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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Practical Forgiveness by Sheri Rosenthal


Practical Forgiveness
by Sheri Rosenthal

You can forgive that guy you dated a while back until you run into him someplace and then you want to wreak revenge on him. You can forgive your parents for your horrible childhood but as soon as you get on the phone with your Dad you are arguing just like you always have. So, what good is forgiveness anyway?

The key to forgiveness is to forgive from the heart not from the mind. Knowing in your rational mind that your parents did the best they could to raise you is not enough to constitute forgiveness. That is why every time you are with your Dad you still argue. If you really forgave him you would not be reacting that way. You would have compassion for his dream and understand that he is just expressing his point of view. If you truly let go of the pain of your childhood, your self-importance, and your need to be right about your point of view, you would not be taking him personally any more. If you were not taking him personally you would not be angry and it would not be necessary to punish him by behaving like an angry child. It behooves us to look at ourselves with honesty and objectivity. You can say you have forgiven someone in your life, but the proof is in the pudding.

If you have an emotional reaction in the presence of someone, your heart is telling you that you have not resolved your issues with them. In other words, you have not truly forgiven that person. All of this begs the question, how do we forgive? First, cease lying to yourself and stop telling yourself stories about why you behave the way you do. Stop blaming your behavior on other people and take responsibility for your emotional reactions. If you could forgive all the people in your life who have hurt or wounded you it would be possible to be in control of your behavior instead of being in reaction to other people all of the time. Imagine living life without experiencing a constant emotional roller-coaster of pain, anger, and jealousy! That would be bliss!

The important thing is to have awareness of what has transpired and be able to tell yourself the truth about it. Have you truly forgiven or has your rational mind been telling you a story that you have? Once you have determined what is truth and what is a justification, you are ready for the next step. Second, look at your life with clarity. Try to see what happened in your past, not only from your point of view, but also from the other person’s point of view. We need to be able to walk in the other persons shoes to understand why things happened the way they did. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they did or how they did it. Not at all. Your values and beliefs may be very different from theirs. All this means is that you can see the whole truth of what happened and the whole truth encompasses all points of view, not just your own.

Take some time to listen to how you tell the story of your life. Perhaps it would be helpful to journal the story of a particular time in your life that you have been challenged by. Listen to what you have written. Does it sound like you were victimized by your circumstances? Be objective, if someone heard your story would they say someone did you wrong, that you are resentful, vengeful and angry? If so, this is your first clue that you are seeing things from only one point of view. Why? Well, if you felt like someone hurt you then obviously you took the other persons actions personally. You assumed you knew why they did what they did according to your point of view and your beliefs about their words or actions. Chances are that your interpretation of what the other person did or said was not what the other person had in mind when they interacted with you. The key is to imagine what happened from their point of view.

Once you have seen the truth you must make the decision to let go of the pain, anger, and resentment you have been holding on to. This requires you to take action. If you are attached to your pain, resentment, and self-righteousness, and addicted to your emotional reactions, this will be a difficult step for you. Taking action requires letting go of the very thing you have been holding on to for so many years. There is comfort in what we find familiar, even if we are experiencing pain and suffering. The pain and suffering itself becomes the familiarity we seek. It takes absolute faith in yourself plus courage, will, and discipline to let go. But once you let go, it will be as if the weight of the world has been taken off your shoulders. In this process it is important to forgive not just the others in our lives, but also ourselves. For most people, giving ourselves the gift of forgiveness is very challenging.

• Forgive yourself for using people in your life to hurt yourself.
• Forgive yourself for not having clarity, for blaming others, and for not taking responsibility for your actions.
• Forgive yourself for wounding others and for the anger, jealousy, and hate you directed toward others.
• Forgive yourself for participating in situations that went against your integrity.
• Forgive yourself for not respecting yourself.
• Forgive yourself for not trusting yourself and having faith in your abilities.
• Forgive yourself for trying to control the people you love.
• And, of course, forgive yourself for not loving yourself 100% just the way you are!

Sheri Rosenthal DPM, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Toltec Wisdom and Banish Mind Spam, is a master Toltec teacher who trained with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements®.

Sheri leads Spiritual Journeys that combine travel to historically, culturally, and spiritually significant locations with an even more rewarding opportunity for the traveler to examine their own inner conflicts and challenges. Visit www.journeysofthespirit.com to learn about Sheri's Spiritual Journeys to Peru, Egypt, the American Southwest, Mexico, Israel, and more. You can contact Sheri at info@sherirosenthal.com

6 comments:

  1. It seems that the author has specific hurtful senarios in mind as she writes this article. I tried to read it from the perspective of a victim of childhood sexual abuse and it just doesn't work, i.e., "We need to be able to walk in the other persons shoes to understand why things happened the way they did". Perhaps some caveats are in order.

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  2. i had the same problem with Byron Katie, with the turning things around part in relation to certain things (like childhood sexual abuse). i believe that there are cases where people are truly victimized and it is cruel and unproductive to suggest otherwise.

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  3. also, i don't understand how you can apply this to forgiving yourself. how can you put yourself in the other guy's shoes with any kind of objectivity when the other guy is yourself?

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  4. I have 3 sisters who have all been sexually abused by our father while growing up. One of them lives her life as though nothing ever happened. The other two have tremendous psychological problems, can't seem to get beyond 'victim' mode, and have been on a number of medications for over 30 years. Of these two, one of them is in and out of the psyche unit of a local crisis center. So anemone and dawn, I have to agree with both of you.

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  5. Dear Angels,

    Not forgiving is like eating poison and hoping the other person dies. If you want to be free you must forgive no matter what the situation - period. Staying in victim consciousness will keep you enslaved to the other person's actions for the rest of your life. Spiritual teachers like myself teach this because it is the truth.
    Know this: You are not forgiving the persons actions as we are not condoning their behavior. We are forgiving that they forgot who they are - divine beings who have done astray and in their forgetting they have taken actions that caused suffering in another human being.
    Blessings, Sheri Rosenthal
    http://www.journeysofthespirit.com
    http://www.withforgiveness.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Keeping a resentments of past by realizing the past circumstances were not created by clapping one hands is the key to enjoy the future moments of life than carying the load of the past.

    ReplyDelete

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