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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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Sink or Swim? Swim no Matter What!

Sink or Swim? Swim no Matter What!

Sometimes life hands you so many lemons you run out of sugar to make lemonade. My sincere apologies to my readers for missing a week of my weekly newsletter. I recommit to publishing these articles weekly — no matter what!

So this article is about resolve: committing to what is most important to you; committing to your goals and dreams; resolve to keep going when the going gets tough; resolve to take big strides when you are able to and tiny steps when the going gets tough. This is about the story of the “Tortoise and the Hare”: steady persistence wins the race, yet what most people don’t talk about is that both the tortoise and the hare cross the finish line. Whether you are more like a tortoise or more like a hare, keep the finish line (your goal) clearly in mind.

Story: Live to Tell

My daughter developed a great deal of interest in the Holocaust as a young child. As a result I read with her and talked with her about many books on the subject. For younger children the book “The Number on my Grandfather’s Arm” by David Adler is an excellent and sensitive introduction to the topic.

One of the things that struck me is how these people, who survived incredible atrocities, could keep their will to live. I wonder if I would have been willing to live through that. For that matter, how can any prisoner of war, who is being tortured, survive without their spirit and will to live being broken? What makes the difference between those who survive and those who don’t?

Those who survived had an incredible will to live. After reading and hearing many books and stories by Holocaust survivors one of the patterns emerged for me, “Live to Tell”. Some of those who survived felt that no one would believe the atrocities unless enough of them survived to tell about it. Their mantra became, “Live to Tell” so justice would be brought and something like this would never be allowed to happen again. Elie Wiesel, a well known survivor and Nobel Prize winner says, “…to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all…”.

Jakow Trachtenberg, an engineer and also a Holocaust survivor, realized that if he wanted to stay alive, he had to take his mind off the hopeless conditions around him. He decided to focus on developing methods to quickly perform multiplication and division in his head. After his survival he formed the Mathematical Institute in Switzerland.

Many of the survivors had an indestructible will to live. That will went beyond their own life and included a greater good: whether to insure that the atrocities were documented and analyzed so something like this could be prevented in the future, or someone creating a system to help students struggling with math learn a simple system to help them excel.

Call to Action and Why This Matters:

How do you tap into your indestructible will?
Start by asking: What are you good at? Which of your gifts, talents, or expertise do you love to share? How can that make a difference in someone’s life?

In my blog post (TipsToaMoreFulfillingLife) on April 15, 2011 I wrote about how my friend Fran learned to swim. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I helped her overcome her fear of the water and helped her be a swimmer for life.

Just like teaching swimming, I love to help others overcome the obstacles in their life and see them blossom into the people they want to become. That’s why I’m a coach. That’s why I write these articles. That’s what keeps me going when I get handed more lemons than I know what to do with.

You, too, can learn to access this core of who you are and what makes you great, or what keeps you going when you feel like giving up. There are people counting on you for something that only you can give. You are unique and special, whether you give courage by the trials you have overcome or because you have a special gift to share. The world needs what you have to give. There is no one else quite like you, with your unique gifts, experiences and perspectives. YOU MATTER!

Taking it Farther:

In the chapter on “Intention” Barbara Stanny writes in her book “Secrets of Six-Figure Women” that these successful women had various reasons for wanting to be successful but they also had an intention of making money. Yet the intention wasn’t enough. They also had to learn why they didn’t want to make money; what was holding them back.

1. Figure out what you want. Strip away what you think other people want for you. Strip away what you think you should want. Make sure what you think you want is really what YOU want.
2. Figure out why you don’t want what you say you want. What stops you? Why do you waver? Who sabotages your success? Who or what do you blame for your lack of success?
3. If you’re not making the progress you want on your own, come coach with me. Some things in life are not meant to be done alone. Success requires a team. As one of my mentors says, “Success is a team sport”.

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.

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