment is very intense.
So, for you, the reader, I have this suggestion. Are you sleepwalking through an unjust event with someone? “How do I know?” you might say. Here is a test: Quiet yourself and then with concentrated effort, imagine this person coming back to you in a repentant way, in a way that says, “I did wrong and would like to reconcile.” In that state ask yourself, “How angry am I now?”
If you are very angry, especially compared to when you are sleepwalking, then let this be a sign to you that you are harboring more anger than you realize. Your degree of forgiveness while in your sleepwalking state may not be complete forgiveness. You may have more resentment in there than you think and if so, more forgiveness work may be necessary.
With this knowledge, work on forgiving this person so that the next time you meet, you are not jolted from your sleepwalking….and if he or she truly wishes to reconcile, you will not bolt awake as if now in the nightmare. Your forgiveness work will help you to walk while wide awake, with reduced anger, ready to offer goodness rather than anger to this person.
I perused Wikipedia today for information on “survival kits.” Here are a few tidbits: salt (yup, it prevents death in case of cholera), laser pointer (for superior long-range signaling), large plastic trash bag (as a poncho), ladder (ladder, oh, sorry, this one is only for lifeboats).
Mid-West Family Broadcasting, headed by Thomas Walker, has quietly stayed in the shadows, supporting the International Forgiveness Institute since 1990–for a generation. Readers, please note well that many philanthropists have a pattern of funding non-profit organizations for a few years and then moving on. This did not happen between Mid-West Family and IFI. In 1990, I received a letter (email was not “on a roll” then as it is now) from William Walker, Thomas’ father. He told me that years ago he received a doctoral degree from my own department at the university. He said he now would like to give back to the social sciences and that he had the resources to put the psychology of forgiveness on the map.
Up to that point, the science of forgiveness was in its infancy. The very first scientific article on person-to-person forgiving was published by our group in 1989. (There had been a handful of studies on apology up to that point, but no science published on the issue of forgiving between and among people). William had a plan to advance the thinking in this area. With his help, we developed the first psychological instrument to measure person-to-person forgiveness ever published. We devised strategies to map out the process of forgiveness and tested these. One example of the fruit of William Walker’s philanthropy is a study of helping people in residential drug rehabilitation to forgive and thus to become emotionally healthier.
Under the care of Thomas Walker, the IFI has quietly built the most comprehensive set of curricular materials for teaching forgiveness in the world. The forgiveness curriculum guides have made their way to schools on every continent now. We at the IFI are personally shepherding the growth of forgiveness education in Madison, Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s central-city, Belfast, Northern Ireland and Liberia, Africa. We are making inroads in other war-torn and contentious regions of the world. We are doing so because of Mid-West Family Broadcasting.
Mid-West Family Broadcasting runs the following stations in Madison, Wisconsin: WJJO | WMGN | WJQM | WWQM | WMLV | WHIT | WOZN. They are in four other midwest markets as well.
We take the time here to acknowledge the mercy of Mid-West Family Broadcasting and the Walker family. You are making the world a more merciful place, a more forgiving place, because of your mercy. Thank you.