The more William learned from the ancient wisdom in the Clues, the more he wanted to learn. But a couple of things kept bothering him. Remembering what he’d learned about honesty and suffering, William decided to tell the truth - to tell on himself. It was time to go toward some of his old hurt feelings and deal directly with his pain. e thought was a little scary, but he knew Charmaine would help him out.
William was walking back from the waterfall where he’d come to enjoy relaxing in the warm sun beside the pool. He loved the light mist spraying over him from the towering waterfall above. Charmaine called it a ‘soulful water massage’. William chuckled, remembering how they’d laughed and sung there only a few weeks before. He had learned so many important things since then. He felt happier than he could remember being in years. But right now he needed more input.
As he rounded a bend in the path, Charmaine was sitting under a maple tree, tossing popcorn to a local squirrel.
“Hey,” she said, patting the grass next to her. “I was just thinking about you.”
“You have an uncanny ability for sensing when I need to talk,” William exclaimed, sitting beside her. “I’m so glad you’re here,” he said. “I’ve been doing great lately but...”
“But...?” Charmaine waited.
“Well, I’ve been missing my family quite a bit. I know I need to contact them, but I’m struggling with how my father was so unavailable to me.”
“A problem with your dad.”
“Yes, and you know, I’m still mad at him for not being there when I needed him! Some days I blame my father for all my unhappiness. And it’s weird, but I have similar feelings when I think about my boss. He continually shows no interest in how I feel or how hard I work. e more I think about it, the madder I get! I just can’t forgive either of them for how badly they treated me.”
“Forgiveness is not about them,” Charmaine answered. “It’s about you.”
William grinned good-naturally. “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
“Understanding that forgiveness is a gift that transforms the giver is the next Clue.”
“Good - perfect timing! It’s time to deal with my anger toward my father, because it has a way of creeping into my everyday life. So, let’s hear it,” William said with an earnestness that made Charmaine smile.
Though forgiveness is the soul’s natural state of being, forgiving isn’t easy.”
“Swell,” said William, drooping a little.
“For the ego, that is, forgiveness is very difficult,” she said. “It’s so difficult because the ego thinks if it totally forgave somebody, it would have to give up part of who it is. It would have to give up its stories of the past, and let go of its evidence against the offender - all those righteous and apparently legitimate bad feelings that keep old wounds open and raw. To forgive, our ego would have to be willing to feel vulnerable and powerless, to let go of being in control.”
“That sounds a lot like my ego, all right,” William nodded.
“ That sounds like all our egos,” Charmaine said. “It would rather be right, cling to its evidence and justifiably hurt feelings than get what it wanted in the first place.”
“What did it want in the first place?”
“To be happy, be at peace - and be loved! But the anticipation of forgiving is like facing the firing squad, to our ego. Once again, the ego is innocent in its intention but totally mistaken in its conclusion.”
“Man, I can really see that in myself,” said William. “I can’t resist talking about what a jerk my boss is, instead of understanding the pressure he’s under, and forgiving him. But it’s hard to forgive him when I know he’ll do the same thing tomorrow. The same is true with my father. If I forgave him for ignoring me, and we reconnected, he might do the same thing again. I’d feel like a fool.”
“And you’re right to be skeptical about anything changing,” said Charmaine. “In fact, it’s quite likely to happen again.”
“So what’s the point?”
“Your ego thinks forgiveness means being weak, vulnerable and foolish. And sometimes our ego likes being a victim. It makes it easier to not forgive. It’s also hard to forgive if you can’t be certain the same thing won’t happen again.”
“Forgiving generally requires what is natural for our soul and difficult for our ego. It requires healthy boundaries and the clarity to take care of yourself, to make certain the same thing won’t happen again. You may have to let go of wanting something from the other person that they simply don’t have to give or that they refuse to give. You’ll find forgiveness much easier if you feel safe.”
“So what are healthy boundaries?” William asked with interest.
“A willingness to say no to things that don’t feel right, that drain your energy.”
“But I always feel someone will be upset with me if I say no.”
“Many of us have a very low tolerance for conflict and disharmony,” said Charmaine. “So we go along with what really doesn’t feel right for us, actually giving away our own personal power. Having healthy boundaries sometimes requires a willingness to allow certain people be unhappy or disappointed. We can’t give up who we are to please everyone around us.”
“Well, that makes sense, since you can never please everyone anyway,” William added.
“Let’s go up to the bridge,” Charmaine suggested, rising and brushing a couple of leaves off her skirt. “It’s such a soul-nurturing place. Places like that make it easier to do inner work.”
“It does feel like a pretty powerful place,” said William. “I’ve experienced some intense feelings there. Not to mention some really beautiful moments. Is it possible that a place can have its own energy?”
“It is indeed,” she answered, and they started up the trail toward the bridge. “There are some places that just seem to nurture your soul - make you feel strong, peaceful and safe - like the bridge and the waterfall. Other places can feel just the opposite. Pay attention to those feelings. They can be a useful guide.”
“Now, about your father. When you were a child the problem was that you didn’t get the love and timely support you richly deserved and needed from him.”
“That’s right, I didn’t!”
“It’s quite likely that given who he is at the core of his being and what his life was like at the time, he simply didn’t have it to give.”
“Hmm! at never occurred to me...”
“But now, you continue to want those things from him knowing he may not have them to give.”
“I see the problem.”
“It’s a problem only you can solve,” said Charmaine. “This is where understanding the gift of suffering and letting go of attachments is particularly helpful.”
Unsure where Charmaine was headed, William waited expectantly for her to continue.
“Consider grieving for what was not there, then letting go of continuing to want it. If you can do that, you’ll find it much easier to forgive your dad and free yourself from your bad feelings.”
“But I still want that feeling of being loved and supported,” William lamented.
“Of course you do. We all do. But the world was never wired up to give us all the love and support we need, not in the size package or at the time or in the way we want it. at’s why the fourth Clue, Loving Yourself is so important. Your soul is your access point to infinite love. When you learn to open your heart to yourself, you have access to exactly what your ego is looking for in the only place it knows to look - out in the world. Only when your ego lets go of demanding that it get what it wants from the world of physical reality, can it finally surrender and open to your soul’s infinite supply of love and support. Then you begin to bring that quality of love and support to your world rather than continue to desperately seek it out in your world.”
“So,” William said, setting up a scenario, “a guy gets home from a good day at work, in a great mood, and he smiles and kisses his wife only to have her turn away and say - ‘Leave me alone!’ Are you saying he can learn not to get upset or take it personally, because maybe she had a hard day and her reaction has nothing to do with him?”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Charmaine. “When he comes home with an open heart, he brings his love to his wife. He can tell her he loves her, tell her he’s available if she wants to talk about her feelings and give her some space. He can remind himself that all of us deserve the right to feel moody sometimes. He can learn to detach for the moment and care for himself while she has the time to process her feelings.”
“And here’s the irony,” Charmaine continued, “the more we let go of that ego-driven neediness, the more likely we are to actually receive love and support in our own world. But then that love and support is a bonus. e basic love we all need is always accessed from within. By finding our source of love within, we are also more able to give love and support to others when they need it. Forgiveness is one way to open that doorway to the soul, William.”
“It’s so amazing that letting go of needing something makes it more likely to come my way.”
“Isn’t it? And it just happens to be true.”
“You know, Charmaine, I have trouble with the idea of having to forgive forever. The idea of committing to anything forever totally freaks me out.”
“The notion of forever is a real deal-breaker to the ego,” Charmaine said with a laugh. “But forgiveness is not about forever. It’s about letting go completely, one hundred percent, right now.”
“Ah,” William said, remembering his lessons with a grin, “because all we really ever have are moments of now.”
“Exactly. Forgiveness can only happen in a moment of now. It has nothing to do with forever. Forgiveness is also not something that you can hold onto. You may find it necessary to forgive several times to get completely free of the pain of unforgiveness. Forgiveness is saying, ‘In this moment of now I totally and completely forgive.’ In that single moment of awareness, there is neither past nor future - only now. And if we forgive, we experience peace.”
“I see how these Clues all fit together,” William said. “Seeing suffering as a gift and learning to go toward it to learn what there is to learn; living in the moment; choosing soul over ego; loving and being honest with yourself; letting go of attachment to outcome and discovering that forgiveness is a gift that transforms the giver are all doorways to the soul. is is pretty powerful stuff! Can I ever hope to realize all these benefits?”
“You’ve already experienced many moments of now in which you’ve benefited from these principles, William. I’ve been practicing for a long time and I can’t do it all the time. But it’s okay. The concepts contained in the Clues just work and the more I practice them the more I see results in my life. Living the Clues is more a journey than a destination, and this is just the beginning!”
“I sure feel hopeful,” William exclaimed. “Even though forgiving is not my strong suit....”
“One of the secrets to forgiveness is accepting the difficulty of forgiving. Acceptance leads to change. Feelings like resentment, anger, fear, guilt, blame, vindictiveness and spite originate in your thoughts. e hurt you feel comes from your own thoughts, not from what some other person did or did not do to you.”
“I get it! You mean I have no one to blame for my hurt feelings?”
“No,” said Charmaine, chuckling at William’s display of mock horror. “And whoever has offended you doesn’t have to be involved, or present or even alive, for you to forgive them. And they certainly don’t need to apologize to you as a prerequisite to you forgiving them! at may be one more thing you’ll need to let go of. Forgiveness has every- thing to do with you, not the one who has offended you. Forgiveness is a powerful healer and has a great transformative value.”
“I have a feeling you’re about to tell me how great,” William said affectionately.
“The great value of forgiveness is freedom - freedom from all those bad feelings you harbor against others. So, you’ll have more peace in your life and more energy. You’ll find it easier to feel compassion and empathy for all, not just those who’ve offended you. You’ll be healthier. Unforgiveness, like spite and revenge, is a poison that affects not only your thinking but your body. Remember, the mind and body are one organism. Nothing affects one without the other being affected. Physical health, particularly in cardiovascular terms, is better in those who forgive than those who do not. Cancers, ulcers, fatigue, tension headaches and stomach irritations may also be aggravated by an unwillingness to forgive. Similarly, your emotional health is adversely affected by anger, long-held resentments and bitterness. Unforgiveness is not a benign emotional activity. It’s another ‘soul-robbing’ activity. It has its price.”
“Which is always too high,” said William. “I can see the value of forgiveness, but how do I do it? What are the mechanics of forgive- ness?”
“Let’s just sit for a few moments and take in the scene. They watched the hustle and bustle of the city far below, practicing a few softening breaths.
After a bit Charmaine spoke.
“All forgiveness, you know, starts with self-forgiveness. You’ll find it much easier to forgive someone if you have first forgiven yourself. For example, is there something in regard to your father for which you have not yet forgiven yourself?”
William remained silent for a long time.
“Well, actually there are a couple of things,” he said finally. “One time I was so angry at him I didn’t give him anything for Father’s Day. I totally ignored him. Sometimes I behaved pretty defiantly, like the time I lied to him about using his new car. I’ve felt badly about those things but I was just so mad at him for working all the time and ignoring me! He never went to even one of my baseball games. It’s hard to let that old stuff go.”
“For now, let’s separate your feelings toward your boss from the hurt and anger you feel about your father,” Charmaine suggested. “One reason you’re struggling so much with forgiving your boss is because it really doesn’t have much to do with your boss. Think of it this way, William. Every man is your father until you have emancipated yourself from him. The same can be said that every woman is your mother until you have emancipated yourself from her. I realize this is a generalization...”
“Wait a minute! What do you mean, ‘emancipate’ myself from my father?’”
“When you only see him in his role as your father, you have certain expectations that he didn’t meet. When you let go of holding on to your old view of him, you can begin to see him as a man with room for faults and shortcomings, like all of us. You can then begin to let go of wanting things from him that he wasn’t able to give you when you were young. Keep in mind that he still may not have them to give. As an adult, you can begin to accept and appreciate who he is rather than struggle with who he is not.”
“That could change everything,” said William. “I don’t think I know who my father really is. I never gave him a chance.”
“Be gentle with yourself. It’s understandable; we all go through those struggles. When you start exploring your feelings, you may be amazed how often they are the very same ones you felt toward your parents when you were young. We attach a lot of our current anger to old hurts, without even realizing it. When you want to forgive, it may help to first see if there is anything for which you have not yet forgiven your parents. If you are willing to do that, you’ll be amazed how much easier it is to forgive others. It’s also helpful to focus on one person at a time. Our ego will use any excuse to stay a little fuzzy and unclear. Another case of ‘fuzziphelia’.”
“Fuzziphelia,” William laughed. “I’ve definitely had a serious case of that! But I’m getting past it. I want to get clear about my thoughts and feelings. So, I’m ready to give forgiveness a try.”
“Let’s start with the biggie then.”
“Yeah, let’s start with the biggie,” William agreed wholeheartedly. “What’s the biggie?”
“You,” she smiled. “Then we’ll take on the other biggie.”
“Let me guess,” he grinned. “My father.”
The Mechanics of Forgiveness
“The mechanics of forgiveness start by taking a ‘letting-go’ breath. Just take a breath, soften as best you can and for the moment, let go of holding on to anything being of any importance at all as you allow the air to fall out of your body. This is one way your ego allows your soul’s love, mercy and compassion to come in.”
William took a slow, deep breath, then let himself soften, from the inside out.
“Now look to see if you feel willing to forgive yourself for the hurtful things you felt you did to your father.
“Okay, I’m as willing as I know how to be,” he said tentatively.
“Willingness is a key to being able to forgive. If you don’t feel ready, wait a few moments, draw another letting-go breath and take a fresh look.”
William paused a moment, then took another breath.
“I’m having a little trouble letting go,” he admitted.
“It takes some practice,” Charmaine reassured him. “To find access to the Divine within you, you must first accept yourself exactly as you are. All your faults and imperfections are part of being an everyday human being. True self-acceptance is saying, ‘My heart is open to me.’ Complete self-acceptance eliminates the need for self-forgiveness. So remember, accepting yourself and your true feelings is the first step to moving through them.”
“It feels a little like moving through thick mud,” William chuckled.
“Sometimes it helps to look at your reflection in a mirror. Look straight at yourself and say, ‘I totally forgive you for the hurtful behavior toward your father. I love you and I forgive you.’ Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and simply imagine seeing yourself at the age you were at the time of the act and repeat those words.”
William felt surprised by the directness of the statement. He took another breath, softened, closed his eyes and said, “I totally forgive you for your hurtful behavior toward your father. I love you and I forgive you.”
“Take another breath and say it again,” she suggested.
And William did.
“Remember, this is your soul talking to your ego. It can be very healing. Say it every half hour or so and see if you begin to feel lighter about those things you did to your father. You might even begin to feel a little lighter about some of the things your father did to you. Given who you were at the time, and what you needed and felt you weren’t getting, you might see that what you did makes perfect sense. Remember, the source of all our hurtful or destructive behavior simply comes out of a reaction to not getting the love our ego thinks it needs and wants.”
“Now I think I understand why you use the phrase ‘innocent but misguided’. It really does come from an innocent motive.”
“Forgiveness requires a willingness to accept everyone’s inherent innocence, including your own.”
“Funny,” he thought. “I usually feel far from innocent.”
“You need to be willing to see the innocence of your own hurt and frustration. Of course it doesn’t justify inappropriate behavior. It does help to regard yourself with tenderness and compassion. Sometimes we just aren’t quite ready to let go of every hurt feeling. If that’s the case, there is a little exercise you can do to check exactly where you are in regard to forgiving yourself or someone else.”
“What’s that? I can use all the help I can get,” said William.
“It often helps to have someone to do this with. So I want you to look me square in the eye, maintain eye contact with me and repeat exactly what I say. I want you to say it as though you were telling me the absolute truth. Each time I say something repeat it, take a breath and then look inward to see if it feels true.”
“Okay, but this feels more than a little weird. I sure hope nobody is watching.”
Charmaine looked William in the eye with no expression at all and began the exercise.
“I totally forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.”
William quickly looked away. He brought his eyes back to Charmaine and said, “I totally forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.” He then took a breath and tried to notice how he felt.
Charmaine maintained expressionless eye contact. She waited a few moments and said, “I’m not yet ready to totally forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.”
Again William’s eyes shifted away but quickly returned his attention to Charmaine.
“I’m not yet ready to totally forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.” William took another breath and noticed his feelings.
Charmaine said, “I do not forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.”
William said, “I do not forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father.” He steadfastly maintained eye contact and took another breath.
Charmaine said, “I will not forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father no matter what it costs me.”
William looked away, then came back to Charmaine’s eyes.
“I will not forgive myself for my hurtful and unkind acts toward my father no matter what it costs me.”
“So which of those feels the most accurate?” asked Charmaine.
“That last one was really hard to say,” said William. “But I think the second one, ‘not yet being ready to totally forgive’, was the closest to where I am right now. I’d like the first one to be true but it just isn’t.”
“It’s okay. At first, most of us find the second one feels more true. But I’ve seen some people whose egos are so poisoned, so stuck in a reactive place that the last one, ‘not being willing to forgive no matter what it costs’ is the truth for them. And if it is, then the first thing to do is open your heart to your own closed-heartedness. Remember: completely accepting yourself exactly where you are is the first step to moving through a difficult issue.”
“That exercise was tough to do!”
“You did great. is isn’t easy. Now look and see if there’s some way you can take care of yourself so you don’t repeat the behavior you can’t forgive yourself for. For example, can you commit to never do those kind of things to your father again - no matter what?”
“Yes, I can. I would never do those things again, no matter what!”
“Good. Then look and see if there is something you need to do in order to fully forgive yourself, something you have not done yet.”
“Do you mean apologize to my father for my hurtful behavior? That would feel like eating crow in front of the one who hurt me the most. Is that really necessary?”
“Remember. Forgiveness has nothing to do with the other person. Apologizing is also a gift that transforms the giver if you do it right. The question is how badly do you want to get free of the bitter feelings you’ve been living with all these years? Another benefit of forgiveness is that it keeps you in the present by letting go of the past. ”
“Do I have to apologize to his face?”
“It would be most powerful that way but, no it’s not necessary. Sometimes the person is dead and gone and it’s impossible to clear the air in person. But you can do it right here, right now if you want.”
“So how do I apologize?”
“There are four key elements to an apology that help free you from your bad feelings. e first element is to be openhearted and sincere. No patronizing or just mouthing the words here.”
“The second key element is to acknowledge that no matter what the other person ever did or did not do, they did not deserve to be treated the way you treated them.”
“Oh, man,” said William uncomfortably, “that’s a hard one to swallow!”
“If someone treats you with disrespect William, it’s no justification for you to treat them with disrespect. You treat them with re- spect simply because that’s what you do if you want your life to work. It has nothing to do with the other person. It’s just one of the ways the universe is set up.”
“I can see that, but I sure know a lot of people who wouldn’t agree with that notion.”
“I know you’re right, Charmaine said, “but how healthy are their lives and relationships? ”
“I see your point.”
“Now the third element of an apology is to apologize. Be specific about what you did and what you’re sorry about. Acknowledge their feelings of hurt or pain. It’s important to say, ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it.”
“Simple, but not easy,” William said.
“The fourth element ,” Charmaine continued, “is to make a commitment to them – a commitment that you will do everything in your power to never treat them that way again.”
“And in a true apology William, you don’t justify or explain your behavior. You never even mention the thing they did to you.”
“Not even if...”
“You do not ask for anything in return, including their forgiveness. It is completely irrelevant to an honest apology.”
William looked stunned. They sat silently for a time while he absorbed what Charmaine had said.
“So, are you ready to give it a try?”
“You mean right here, right now?”
“Yes. Just look out over the city in the direction of your home. Apologize to your father as though he were here. is may feel a little artificial and awkward, but it does work. Go ahead, try it.”
“Well, okay, here goes.” William closed his eyes and sat quietly for a few moments. He used his breath, as he had learned, to get to his willingness.
“Dad,” he said, “I’m sorry. I really am! No matter what you ever did or did not do, you did not deserve to be treated the way I treated you. I ignored you on Father’s Day, I lied to you about your car and I was often intentionally defiant. I know it must have hurt your feelings. It may have caused you to feel sad, angry and disappointed. I promise you I will do my best to never do anything like that again.”
William sat quietly for a few minutes. A tear surfaced at the corner of his eye.
“That felt pretty good,” he said with a loud, cleansing sigh. “And you know what? I do feel a little lighter.”
He remembered a few other things he’d done. So he looked to the horizon again and added them to his apology.
“What a load off my chest,” he exclaimed.
“Good. You know, apologizing and forgiving happen in a very intimate moment between your soul and ego.”
“It’s a moment of willingness to let go of all of the ego’s defenses. When you surrender and go to the place where you are totally defenseless, you will find that it’s also the place where you are infinitely safe. It’s only the ego that ever needs defending or protecting. The soul is always completely safe and at peace.”
“So tell me again in a nutshell, how do I surrender and get to that place where I’m defenseless but safe?”
“Breathe, soften and let go.”
“Let go of what?”
“Let go of being right. Let go of all of your evidence and stories. Let go of your need to be special. Let go of the past. Let go of the future. Let go of the illusion of being in control. For that moment, let go of holding on to absolutely anything being of any importance at all. Surrender to your soul.”
“I feel as if I’ve spent my whole life holding on to this stuff. It’s funny ... ”
“Well, even though it feels scary, I think it’ll be a huge relief when I can really begin to let go of all that stuff.”
“I think you will be amazed at the difference it makes, William. By the way, your father is very lucky to have a son like you. Maybe someday he will appreciate that.”
“Do you think?”
“If not, it will be a loss for both of you, but mostly for him. It really is amazing how you are moving ahead using the Clues. How do you feel right now?”
“I feel good, a little weird, a little energized and a little tired - but mostly I feel light. I just realized something! I still love my father, and I miss him. Come to think of it, I miss my mother and sister, too.” Another tear slid down his cheek.
William and Charmaine sat quietly for a while.
“That was really helpful,” said William. “Right now, I feel much better about my father. But let me make sure I’ve got this straight. If I’m having trouble forgiving someone, I first look to see if there is something I haven’t forgiven myself for in regard to this person. Then I use my breath and my willingness to soften as a key to forgiving. I also need to make certain I’ve done what I need to do to take care of myself so the same thing won’t happen again. For example, I need to make certain that I don’t allow the person that hurt me to be in a position where they could ever do it again.”
“I recognize and acknowledge their feelings. Oh, and I need to look and see if the problem could be that I’m still holding on to wanting something from them that they don’t actually have to give me.”
William furrowed his brow in thought.
“Could that be something as reasonable as wanting them to be nice to me, or fair, or just not to be mean to me?”
“It certainly could. Wanting others to treat you well at any given moment matters little if they don’t have it to give. Neither your happiness nor your treatment of others should ever depend on how they treat you. Accept that, and it will be much easier to forgive.”
“I can also use the four elements to an apology to check exactly where I am in the process of forgiving.”
“Yes, in forgiveness and any other place you might get stuck, it’s helpful to accept where you are. If you have a bad feeling, just breathe, soften and let it go. If it doesn’t go, then accept it as the way you feel right then and give yourself permission to feel it. I call it opening your heart to your own closed-heartedness.”
“This stuff isn’t easy.”
“No, it isn’t, but these exercises are actually skills. The more you practice, the easier it gets and the more you’ll see the results.
Forgiveness is a skill worth cultivating. It will help to remember that who others are at the core of their being and how they treat you may be two different things. Separate the person from the deed. ere is no one who is not worthy of your compassion. They are responsible for what they do and you are responsible for your feelings about that behavior. If you knee-jerk react to them instead of behaving in a way that’s consistent with your higher self, you give them power to determine how you feel and how you may behave.”
“I’d be giving my power away!”
“If you seek a deeper understanding of why they did what they did, you’ll often see an innocence beneath their reactive or unkind behavior.”
“Won’t they think I’m weak if I don’t stick up for myself?”
“Having empathy and compassion needn’t diminish your strength or the need to take care of yourself. If you feel really stuck in bad feelings, the source of the hurt is usually much older and deeper. They probably just triggered feelings that were already deeply rooted in you.”
“So, what do I do about it?”
“Separate your feelings from what your ‘little-mind’ thinks caused them. It’s a short-cut to deeper healing. Focus on what you’re feeling rather than why your ego thinks you’re feeling it.”
“Sometimes it helps to write a highly-charged letter. No editing or censoring is necessary or helpful. The purpose of the letter is in the writing of it. It’s an unedited, direct way to express and get the feelings out of your system, to clear your mind. This letter is not intended to be sent, though you may later decide to send an edited version as part of your forgiveness process.”
“It seems to me that the other guy gets all the breaks. What about being fair to me?”
“It’s difficult for most of us to forgive because it seems unjust to ourselves. One of the biggest barriers to forgiveness is that it feels like the other person will get more out of it than we do. To our ego, forgiveness seems to undermine the urge to catch and punish the offender, defusing the righteous anger. Forgiving often feels like you’re showing love to the one that did you harm, and thus showing a lack of love toward yourself, the harmed one.”
“My thought, exactly.”
“Or it may feel like if you forgive, you’re condoning what they did or that it really wasn’t that offensive.”
“That forgiving disarms revenge and revenge feels right and natural, like scratching an itch. We think it’s our job to punish them. Our ego thinks that not forgiving protects us from being hurt again. It’s like saying, ‘If I stay angry, he’ll stay on his best behavior.’”
“You know, Charmaine, sometimes it’s really hard to remember that the things that happen in my life don’t actually cause my feelings, but just trigger them. I can see how disempowering it is to stay in a ‘blame’ frame of mind, holding tenaciously to all my evidence against those who’ve wronged me.”
“For many of us, it’s really hard to let go of the grim satisfaction of revenge. Spite, vindictiveness, and retribution are poison to our lives. It’s especially difficult when they’re fed to us in movies, games and books. Revenge and pay-back are actually celebrated in our world. We see it at work in the oldest and most painful conflicts around the world. Global leaders use it to justify terrible acts of retribution that is then returned in-kind.”
“It’s a vicious circle,” William agreed. “Do you think the people in the corporate world will ever learn the value of forgiveness?”
“Yes I do, William. When a sufficient number of us have suffered enough to no longer allow it to take a place, it will stop. Sometimes the tincture of time can heal old wounds. But if we keep scraping away the scab and re-injuring each other, it’s difficult to heal. You see how ego tends to justify not forgiving?”
“I guess I do. at’s how I’ve looked at things in the past. But that kind of thinking really doesn’t help, does it?
Charmaine gently touched William’s arm to emphasize the point she was about to make.
“We forgive those who have wronged us, not so much because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we refuse to keep paying again and again for the injustice. Forgiveness neutralizes bitterness. Remember: you can’t hurt those who offend you by not forgiving them. You only hurt yourself.”
“How would I keep paying for the injustice?”
“The price you pay are all the painful feelings that come from unforgiveness such as guilt, resentment, spite, vindictiveness, anger, depression, anxiety and many others,” she answered.
“Forgiveness moves us from ego to soul. It’s about letting go of the ego’s tendency to cling to and cultivate the belief that we’ve been wronged. Forgiveness is letting go of the need to be right. Forgiveness is not about condoning hurtful behavior, deciding to forget offenses or even reconciling with the offender. Rather, it means giving up the ego’s commitment to be aggravated, giving up the desire to strike back.”
“It’s hard to love those that hurt me so deeply.”
“You don’t have to love or even like those who hurt you,” said Charmaine. “But you do have to respect their right to exist, to be different, to live their lives as they see fit, even those that have seriously wronged you.”
“Definitely the high road,” said William taking a steadying breath. “I can see why it’s one not more traveled. ere is a certain satisfaction in righteous indignation...”
“You nailed it right on the head,” said Charmaine. “Many people are so wrapped up in their own perspectives and negative feelings, they don’t stop to consider the feelings of others. But by forgiving them, you can release your own negative feelings and get on with your life. Even if you don’t particularly like them, you can still forgive them, because that’s what works best - and you will feel better.”
“So forgiveness is actually more about not letting others determine my emotions or behavior.”
“Forgiveness is a way to reclaim ownership of the quality of my own life. If I forgive others, I set myself - not them - free. That is because they are the only ones that have the power to set themselves free. I can’t do that for them. And if I try, it’s just one more distraction from the only work I can do, which is to clean up my own life. I am the only one that can free myself from my own suffering!”
“Congratulations, William!” Charmaine laughed with delight. “What for?”
“You’ve just passed this lesson on forgiveness, with flying colors.”
Clue # 7: Forgiveness: A Gift that Transforms the Giver
Develop both your inclination and your ability to forgive yourself and others. Unforgiveness is a form of attachment that can cause great suffering. Like spite and revenge, it is a poison that will affect not only your thinking but your body. Learning to forgive can free you from guilt and resentment.
- Forgiving is a natural state of being of our soul.
- Forgiveness is not about the other person. It is all about you. Forgive those who wrong you, not so much for their benefit but because you are the only one who can forgive. You deserve the freedom from paying the high price of unforgiveness - anger, spite, revenge, vindictiveness and resentment.
- Forgiveness is difficult for our ego because it thinks that if it were to totally forgive it would have to give up some part of who it is. Even the anticipation of forgiving is like facing death to our ego.
- Another reason forgiveness is so difficult for our ego is because it thinks forgiveness means being weak, vulnerable and even foolish. It thinks the other person will get more out of it than we do.
- Forgiving is difficult because it seems unfair to our ego, which can sometimes enjoy being the victim. By not forgiving, the ego mistakenly thinks it is protecting itself from being hurt again.
- In order to fully forgive someone, you may have to let go of wanting something from them that they simply don’t have to give or that they refuse to give you.
- All forgiveness starts with self-forgiveness. You’ll find it much easier to forgive someone if you have first forgiven yourself for any wrong you may have done to him.
- Forgiveness requires healthy boundaries and the clarity to take care of yourself, to make certain the same thing will not happen again.
- Complete self-acceptance eliminates the need for self-forgiveness.
- Forgiveness can only happen in a moment of now. It has nothing to do with forever. It’s about letting go completely, one hundred percent, right now.
- Forgiveness is not something that you can hold on to. It may be necessary to forgive several times to really get free of the pain of unforgiveness.
- Unforgiveness, like spite and revenge, is a poison that can effect your body as well as your attitude.
- Separate the person from the act. Forgiveness is about the person. Holding on to what they did to you simply gets in the way of forgiving.
- Forgiveness requires a willingness to accept everyone’s inherent innocence, including your own.
Be openhearted and sincere.
Acknowledge that no matter what the other person did or did not do, they do not deserve to be treated in the way you treated them.
Apologize. Be specific about what you did and what you’re sorry about. Acknowledge their feelings of hurt or pain. It’s important to say, ‘I’m sorry’ and mean it.
Make a commitment to that person – a commitment that you will do everything in your power to never treat her that way again.
You don’t have to love or even like everyone with whom you work. You do have to respect their right to exist, to be different and to live their own lives as they see fit.
The Benefits Of Understanding Forgiveness
Physical health, particularly in cardiovascular terms, tends to be better in those who forgive than in those who do not. Another benefit of forgiveness is that it keeps you in the present by letting go of the past.