Today I am grateful for forgiveness and the power that forgiveness has to make my life more peaceful and joyous.
A friend and I have been discussing the concept of forgiveness this week and how it can improve our lives. Maria Shriver describes forgiveness as letting go of resentment, and giving up feeling harmed or damaged. That doesn’t mean the harm or damage or hurt didn’t happen. It means that you are not going to keep revisiting it over and over again and allowing what has happened in the past to effect the present.
Resentment and feeling harmed can lead to anger and hatred. These are also some of the most toxic emotions that we can have. Feelings of rage and hatred that build up in the mind, body and soul can affect the body’s organs and natural processes and can breed even more negative emotions.Some of the short and long-term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include:
• digestion problems, such as abdominal pain
• increased anxiety
• high blood pressure
• skin problems, such as eczema
• heart attack
Holding on to anger has been described in Eastern Medicine as poisonous to ourselves.
To understand forgiveness I believe we need to practice forgiving ourselves and we need to have an understanding that we all make mistakes. On a purely practical level, for example, ergonomists recognise that we need to acknowledge human error when we are designing systems of work and building design. It is better to plan for accidents and put processes into place that reduce the likelihood that accidents cause harm than to expect no accidents at all. This practical example illustrates that as humans we all make mistakes. No one is immune to making an error of judgement and this is why forgiveness is relevant to all of us.
I made a mistake nearly three years ago when I had a cycling accident.( You can read about it here). I made an error of judgement on that day. No one else was involved in my accident, it was only me. There were many factors that could have caused the outcome of me not negotiating a corner and crashing into a barrier. These could include – I was not experienced enough to be riding on that hill on that day, I had cooled down when I stopped and had a coffee and was therefore not warm enough to hold the brakes firmly enough to wash off my speed on a very steep descent, I had the wrong brakes on my bike, I was given the opportunity to get in the vehicle that was supporting our ride – I didn’t because I thought I could manage the descent, I overtook a rider on the descent which meant my speed picked up too much and I was unable to slow done enough to negotiate the corner. These are all reasons why I could have crashed. These are all examples of me being fallible. Every now and again I look back and wonder how it would have been if that day had not happened. I then have to pull myself up and remind myself that it is important to be forgiving of myself and understand that it was an accident. I made some bad decisions but I am fallible because I am human. It has been important for me to forgive myself for making a mistake.
We all make mistakes so it is important we do not harbour anger at ourselves and practice forgiveness towards ourselves.
In the search for a more peaceful and joyous life many people suggest it is also helpful to extend forgiveness to others.
Petrea King explains the process:
We all have habitual re-actions. Every reaction we experience can be an opportunity for us to choose a more appropriate response. We are rarely upset for the reasons we think. If we haven’t healed the emotional wounds of our history, we are likely to re-act, to act again, from our judgements. If we want peace to be our experience, then we need to bring our awareness to our re-actions and, in so doing, we have the opportunity to choose a more appropriate response, we exert response-ability. If we have relinquished our judgements through compassionate understanding and forgiveness, the same situation can elicit a response from us rather than an habitual re-action. Our beliefs protect our wounded feelings and attempt to justify their existence. These beliefs, and the judgements that flow from them, are second nature to us. Our unresolved feelings, resulting from emotional wounds, become chemically and electrically activated in our brain and body when we experience reactions to present time events. We can choose to see these reactions as an opportunity to heal. As we bring the light of our compassion and understanding to these feelings and allow their expression in healthy ways, we release ourselves from our re-actions. Through awareness we find forgiveness and this leads to an ability to see that nothing wrong is happening – we can then choose to bring love to the situation rather than fear. If we want peace more than anything, it is helpful to stop labeling things as good or bad , right or wrong. This removes the judgement against ourselves, other people, events or situations. We grow when we can witness these patterns from the past and choose to respond appropriately rather than react unconsciously. The essence of forgiveness is to let go of the pain of our resistance to what is.
This article is also helpful to explain the process:
If you are interested in reading more about forgiveness and the possibility that forgiveness can lead to a more peaceful and joyous life I suggest two books:
Love is Letting Go of Fear by Gerald G Jampolsky
Your Life Matters by Petrea King
None of us know what another person is going through. None of us really know why another person makes a particular decision. Forgiveness and compassion for ourselves and others is helpful on the journey towards a joyful life.
Until next time