Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forgiving Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff, the mastermind behind one of the greatest financial frauds has been given the maximum sentence allowed for what many are saying is an extremely evil crime. People cheered and so many people are suffering because of his actions. So why am I writing about forgiveness - something which is probably the furthest thing from peoples minds. The reason - I do not want to see any more suffering. Yes, Bernard Madoff needs to pay for his crime and he is. The rest of his life will be in a jail cell. Many victims also feel that they have a jail sentence when they have to stand on line with food stamps feeling as though they will never be able to enjoy life again.

What is overlooked is that when we hold hatred and anger in our hearts that exacts a price on us. What cannot been seen by those who are victimized is that wanting an eye for an eye only means more blindness. Madoff cannot give those he stole from their money back and restore their hopes and dreams. It is now up to the victims to start a new day. It is up to them if they want to move on to more hopefulness or hold on to anger and regret. Yes, the path to forgiveness and hope is a much harder path to take even when Madoff has gotten the sentence he deserves. And yes, his sentence does not pay the bills or put food on the table. It is easier to get angry about these things but think about this. Do you want to be a victim twice over? Are you still willing to give Bernie Madoff power to hurt you while he is sitting in his jail cell? Yes, people have made a huge mistake for trusting Madoff and he is in prison now. Nothing more can be done. His freedom and luxurious life has been taken away. Madoff is being held accountable for his actions.

When we think of forgiveness we think of letting someone off the hook. This is not what forgiveness is about. Forgiveness is about healing ourselves so we can have peace of mind. It doesn't come easy yet the gift of forgiveness is not for the perpetrator but for the victim. Pragmatically forgiveness is an act of self-interest. So many times people are afraid to forgive because they do think of forgiveness as letting a person off the hook. We all need to recognize that by focusing on our anger we are inflicting more on ourselves, our bodies, our souls, our relationships - everything that is important to us. That too is a very hefty price for our hatred towards Madoff. Our anger and hatred will slowly kill us. Our self-interest comes in when the victim realizes that the best thing to do is to let go of all the pain and anger and embrace life again. Our greatest revenge is to live life well again.

Forgiveness helps you recognize that what you think you see is not there

What makes forgiveness so hard to achieve is that it requires us to recognize that what we think we see in each other is not really there. What happens to all of us is that we all have our "shadows" - things about ourselves we would rather not acknowledge. We do not want to see those parts of ourselves which we have judged to be negative. Instead we use this inner lens to view the rest of the world. To heal ourselves means owning all parts of ourselves so we can make different choices and to recognize that we are all capable of doing the same things given similar circumstances. That is what forgiveness teaches us. As "A Course in Miracles" (p401, section 1) has reminded us:

"Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred.
It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin.
And in that view are all your sins forgiven.
What is sin, except a false idea about God's Son?
Forgiveness merely sees its falsity,and therefore lets it go.
What then is free to take its place is now the Will of God."

Monday, June 29, 2009

"When to Know that Forgiveness is Called For"

Unfortunately we all know that many marriages do not last a life time. One of the things that help heal a marriage and keep it together is in the ability to forgive one another. All couples need to learn to recognize when a situation calls for forgiveness and perhaps even more importantly when it requires forbearance.

Forgiveness is about making a choice to see a situation not through the eyes of anger but through the eyes of understanding. It is choosing to let go of our anger and hopefully see the situation in a different way. When we have the willingness to forgive and truly want it in our hearts very often a shift occurs and we experience something out of the ordinary which people sometimes call grace. Once we experience this it becomes natural to extend it to others.

Forbearance is different. With forbearance we demonstrate patience and tolerance. The people closest to us usual do not want to cause us deliberate pain. This is where forbearance can go a long way.If we can practice this we will become more compassionate and kind which can only serve the marriage in a positive way. One more piece of advice, if we practice 5 kindnesses a day to one another it will have a lasting effect on our relationships of all kinds.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't try to Forgive!

I was reading something very interesting about forgiveness the other day. It's message was don't work at forgiving. I smiled wondering what was going to be said next. The true meaning of forgiveness is about changing our thinking which in effect is undoing the way we think now. It is a shift from the way our ego wants to see the world, through what we think is important to us, our wants and needs or seeing the world through our anger or fear. When we truly learn how to forgive we make a decision to see the world differently. The way we achieve this is by undoing what we normally tend to do. How do we do this? You sit quietly and just observe your thoughts and behaviors. Just simple watch without judgment. Over time you will see that the choices and thoughts you have are not what you really want if you truly want to be happy. Ken Wapnick, a psychologist who teaches the profoundness of "A Course In Miracles" and runs the Foundation for A Course in Miracles once commented "Forgiveness doesn't mean that you are filled with sweetness and light. It means you forgive yourself for being filled with anger and hatred." It is by seeing what we do not want to see in ourselves that we begin to heal. When we do that we can begin to make other choices which is how we begin to forgive ourselves.