To grow in any virtue is similar to building muscle in the gym through persistent hard work. We surely do not want to overdo anything, including the pursuit of fitness. Yet, we must avoid underdoing it, too, if we are to continue to grow. It is the same with forgiveness. We need to be persistently developing our forgiveness muscles as we become forgivingly fit. This opportunity is now laid out before you. What will you choose? Will you choose a life of diversion, comfort, and pleasure, or the more exciting life of risking love, challenging yourself to forgive, and helping others in their forgiveness fitness?
Enright, Robert D. (2012-07-05). The Forgiving Life (APA Lifetools) (Kindle Locations 5359-5360). American Psychological Association. Kindle Edition.
Sometimes when we are caught up in grief and anger, it seems like this is all there will ever be now in our life. Permanent tears. Permanent anger.
Today it may seem like these will never end…..but they will.
Take a lesson from your own past. The pains were temporary.
They are temporary even now.
Forgiveness helps them to be temporary.
Here is a challenge to anyone reading this: Do you have the courage to live your life in such a way that you deliberately pattern your actions each day to be a conduit of good for others? If you are steeped in bitterness and resentment, it is difficult to live for others because of the pain within. Try to forgive those who seem to be holding you back. They are not really holding you back because at any given moment, it is your choice whether or not to become a forgiving person. As you commit to becoming a forgiving person, your life takes on such amazing meaning. Only those who have tried what I am describing here will understand the importance of this post.
First, what is a “forgiveness landscape?” This is an expression first used in my book, The Forgiving Life, to refer to all of the people who ever have been seriously unjust to you. When people first construct their forgiveness landscape, they often are surprised at: a) how many people are on the list and b) the depth of the anger left over, even from decades ago.
When we are treated deeply unfairly by others, the anger is slow to leave. If we push that anger aside, simply thinking we have “moved on” or “forgotten all about it,” sometimes this is not the case. The anger can be in hiding, deep within the heart, and the only way to get rid of it is surgery of the heart—forgiveness.
Would you like to examine your own forgiveness landscape to see how many people in your life are still in need of your forgiveness? You might want to write down your answers to the following questions.
First set of questions: Think back to your childhood. Is there anyone who was very unfair to you and if so, what is your anger level now on a 1-to-5 scale, with 1 signifying no anger left over and a 5 signifying lots of anger when you reflect on this person and the actions toward you.
More specifically from your childhood, are there any incidents from your father that still make you angry? from your mother? a sibling?
What about from peers or teachers, is your anger still high when you recall the incidents?
Second set of questions: Let us now focus on your adolescence. Follow the pattern from the first set of questions. Then let us add any coaches, employers or fellow employees, and romantic partners to the list. Are there people who still make you angry in the 4 or 5 range of our scale?
Third set of questions: Who in your adult life has made you significantly angry, in the 4 to 5 range of anger? We can add partner, any children, relatives, friends, and neighbors to the list.
Now please rank order all of the people from those who least offended you to those who most offended you. Now look at that list to see your forgiveness landscape. There is your work, right there in the list. I recommend starting with people lower on the list. Forgive them first because they in all likelihood are the easiest to forgive because the anger is less. As you work up the list, you will gain in your expertise to forgive, which is good preparation for forgiving those on the top of the list—those who are the most challenging for you.
You can find more on this way of forgiving in the book, The Forgiving Life, which walks you systematically through this exercise. Enjoy the challenge. Enjoy the journey of forgiveness, which can set you free in so many ways.
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.