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How and Why to Forgive

How and Why to Forgive

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

Forgiveness is something you can do whether the person you forgive is alive or not. Forgiveness is more about healing your heart than it is about the other person. And why should you forgive those who have harmed you? As Ann Landers often said, “hate is like an acid. It damages the vessel in which it is stored.” Below is a powerful story of forgiveness.

There are many stories of World War II Holocaust survivors who have been able to forgive their captors and tormentors. Here is one of those stories. It is the story of Corrie Ten Boom. Her family hid their Jewish neighbors in their home, were caught and sent to a concentration camp. She was the only survivor. After the war she traveled throughout Germany, giving talks on forgiveness. On one of those talks she came face-to-face with one of her cruel prison guards.

“I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.“

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”.

 

Steps to Forgiveness

  1. Realize that the hatred you feel harms you and not your enemy. Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.
  2. Stop being the victim. The best revenge is to live a successful and happy life. Surviving the harm caused by another person has made you stronger.
  3. Make a list of the strengths you have gained from the negative experience.
  4. Think about the kind and selfless people who have helped you in your time of need and what example they set for you.
  5. Give yourself time to heal. Nurture yourself.
  6. Writing down your negative experience may help – get it out of your head and onto paper.
  7. Stop telling your negative story. Negativity is depressing.
  8. Wish your enemy well. This creates cognitive dissonance and eventually it can neutralize your feelings about the other person.

 

Additional Resource

For additional information on the forgiveness process and the benefits to the forgiver check out the book “Forgiveness is a Choice – A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope” by Robert Enright.

 

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Live a Little – Every Day

Live a Little – Every Day

You never know what life brings your way next. Enjoy it while you can. Live a little – EVERY day.

What Are You Waiting For?

My Mom was a young girl in Germany during World War II. Her family rented a small apartment right by a major target of frequent allied bombings. Day and night bombings. After coming out of the bomb shelter you never knew who of your friends and family were still alive and whose home and possessions survived the bombings. If there was a direct hit on a bomb shelter, chances were good that no one inside survived. And most important to continued survival, you immediately needed to know, who had a well with a hand pump that still pumped water out of the ground.

At some point, children in these highly targeted areas were sent into the countryside to live in youth hostels with teachers and chaperones. Conditions and food were meager and my mother, who was eleven years old at the time, was separated from her family. At one point she received a package from her mother, a special treat. In it was a piece of home-baked cake and an orange. Such luxury! How her mother was able to secure those items and get them shipped to her daughter – no one will ever know. My mother cherished those two items beyond measure. Despite being hungry all the time, she just couldn’t bring herself to eat them. Eventually the orange rotted and the bugs got the piece of cake. On top of it all, my mother got a thorough beating when her “wastefulness” was discovered. My mother is over 80 years old now and she still beats herself up over being such a stupid girl and wasting that food. She may never understand or be able to forgive herself.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

What is it that you have been saving or postponing for some future time that may never come?

• How about that special item of clothing that when you finally have a reason to wear it, it no longer fits.

• How about that special china or silverware that you accumulated after your wedding but only use a couple of times each year (or not at all).

• How about that special treat that you stuck in the back of your freezer and promptly forgot.

• How about money spent on a hobby that you will make time for “as soon as …”

• How about that special trip or dream vacation that you have been putting off for years.

• How about that exercise equipment that you will start to use “when ….”

We probably all have things that we are saving “for a special occasion”, things that we consider so special that they need to be saved.

During a recent power outage that lasted long enough for me to question whether anything in my freezer was still safe to eat I took stock. There was a bag of giant shrimp, probably bought as a special treat several years ago. There was that turkey that never made it onto our Thanksgiving dinner table. There was some steak, badly freezer burned and now melted, purchase date about 5 years ago.

After throwing it all out I vowed to buy special treats and eat them, not save them.

I also unpacked some fancy china that had been in a box much too long.

What will you stop saving and start using, eating, enjoying, make time for – starting NOW?

Taking it Farther:

1. Take a look around. Check your closets, your cabinets, your freezer, your basement or attic or any storage areas you may have.
2. What can you enjoy that you are currently saving?
3. Vow to enjoy life a little more each day.

• If you have a special treat in your freezer declare a special day in the next two weeks and eat it. Even better, invite friends or family to share it with you.
• If you have a special clothing item, plan an outing where you can wear it within the next month.
• If you have special china, declare one day each month (or each week) as special china day, make a meal and create a festive atmosphere to enjoy it.
• If you have a hobby you have been neglecting, set aside a few hours once each week to spend time with it.
• If you have exercise equipment you have been saving, decide if it is something you enjoy doing, would enjoy doing alone or with others. Then carve out time, create a group or get rid of it and get something that you would like instead.
• If you have always wanted to take a trip, start planning it. Research your destination, what you would want to do, how long you would want to be there, how much it will cost, who you would like to go with. Then create a savings account just for that purpose and plan how much money you will contribute to it on a regular basis until you have enough to go. If time is the issue, start to figure out what all needs to be done so you can be gone for that amount of time. Plan it as if you are really going to go — because you are!

Contact me:

If you would like to improve the quality of your life, figure out what you truly want in life, and help you clear the obstacles in your way, call me. For many people coaching can make the difference between what you have now and the life you could have. Live the life you choose. Achieve your goals. Be happy. Lead a balanced life. Call Edith at 847.913.3900 now.

Forgiveness – Freeing and Comforting

Forgiveness – Freeing and Comforting

I’ve heard a lot about the importance of forgiveness. You probably have too. But what I heard this past week about a benefit of forgiveness, I had never heard before. And it might change – well – everything.

Story: The effect of forgiving your bullies

A friend shared with me his experience of breaking through and being able to forgive some bullies who had given him a very hard time in middle school. He said he found the experience of forgiving them freeing and comforting. I said I could understand the freeing part, but could he tell me more about how it was comforting to him.

To me his insight was nothing short of remarkable. He said that after being able to truly forgive the cruelties he had endured, he felt that life has opened up to him in a whole new way. If he could forgive that, something he thought he might never be able to forgive, then what else could he do that he thought he couldn’t do. — This one experience may make a huge difference on how he lives the rest of his life and what he believes is possible for him.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

Think of every grudge and negativity you hold onto, every injury you haven’t been able to get over, every injustice you have endured, and situations that make you angry or exhausted – as pebbles in your backpack. And that backpack is on your back all the time. —- How fast can you run? How fast can you move forward? How agile are you? How well do you sleep at night? How quickly can you adjust to changes in your life’s direction – all while carrying that heavy backpack?

Isn’t it time to lighten your load – at least a little?

1. Free yourself from some of the pebbles in your backpack. There are probably some easy ones you can do on your own – starting now. Here is one suggestion on how to get started.

  • Choose a time and place where you can be uninterrupted and at peace: a beautiful setting in nature or a quiet nook in your home, or ….
  • If you like, add some pleasing and calming music.
  • Sit down with a pad of paper or just your thoughts. Imagine putting down the backpack next to you and opening it up.
  • Pick out a small pebble and examine it. Feel it and experience what old hurt it might represent. Writing may help this process.
  • Decide whether to hang onto it or to let it go.
  • If you decide that you are done with that old hurt, drop the pebble or throw it far away.
  • If you decide you are not done with it, that you might still need it to keep distance between you and the other person whom it involves, then put it back in your backpack. You can always take it out again later.
  • Look for other pebbles that you might be done with.
  • Rest and be grateful for your accomplishments. Every pebble you remove is one less you have to carry – for the rest of your life.
  • Each time you let go of a pebble, you strengthen your forgiveness muscle. It’ll allow you to do bigger pebbles and rocks over time. My friend had been working on his forgiveness muscle for a long time before he was able to let go and forgive those bullies, and he didn’t do it alone. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

2. Know that there is also another backpack of pebbles that you carry. It contains all the pebbles of the times when you have been hurtful to others. The process of acknowledging your wrongdoing and forgiving yourself is similar. In addition you may need to make amends, ask for forgiveness, and find a better way to interact with that person if they are still in your life. You may need to set boundaries. Whether or not the other person forgives you does not matter. All you can do is your part. They have to deal with their own backpacks.

3. Find comfort in your growth and your ability to do things – things, which you couldn’t do before. Know that each time you do something you couldn’t do before, it may carry over into other aspects of your life. Now other things may become easier as well. Think of it as training to lead the full life of your dreams.

Taking it Farther:

In my experience you will get to a point where the pebbles and rocks are just too big to handle without the expertise and tools of a trained person: a coach, a therapist, a counselor, an energy healer. I regularly work with people who help me empty my backpack. Whatever modalities you choose, find those that work for the problem you are trying to heal. Sometimes a combination works best. A hammer works best with a nail, a saw solves a different problem, but you cannot build a house with only one tool. – Now, forward this to your friends.

If you feel ready, share this tip with the people in your life with whom you are ready to throw away the pebbles between you.

Contact me:

Want help? I’m here for you. Tired of struggling? Get relief! Get coached to help you get unstuck and take your life to the next level – starting now! Ready to get started? Call Edith at 847.913.3900

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