Our Forgiveness Blog
Imagine for a moment that a homeless person knocks on your door and wants to talk with you. Are you: afraid or somewhat apprehensive or welcoming? A show of hand from all of you who admitted fear or apprehension.
Do you think that homeless people: are completely unconcerned about their appearance or rather neutral about it or are concerned about their public appearance?
We all have a perception of the entire group known as “the homeless.” I am challenging your perceptions today because forgiveness is about challenging perceptions, specifically toward people whose actions we resent.
Let me tell you first about a homeless friend and then we will turn to forgiveness. My homeless friend, a woman in her 30’s, is gentle and kind. “Hi, Hon,” is her typical greeting to her friends. I picked her up recently to bring her to the Salvation Army shelter. She had two bags with her….which constituted most of her worldly possessions.
“How is it going for you today?” I asked with worry.
With a deep and smiling sincerity she responded, “It is going great,” and she meant it. She will have a place to sleep tonight. She will be in drug treatment soon. It is going great.
Here is the rest of the story. Her mother was a serious heroine addict. The police were called too often for conduct that was very disorderly. Dad? He was not in the picture. Her sibling committed suicide and so she is now isolated from family. Yet, she is a person crying out for love and finding it in only a very few who see her for whom she is—an upbeat person with a very soft heart.
You see, too many look at her and see the two bags that constitute her worldly possessions. They see rough edges. They see someone who might ask something of them, and the needs are great for the homeless. They see inconvenience, they see a loser. My friend is no loser. She is someone who is crying out for love, receiving little, and so she drowns her sorrows in drugs and drink. Each substance that she throws into her body is a teardrop of pain, in the hope that the pain will end. The tragic irony is that each ingestion of drugs or drink intensifies the pain until she is powerless over these substances. And all the while all she asks is to be loved.
The next time you see a homeless person on the street, please remember my friend (“Hi, Hon.”)
Now we turn to you, the reader. What are your preconceived perceptions toward one person—-just one for now—-who has hurt you, who has been unfair, perhaps even cruel? Can you see beyond the fog of resentment to the wounds that he or she carries, perhaps trying to mask those wounds, as my homeless friend does? Her method is drugs and drink. The method by the one who hurt you might be displaced words or actions. He or she is trying to rid the self of wounds and in turn is wounding you. Was he or she hurt, wounded by others? Is there a “Hi, Hon” within that person waiting to come out? Is there a cry for love, sadly coming out wrongly?
The next time you see or think about this person, please remember my friend and her cry for love and ask yourself: Is the one who wounded me now crying out for love? What little gesture can I make: a smile, a prayer for him or her if your worldview includes this, a kind word?
My homeless friend is more than those two tattered bags by her side. The one who wounded you is more than his or her actions and words against you.
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.
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.
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.
Christmas, Hanukkah, Christian and Islamic New Years
Merry Christmas, Eight nights of joy, wishing you a year full of goodness
Peace, Shalom, As-Salamu Alaykum
Tis the season for family and joy……and some heartache. November, December and part of January are accompanied by celebrations in which a smile is worn on the face and an ache silently and privately is carried within the heart. For many, wherever there is family there is a mixture of joy and sadness on special occasions.
We are here at the International Forgiveness Institute, and at theinstitution of our first blog post, to let you know that there is a cause for great hope when the heart is aching. Forgiveness, of course, is no cure- all, but it is better in some ways than the heartburn medicine or headache remedies that are downed like water and food during the holiday season. Perhaps this is the year that you will take the following resolution seriously: I pledge to myself and to others on this site that I will take the first step to mend one broken relationship in my family or circle of friends. I will do my part to mend the broken heart of one member of my group.
How do you do that?
First, we recommend that you see your part in that one person’s broken heart. Have you contributed to his or her wounds? If so, make that resolution to go to the other with a warm heart and offer an apology for….well….whatever it is that you said or did. We recommend that you approach this courageous task with deep and gentle humility. After all, this is a holiday season when nerves are a bit more on edge, fatigue comes washing in upon us more readily, and our patience is thinner despite the warm words said and received. Therefore, expect some surprise from the other person. He or she may not be ready to receive your gift of apology. If this is the case, please try to bear their surprise, their ambivalence, their outright ignoring with a gentle strength. Your bearing up under the other person’s lack of readiness is yet another gift you can give this year—-not only to him or her but to others as you do not let your disappointment come rolling out of you to them. Rest in the knowledge that you have done a courageous, loving thing—-to bring peace.
Second, we recommend that you start one small process of forgiving one person in your close circle. Chose a person who has hurt you and choose to give him or her one gift this year—the gift of mercy wrapped up as forgiveness. Try to see him or her in a true context, as a person, someone who is unique, special, and irreplaceable. Someone who, like you, may be wounded inside. Someone who, like you, needs love in the heart. Be a love giver now, even if it is a struggle, even if you are apprehensive. Forgiveness quietly reaches out in this kind of ambivalence because it is strong. The love of forgiveness is stronger than any injustice that anyone has ever given to you. You might find that as you pledge to heal another person, the gift waiting for you is your own emotional healing as well.
It is time to love. It is time to love through forgiveness. Take the first step and let us know how it is going or how it went for you. We are here to listen and to help.
Peace, Shalom, As-Salamu Alaykum