Your Forgiveness Story
I’d like to share something which greatly helped me on a day where the struggle to forgive was especially difficult.
To distract myself from my pain, I watched the Netflix show Voices of Fire. It’s a documentary about creating a culturally/racially/ethnically inclusive gospel choir.
I watched a man sing Donnie McClurkin’s “Stand” (see lyrics and song link below) and this helped me find the strength to continue my struggle against resentment.
Although I have been familiar with Gospel music, as a Caucasian/agnostic, I hadn’t felt it’s relevance. It turns out this was a missing piece to help fill my emotional skills gap in my pursuit of forgiveness.
When I begin to lose my grip on forgiveness, I can now listen to the song and it helps me maintain my strength in my struggle to forgive and seek justice. I hope it may be of help to others.
Thank you to Dr. Enright and the IFI for your work and your generosity toward us imperfect humans.
Editor’s Note: Ann lives on a farm outside Madison, Wisconsin USA. She spends her time “trying to find creative solutions to being a better version of my fallible self. My goal each week is to be the person you had fun with in the grocery store check-out line or who invited you to dance in a crosswalk.”
- Listen to the original rendition of Donnie McClurkin’s inspirational song “Stand”
- Here are the lyrics to “Stand”:
What do you do
when you’ve done all you can
And it seems like it’s never enough?
And what do you say
when your friends turn away,
and you’re all alone?
Tell me, what do you give
When you’ve given your all,
and it seems like
you can’t make it through?
Well you just stand
when there’s nothing left to do
you just stand
Watch the lord see you through
Yes after you done all you can,
You just stand
how do you handle the guilt of your past?
Tell me, how do you deal with the shame?
And how can you smile
while your heart has been broken
and filled with pain?
Tell me what do you give
when you’ve given your all
Seems like you can’t make it through?
Child you just stand,
when there’s nothing left to do
You just stand
Watch the Lord see you through
Yes, after you’ve done all you can
You just stand.
Stand and be sure
Be not entangled in that bondage again
You just stand, and endure.
God has a purpose.
Yes, God has a plan.
Tell me what do you do
when you’ve done all you can
And it seems like you can’t make it through
Child you just stand
You just stand
Stand ( 2x’s)
Don’t you dare give up (You Just)
Through the storm (Stand), Stand through the rain (Stand)
Through the hurt (Stand), jet through the pain (You just)
Don’t you bow (stand), and don’t bend (Stand)
Don’t give up (Stand) , no, don’t give in (You just)
Hold on, (Stand) just be strong (Stand)
God will step in (Stand), and it won’t be long (You just)
After you done all you can (After you done all you can)
After you done all you can (After you done all you can
After you gone through the hurt (After you done all you can)
After you gone through the pain (After you done all you can)
After you gone through the storm (After you done all you can)
After you gone through the rain (After you done all you can)
Prayed and cried (2x’s) (After you done all you can)
Prayed and you’ve cry(After you done all you can)
Prayed and cry
After you done all you can you just stand
Something was done to you, your family or friends. The experience is so serious that the pain associated with it does not seem to end. Do you hope that the culprit will be punished and wish him a dark future? You cannot forgive him for the deed, then you suffer too much for it? But is this attitude beneficial for you and your mental health?
“Forgive me!” Is a sentence that many people find difficult to say. The person forgives you and you experience grace? Okay, then you’ll feel better. But what does it actually mean to forgive? And isn’t an excuse basically the same? Doesn’t there have to be an apology first so that it can be given? Everyone can apologize if they wish. You want to get rid of the accusation of guilt. However, those who apologize must wait if the request will be accepted. This means that the apology will not take effect until it is accepted. For this reason, the formulations are usually designed in such a way that they also require an answer. “I’m sorry. Do you accept my apology?” would be a possible variant.
Forgiveness is possible without an excuse
However, forgiveness does not depend on the offender who asks for relief. Forgiveness is a mental inner process that is decided by the person concerned. Forgiving someone does not have to be said. This way you can forgive someone without the perpetrator even knowing. The forgiveness is essentially a decision by the victim to whom the damage has been done. In general, forgiveness seems to symbolize greater acceptance of debt relief. Because forgiveness is preceded by the fact that the person concerned has worked intensively with this intention. And this form of forgiveness can also be done without prior excuse. However, excuses are also accepted to ensure peace. This is particularly the case with family matters. Apologies are accepted, although you don’t really want to accept this decision. In this case, family problems have a higher priority. Even in relationships, apologies are sometimes accepted half-heartedly. Maintaining the partnership is then more important.
But sometimes it seems impossible to forgive the guilty. Why is that? The pain that the person has experienced wants to be compensated. So the culprit should suffer just like you. He should live with his guilty conscience and suffer from it. The guilty person’s wish to be relieved of this burden is rejected. So it’s also a form of punishment that goes with it.
Unforgivability and the mental consequences
Many people believe that it is right not to forgive. In a sense, it’s also a form of vigilante justice. But many don’t know what it means to hold on to anger, resentment and hatred. You will never be able to get rid of it if you cannot forgive. Even years after the event, you still carry these negative vibrations with you. Some people harden mentally. You lose vitality and lightness. If you don’t forgive, you end up hurting yourself.
Extreme cases of revenge and forgiveness
In extreme cases, it is not enough to decide never to forgive the culprit. The emotional injury and pain is so great that feelings of revenge arise. And in some cases the revenge is actually implemented. Apparently one believes that with this act one experiences a relief of the pain.
The Bachmeier case is an example of this. In 1981 Marianne Bachmeier shoots the alleged murderer of her seven-year-old daughter Anna in the courtroom. The case went down in history as a prime example of vigilante justice. We can now ask ourselves whether Ms. Bachmeier has become happy. Did the pain of losing her daughter disappear after she shot the perpetrator? We’ll leave the answer open. The fact is that Marianne Bachmeier died of cancer in 1996.
Dianne B. Collard
The opposite example is Dianne B. Collard, whose son was shot in 1992. The American woman renounced revenge and forgave the murderer. In an interview, she announced that forgiveness is an inner healing for her. She got rid of the bitterness and could finally mourn her son. She explained that forgiveness is not a feeling for her, but a decision of the will. She deliberately chose to suppress resentment and bitterness. She has probably found that this approach is helpful for her future quality of life. Faith helped her choose forgiveness and revenge.
Both examples are very interesting and probably anyone with children can understand the strength of such decisions.
Forgiveness does not erase the deed
Many people believe that forgiveness is viewed as reversed or relativized. But that’s not what forgiveness is about. It is not possible to deny something that has taken place. Forgiveness means that you agree to remove your resentment, hatred, or anger. This can sometimes lead to misunderstandings when a former friend is forgiven. He believes that with this forgiveness the friendly level is active again. However, this is not always the case and sometimes not possible. If a breach of trust triggers a forgiven argument, a new friendship (reconciliation) can be difficult.
Forgiveness does not automatically create trust. And the question arises whether this is still desirable. Because those who have had such experiences can banish the perpetrator from their own lives. Because the fear that such a scenario will repeat itself is predominant.
Dianne B. Collard also forgave the perpetrator, but will probably never be able to make friends with him. The severity of the emotional injury is too great to be overcome. Dianne B. Collard also believes that the punishment the perpetrator has to serve in prison is correct. Because the act of forgiveness is a mental process and does not mean that the act is declared null and void.
Forgiving other people can be a mental process that is not necessarily easy. But forgiving yourself is the master class in forgiveness. Remorse and guilt that gnaw at you prevent you from forgiving yourself. You are disappointed in yourself, so you punish yourself with it. This phenomenon occurs particularly often when a loved one has died. Immediately you ask yourself what you could have done differently to avoid the death. Even if your reasoning seems so absurd, you take on a form of guilt. It seems mentally better to endure declaring a guilty person than accepting an inevitable fate. If no one else is found, you look for the blame on yourself. It is extremely important to forgive yourself. You admit that you are a person who makes mistakes.
Persistent guilt doesn’t change the situation. For you, this means that you carry a constant burden around me. At the same time, you always face this negative vibration of your own guilt. Compassion for yourself is then practically eliminated. At such a stage, you should make sure that the condition does not degenerate into self-loathing. However, if you regret what happened and plan to do something different in the future, you are free internally. This sets you in motion bitterness, inner hardness and a self-directed attitude.
About the Author:
The author El Maya is a spiritual medium, clairvoyant and karma expert. She has published several books about soul, life plan, karma and life after death. This guide literature contains strategies to reduce your karma and find the soul center. Learn more at her website: Hellseher – Wahrsager und Karma Experten @Knowing Portal.
I went to the Police Academy four months after my open-heart surgery, which I was lucky to survive.
I was hired as a Police Recruit, mere months after my lifesaving open-heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota (I was born with the same condition as Jimmy Kimmel’s son, Tetralogy of Fallot with Pulmonary Atresia on 06, 10, 1994). I have had five open heart surgeries throughout my life. I passed the Minneapolis mandated medical evaluation after conferring with their appointed pre-employment Doctor’s at great length. I wanted to be an “open book” with my command staff and willingly involved my world-renowned Mayo Clinic Cardiologist, in early discussions and phone calls. Despite my disability, I was qualified. I had a Bachelor’s degree, prior experience as a Reserve Officer.
Unfortunately, as Police Academy progressed some of my Police Instructors didn’t understand why I was showing signs of extreme fatigue. I thought it was elementary that recent open-heart surgery produces fatigue. Apparently, what I deemed to be an elementary assumption was wrong. One of my instructors called me “odd” after I tried to discuss my disability with him and after I explained that I had almost died from my recent health complications. He also told me that he didn’t like the way I was sitting during this conversation. After I talked to him again about my disability, he said I was “insubordinate”. I said “I was just trying to open up to you” and left it at that.
I was confused why some of my instructors were initially so harsh to me. I was often treated harsher than my completely healthy classmates. I found later in my personnel file that an Instructor thought that both my Doctor and myself were willfully withholding my medical information. Somehow, he envisioned that my Mayo Clinic Cardiologist was purposefully being deceitful, despite numerous healthcare laws and my rapidly changing medical health. More troubling was that he also stated in writing that for the first nine weeks of Police Academy he and some of his staff thought I was “indolent”. For nine weeks I was treated as someone who has an “attitude problem” would be in a militaristic setting. Grown men with badges, twice my age, assumed the worst in me and showed their worst to me. For nine weeks I was “guilty” of having a disability. For nine weeks I was punished for being sick.
After they realized their nine-week long misjudgment, I was sidelined from most activities. I nonetheless cheered my classmates on as they progressed. Not surprisingly, I was discharged a few weeks later for my health and bid my classmates a tearful farewell. I even caught some of my Instructors crying when they heard that I was leaving (the majority were extremely kind).
It doesn’t bother me that it didn’t work out due to my health, I am incredibly grateful that I am no longer there. I believe I was their first (or at least one of their first) openly disabled recruits at this Police Academy and it certainty showed. I hope that in the future there might be another young and openly disabled Police Recruit in their Academy (it’s a voice that is too often silenced or marginalized).
I believe that we need not fear our differences, but only the voice that says our differences are to be feared. We must strive to make our hearts large enough to listen without fear and accept without prejudice. A robust and healthy heart, filled with love, compassion, light and intelligence will not be scared of anything different. Therefore, every heartbeat must be towards expansion, every pulse towards compassion, otherwise we fall woefully short of what the human heart is capable of. Once we escape the illusionary walls of fear that separate our hearts from others, a torrent of love will follow.
Forgiveness has freed my heart and allowed me to move on from this ordeal (it has healed my heart). I realize that it was really a blessing in disguise that I am no longer there. Someone with my education and background would have not been happy in such an unsupportive environment. Through forgiveness I have seen that what I once thought was a curse to be an incredible blessing. I am no longer scared of “missteps” and I have found forgiveness for myself and others to be liberating.
By: Surjit Singh Flora
To enjoy life peacefully, a very important aspect is to learn to forgive.
Forgiveness is to let go that which no longer serves us, freeing us to heal and move forward with ease and lightness. But for many of us, forgiving is a very hard thing to do.
The simplest things in life are often the best gifts. But they may also not be that simple.
The best gift people can give to each other are the gifts of forgiveness, peace, love, respect, and a smile, as we forget all the wrongs, we believe have been done to us.
Have we thought about giving ourselves the gift of forgiveness this year?
The way I learnt it was back when we came to Canada in 1989. At the time I didn’t speak or understand any English and was living at my aunt’s house with her family and my family being together. It started small, but over time it had an insidious effect. My aunt started teasing us, which slowly turned to insult, then bullying behaviour: we are useless here, we will be struggling, doing factory labour work… and on, and on. It started as just a joke but later turned into real verbal bullying.
At first, I thought it was nothing serious. No big deal. I thought she might realize and will change one day.
But slowly I started feeling depressed and began to brood about it. That eventually turned to actual, physical headaches every day. I felt like as if I was in hell. My mother was trying to help me, but as the bullying was not stopping, we decided that the only solution was to move to another place. And we did finally move out and get our own apartment — and then I had no more problems with bullying. But I also never showed my face to my aunt for a good five years after that. So much so that she noticed and began to complain to my mom and elder sisters.
One day we met at a family event, and she demonstrated to me, “What have I done wrong?” I explained to her, “Aunty, I love you and will always have respect for you and your opinions. But in this case, I am finding it very hard to dismiss the nasty comments you made about me and my family. I found I could not let such remarks go. They were hurtful, cruel… and though you aimed them to me and my family, I was the one you hurt. I hope that was unintentional.” She realized her part and felt bad and said, “Sorry!” Anyways, it will remain as an awful memory.
The road to forgiveness, it was hard. But I learnt to forgive her, with patience. It took time. When I thought of her, the urge to avoid her — worse, to get back at her, and treat her in kind — was strong. But I worked hard to get it off my chest and forgive her, and then I felt much better. True, I may never be able to forget what she did to me. But when I eventually learnt to forgive, it released the burden, and the floodgates of my negative emotions!
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or minimizing the pain we feel, nor is it about excusing others. Forgiveness means making a conscious and deliberate decision to let go of our feelings of resentment or revenge, regardless of whether the person who has upset us deserves it.
So, are you ready to be free and ready to move ahead into the future?
We have to let go of our mistakes and forgive ourselves and forgive others just as God forgives us. Completely and with no reservations!
Have a wonderful life and peace!
Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer based in Brampton, Ontario, Canada.
Editor’s Note: This is the true and very personal story of a woman who grew up amidst entrenched hatred and violence so common-place that it could have easily led her to a lifetime of cynicism, mistrust and skepticism. Instead, she chose to adopt forgiveness and peace-work as her way of life. This is her story.
Growing up in one of the most violent regions in the world has taught me that anything I care about can be taken from me at any second. As a child, I recall witnessing horrifically violent images constantly appearing on the television screen, and I still have memories of being confined in a bomb shelter during the 1991 Gulf War.
Somehow because we were children, my peers and I accepted this routine –the common ritual of periodically fitting gas masks on our heads in case a chemical attack should occur— as “normal.” We internalized the fact that any time we rode the bus there might be a terrorist attack against it (and many times there was), and we would be left to deal with the turmoil which was the reality into which we were born. We grew up with friends whose family members were brutally murdered in the middle of the street and who lost body parts or suffered horrific burns in terrorist attacks. Under these conditions, it was, and is, easy to hate and stereotype these “terrorists,” to wish them harm and never to consider what their lives are really like and what kinds of trauma they too have suffered.
But who are these “terrorists”? Do they have a name? A family? A dream for a safe home to return to? Is our pain from their attacks any greater or lesser than their pain? Although comparing pain is a slippery slope, one cannot help but wonder if we would all become “terrorists” if we were living under the same circumstances. As it is simply expressed in the Native American proverb: “Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked in his moccasins.”
We can easily dwell on our personal traumas and forget that violence and loss are universal conditions that people experience every minute all over the world. Perhaps an even greater challenge is to remember which roles each one of us passively plays in the construction of violence and abuse, such as through discrimination, consumption, and unfair trade. We fight and compete for resources, land, jobs, and recognition. The battle is real, and we may even have evidence to justify it to a certain degree, but what does it do to our bodies, our health, and to our past, present and future relationships?
What I have learned from my personal experience and relationships with those families who have lost loved ones is that forgiveness is a practice. In order to move through the trauma of my early years as an Israeli, I chose to adopt forgiveness and peace-work as a way of life. I understand how extremely short and fragile our lives are, and how crucial it is to place harmony with our environment as a priority. I have determined that spending our time in bitter punishment instead of restoring balance doesn’t help anyone.
Forgiveness is not easy, but when done authentically and with a supportive group of professionals, it is a sustainable alternative to entrenched hatred and violence. A successful practice in forgiveness can become a building block in the joyful and meaningful lives we are all seeking to build. Practicing forgiveness has been restoring lives in many conflict stricken areas around the world such as Northern Ireland and South Africa.
Forgiveness is a sustainable alternative to entrenched hatred and violence.
How can we balance our needs to survive in our competitive modern world with the need to be compassionate and forgiving? For me, this juggling act of balancing the fragile scales of justice and mercy became easier once I uncomfortably realized that the capacity to inflict harm dwells in all human beings and that I myself cause harm unintentionally pretty much every single day. This understanding created an overwhelming emotion which left me feeling stuck in some surreal Stanford experiment. But I do believe we have a choice in transcending these animalistic tendencies by daring to embrace forgiveness and compassion, for the lives of all those involved in the conflicts. This path of action is not a quick fix, but nevertheless, it is possible.
As my colleague Siobhan Chandler, Ph.D., explains, sometimes the first step in understanding how to move forward in a situation where there are multiple competing interests is to be intentional in asking for an outcome that is for the highest good of everyone involved. I believe that when we compassionately and respectfully consider the needs of others, we open a new gate of communication which re-humanizes our enemies and inches us towards a solution where it is possible that everyone’s needs are met.
My exposure to violence and conflict have opened me to participating in the growing forgiveness movement. More and more groups around the world have formed councils, restorative justice programs and healing circles, and have learned to overcome the trauma of human violence, to sit together, to talk, to listen, to forgive and to co-exist peacefully. These are people who have lost children to murder; who have lost their homes to bombing; who were betrayed and were left penniless. They have still managed to overcome the loss because they have realized that the enemy has a name, and a face, and a family and a story, just like we all do.
When the wounds of human violence are open and bleeding, delicate care and emotional sensitivity is required. The healing process often requires material and verbal reconciliation and restoration, but the foundational step is to recognize that a lack of forgiveness or justification of anger and revenge only destroys us, not our “enemy,” and makes us more physically sick, emotionally lonely and socially isolated. What if this form of “justice” doesn’t work, since whether it is us, or someone else committing a crime, when we place the stereotypical innocent victims against heartless criminals, both sides lose their humanity? As author David Wong said: “But remember, there are two ways to dehumanize someone: by dismissing them, and by idolizing them.”
I believe that deep down we all want to heal from the pains of losing that which we care about, to make sense of the losses we all experience in this hurting world. I wonder if at the heart of healing and forgiveness is the recognition that we all share excruciating moments (whether we admit them or not) of losing the irreplaceable – loved ones, romanticized dreams or unique possessions which we have cherished so deeply. Perhaps through this fundamental human recognition, we can decide to start healing by taking a small step and make forgiveness the topic of discussion over our next meal with those dear to our hearts.