Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Forgiveness - The Greatest Christmas Gift There Is

The holidays are definitely upon us. Even though we can have lots of fun tempers can also get short. To help make our holiday time with family and friends more enjoyable remember this. What we think colors the world we see. If we want to change the world around us all we need to do is change the way we think about the world. The way we see the world is fueled by our thoughts. Our thoughts are very powerful. They determine who we are and how we choose to see others and our circumstances. Our thoughts are colored by our emotions which are also fueled by thoughts. So, if we want more happiness in our lives then we need to become more aware of our thoughts. This is what forgiveness is about.

Forgiveness is a voluntary act, a decision to let go of our anger and resentment so we can have happier and richer lives. It is not about denying the other person's responsibility for hurting you and it doesn't minimize what your experience is. It means that you choose to see the situation differently, in a way that can bring you peace. It helps you see with spiritual sight. This is what the holiday season is all about.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Words about Forgiveness that Inspire

The holiday season is about peace, hope, and forgiveness and so I would like to share two beautiful quotes that I hope will touch your heart and inspire you this Christmas season.

If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Savior.
(Roy Lessin)

Give to your enemy forgiveness,
To your opponent tolerance,
To your friend your heart,
To all men charity, for the hands that help
are holier than lips that pray,
To every child a good example,
and to yourself—respect.

Have a wonderful holiday and for those who celebrate Christmas I hope it is a merry one!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Healing Conflict through Forgiveness

I teach about forgiveness and conflict resolution both in my private practice as a psychologist as well as in corporations and with governments when I give trainings in conflict resolution and peace building in dangerous areas of conflict as a political psychologist. On a very pragmatic level forgiveness is part of a conflict resolution process. We have to heal before we can forgive and sometimes when we begin to understand why we are angry, and what are the underlying issues that caused the conflict we can begin to stop asking the question "why me" and start asking the question "why them?" what brought them to the place that they are which influenced how they behaved. This is not only part of a conflict resolution process, but also the forgiveness process. This allows us to begin to change our perceptions of the situation and begin to look at it with compassion and understanding. This is what forgiveness is about.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eliminate Holiday Stress through Forgiveness

Holidays are about getting together with family and friends. Although these gatherings can bring joy it can also create a lot of stress. Relationships between some family members may not always be smooth going and cause tension and stress. It is also not unusual for us to go home and begin judging or blaming people for what we think they have done. Our expectations may also get us in trouble and can be out of line with what our reality is all about.

One way to deal with the stress of the holidays is to remember what the holidays are really about, the practice of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a voluntary act in which we make a decision to see things differently, not through the eyes of anger or guilt, but through the eyes of understanding and compassion. Forgiveness is a decision to let go of our emotional baggage. It is not about letting someone off the hook, it is about our decision to let go of the past and move on. Holding a grudge against someone really only hurts the person holding the grudge. Deciding not to forgive is a decision to actually continue our suffering.

The following are some suggestions to help us in being able to forgive.
* Be willing to entertain the thought of forgiveness.
* Recognize our tendency to play the victim role and be willing to let go.
* Remember that forgiveness is about letting go of our emotional baggage. our hurts and our resentments.
* Recognize that our judgments are not facts.
* Ask yourself, would you rather be right or happy?
* Think about making peace of mind your primary goal to happiness this holiday season.
* Remember that forgiveness is a key to that happiness.

Rwanda and Forgiveness

In yesterday’s news it was reported that a former Rwandan army colonel who was behind the 1994 slaughter of more than 800,000 people was convicted of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. Theoneste Bagosora was found guilty of crimes against humanity. He used his position as director of Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus in one of the most brutal acts of killing ever witnesses.

Some 63,000 people are suspected of taking part in the genocide. This has left the country dealing with a lot of pain, anger and hatred. If this is ignored and not dealt with in a way that is healing it sets the stage for more bloodshed down the road.

Rwanda was a terrible tragedy. The genocide created a lot of trauma and suffering. Forgiveness is a necessary step in the healing process. In order to do that people will need to heal first, work out their anger in ways which do not perpetuate the cycle of violence. Only when they are able to do that and truly mourn their losses will they be able to start thinking about what brought their countrymen to do what they did in the first place. It is at this point that forgiveness can become a possibility, when people can begin to walk in "other" peoples shoes. When we can begin to see the pain of the other side and what brought them to do these terrible acts that a deeper healing has begun to take place. This is not easy but when we are able to understand the causes of what has happened and take responsibility for our emotional reactions, only then can we move forward in a transformative way. This is what forgiveness is about.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Forgiving the Affair

You think your marriage is fine and then one day you notice something which you begin to wonder about. You begin to get anxious feelings that perhaps something is going on. At first you may ignore this and then something else triggers those uneasy feelings. You may deny what are actually tell tale signs until one day it hits you in the face. You are overcome with the sick feeling that your partner has been unfaithful. You may go into shock and when that begins to wear off you feel the rage.

Unfortunately many of us have been there. Some of us may want to do the revenge route; others may just want to kick our partner out and never see them again. Yet if we can think more rationally we also realize that we have possibly a history with this person that is worth preserving and that we in some way may have also contributed to the infidelity. This is when being opened to forgiveness can become the necessary healing force to bring people together.

How can we forgive a betrayal that can run so deeply in our hearts? We begin by telling our story to people who will listen and support us. We listen to our anger and ask ourselves, what is our anger really telling us. If we look deeply enough we will realize that our anger is telling us that something as to change, usually within ourselves. We also need to deal with our guilt, that horrible feeling that we sometimes feel within the pit of our stomach. Guilt is all of the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves. We need to remember that holding on to these feelings is a choice too. If we realize that we have done something wrong we acknowledge it and make a commitment to ourselves that now that we have seen something in ourselves that we want to chance we now can begin to make different choices. Then we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes and ask ourselves, what has brought that person to the place they are which brought them to act that way. In asking this question we are able to develop a clearer understanding of what may have happened. We will also need to mourn what was lost, the trust we once had and release that pain in whatever way speaks to us. Hopefully at this point we are able to sit down and talk to the other person. Everyone needs to take responsibility for their actions and their emotional responses. By doing your inner work you will be able to set the stage for what is best for you to do and heal the relationship. This kind of clarity will help you make the right choices, not out of anger but out of understanding so you can move forward in a healthy way. This is what forgiveness enables us to do.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Forgiveness Tips for the Holidays

Tip - Do Not Take Things Personally!

The holidays are upon us and with all the good cheer we want to be part of, there is also a lot of stress. This can be especially true when families get together.

With all the love and joy families can bring, many of our not so pleasant emotions can get triggered. If we can step back and see what is causing our discomfort it is usually because we have taken things too personally.

If someone annoys us or makes us angry more often than not we are adding to our own distress because of the meaning we have put on the situation. We have made certain assumptions about what is going on about that person which more often than not our not true. We very often mis-perceive the situation because we are looking at things from our own often misguided perceptions. This is part of our human patterning. We tend to view things from our ego stance, our own filters which color what we see. We have forgotten to put ourselves in that other persons shoes to understand what is going on inside of them and why they are behaving in a certain way. We have also not realized that no matter who would be in our shoes at that moment would be treated in the same way we are presently.

So to help us in having less stress this holiday season, remember not to take things personally. Give the gift of compassion and understanding to others. Isn't this what the holiday season is really about - the gift of peace and harmony?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Golden Rule and Forgiveness

After surviving the election season it is apparent to all of us the healing which needs to take place within our divided country. As I was thinking about this I began thinking about the Golden Rule that we hear so much about. The message is simple, "Do unto others as we would have them do unto us." Sounds simple and so often ignored.

As I was thinking about this I began to ask how is this related to forgiveness? What gets in our way of following the Golden Rule and to also forgive one another. In both cases in order for us to be the best people we possible can be we need to be willing to look within ourselves, understand what causes our pain which feeds into our anger and hatred towards others, and be willing to heal and learn from this.

Why am I linking these two concepts? We all have been hurt by neighbors be them next door or the next country. We ourselves can easily hurt others just by being inattentive or by being caught up in our own anger that we spew this out towards others not realizing that they too may be struggling not only with the everyday anxieties but with great sources of suffering. I think we have the Golden Rule to remind us of this. And we have forgiveness to help us become more compassionate, loving human beings.

This not only applies to how we deal with relationship difficulties, marriages, etc, it also applies to countries dealing with for example genocide such as Rwanda or Cambodia. People killing others such as in genocide are only thinking about their pain, their fears, and their needs. The thought of compassion is no where to be found. A suicide bomber is certainly not thinking about compassion when killing civilians.

As we can see the Golden Rule is simple and hard to follow. On a certain level forgiveness is also simple and yet very hard for us to do. The question is, "What are we willing to do to help us find strength to be more loving parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, friends and family members? And what are we willing to do to bring greater happiness into our lives?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thomas Fuller on Forgiveness

I read a quote from Thomas Fuller posted by William Cooney which said, "Nothing demands as much, nor rewards so completely as forgiveness. In its purest form, the act of forgivning requires the ego to suspend its need to prevail. A profound selflessness is at the core of the perfect offering of forgiveness.

I think the line "the act of forgiving requires the ego to suspend its need to prevail" is at the heart of forgiveness. I feel that we need to be able to look at ourselves and what is coloring our perceptions such as anger, fear or guilt for us to truly be able to forgive. When we can see the humanness in ourselves and forgive ourselves for it, then true forgiveness for others becomes much stronger.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A father's Forgiveness

I am always thankful to see the story of Azim Khamisa which I find so inspiring. I first heard about the story in 1995 and what touched me most was Azim's comment, "there were victims at both ends of the gun." Azim already was demonstrating the kind of thinking that each one of us should strive for - choosing to see the world not from the eys of our anger, but through the eyes of understanding. Azim demonstrated so much compassion inspite of his pain and grief. He understood that healing was needed for all those concerned and what inspires me most is that he has dedicated his entire life since the tragedy to do just that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Legacy of Amy Biehl

The Los Angeles Times ran a beautiful article written by Scott Kraft on the Amy Biehl story. For those of you who do not know the story it is about Amy Biehl who at the time was a graduate student from Stanford University living in Cape Town, South Africa in 1993. Amy had been in South Africa for nearly a year researching constitutions and bills of rights around the world for ANC leaders. It was her last day in South Africa and she was taking a colleague home in Guguletu when an angry mob spotted her, started throwing rocks at her car, and as she was trying to escape was murdered.

What is amazing about this story was what Amy represented and how her parents Linda and Peter Biehl dealt with their daughters death which was not only to forgive the mruderers but to also found the Amy Biehl Foundation in 1994 which to this day runs after-school programs for youth in the area where Amy was killed. Two of the men who murdered Amy now work for the Foundation whose purpose is to help stop violence by giving youth something positive to participate in.

Linda and Peter Biehl were able to transcend their anger and hatred through the process of forgiveness and in so doing were able to transform themselves and those around them whose anger and pain drove them to this unthinkable murder. This speaks to the power of forgiveness which enables us to open our hearts to healing instead of hatred.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Forgiveness: An Interior Renovation

I’ve been involved with the work of forgiveness for a very long time. In a way it came very unexpectedly when I began studying different spiritual disciplines, in particular, A Course in Miracles. For those who do not know the Course, which describes a sophisticated psychological thought system based on the dynamics of separation, guilt and fear. These dynamics are laid out in the story of Adam and Eve which can be seen as a mythological account of the birth of consciousness, whose cornerstones are separation, guilt, and fear. Adam and Eve enjoying the Garden of Eden were told not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Then came the serpent tempting Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Eve took the fruit, ate it, and gave it to Adam. At that moment everything changed. Adam and Eve heard the voice of God walking in the garden and became fearful. When asked who had taken the bite of the forbidden fruit, Adam turned to Eve who then blamed the snake. Then Adam and Eve were punished for their sins. In psychological terms we have gotten so wrapped up in our ego that we have turned away from our spiritual essence. There is a part of ourselves which recognizes this, which is where the guilt comes in. Since guilt is so hard to look at we can only see fault in others denying that we have a shadow side to ourselves. Guilt implies punishment and so we are always defending ourselves by attacking others because of our fear of what may be coming our way.

I share this story because when we understand the dynamics of how we think, only then can we understand the importance of what forgiveness is about. For me forgiveness is about undoing the kind of thinking, motivated by our anger, guilt or fear, which cuts us off from our higher nature. If we can recognize that we see the world through the lens of our personal guilt and fear and if we can heal this within ourselves, then we get closer to our spiritual nature and see what has happened to us in a very different light. The process of forgiveness helps us do this. Forgiveness helps us change the way we think so we can see the light within each one of us instead of only the outward behavior which can block that light. When we are committed to the path of forgiveness and are willing to do the deep inner work that is often required, we are given what we need which can transform our lives in ways we cannot even imagine. I have heard so many inspiring stories of people from all walks of life whose lives were profoundly changed because they were able to forgive. This has put the passion in my heart to help others to learn how to forgive. When we experience the power of forgiveness it is as though something new gets created inside of ourselves, an interior renovation written upon our inner self where there is no need of outer instruction. This spiritual transformation is a beautiful gift that only forgiveness can bring.