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Forgiveness… Only in Fantasyland?

January 25, 2012

The other night I noticed a post on Facebook that jump-started this blog: “Forgiveness. The most precious gift to give.”

Someone responded, “I am a grudge holder! And I know that takes years off my life – but I am just fine with that.”

I thought, “Wow, someone is fine with taking years off their life, just to hold a grudge?”

Thinking I could offer an insight on the virtue of Forgiveness, I posted a comment about a story I often think of when I’m pissed at someone: “There was a man who lived long ago. He once asked his mentor a question, ‘How many times should I forgive that a**hole?!’ (I paraphrase from the original story.) The mentor replied, ‘Seven times seven hundred times.'” The mentor later practiced what he preached and forgave his executioners at the the moment of his death.

I was fascinated by some of the responses I received:

“Some things in life cannot be forgiven.”

“I forgive but I don’t forget. That’s just the way I am!”

“Maybe in Fantasyland”

I thought to myself, “Now is the time to start The “V” Channel blog.”, starting with the virtue of Forgiveness, of course.

The following takes creative license from The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov with Dr. Dan Popov Ph.D., and John Kavelin.

The “What, Why and How” of Forgiveness:

Everyone screws up. Forgiving someone means overlooking the mistakes they make and still liking them, loving them, or simply respecting them just as much as before they screwed up. Forgiving DOES NOT mean that all of a sudden you don’t feel hurt or that the wrong choice someone made was right. It means you find it in your heart to give the person another chance. Granted, that chance may have to wait until they get out of prison, after all, there are laws and rules in our society to protect the community.

“Forgive and Forget”. Photo credit: Selftitlednightmare

Forgiveness means that in spite of how wrong they were or how much they hurt you, you can get over it, you can let go of what they did and not hold it against them. Forgiveness means you don’t keep punishing someone for what they have done… even if your family and friends think they deserve it.

Remember to forgive yourself as well as others.

Many years ago I made a HUGE mistake by starting to smoke cigarettes. After ten years of addiction (and recurring dreams that I would die form lung cancer), I knew I had to stop. I tried, but I couldn’t kick the habit. I tried three times, each time I failed. Before I could quit I had to forgive myself for starting such a disgusting habit. It wasn’t easy, but I was finally able to quit.

It wasn’t easy to forgive myself for starting a disgusting habit that was difficult to quit.

We all sometimes do or say things that we regret, that we are sorry for and wish we hadn’t done. Forgiving yourself means to stop punishing yourself or feeling like sh*t because you did something wrong. It is moving on, being ready to do things differently, with compassion for yourself and confidence that you CAN change and make wiser choices.

Why bother with Forgiveness?

It’s a free country, right? We all have the power to choose. This means it is up to us to do “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. There are many, many reasons (some social, some mental, some psychological, etc.) why people sometimes choose to do hurtful things. EVERYONE does at one time or another.

Sometimes it’s a little thing, like not doing something we promised to do. Sometimes it’s a bigger thing, like lying, cheating, or taking something which doesn’t belong to you (polite way of saying stealing). When someone who is hurt or disappointed forgives us, we get another chance. We can try again to do the right thing.

People who have trouble forgiving themselves find it difficult to forgive others too. They are often negative and no fun to be around because they are judgmental and criticize others instead of giving them a chance to improve.

Forgiveness is a way to encourage yourself and others to be better, to try harder, and to make changes.

How to practice Forgiveness:

First you have to admit the mistake that you or someone else has made. Facing the truth takes courage. You may be sad or pissed-off. That’s okay! Let your feelings come, then let them go, like clouds drifting across the sky, or water off a duck’s back, or… well, you get the idea. The point is, don’t hang on to the mistake-thought. Don’t let it live rent free in your head! Dwelling on the thought or holding a grudge leads to nothing but headaches (or other aches) and often leads to angry acts of revenge.

Imagine how difficult it is for indigenous people to practice Forgiveness. Photo courtesy of “White Buffalo Teachings” by Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

Getting back at someone through anger or revenge is like picking up a hot piece of coal to throw at them… you only end up burning yourself.

Take a hard, honest look at what happened, honor your feelings, think, and then decide what needs to change to make things right. It may be that you have to “call out” the person that hurt you. You may have to tell it like it is, or even challenge them to a duel of some kind, if that’s what you think is the right thing to do. Then, let it go! Wipe the slate clean and give the person (or yourself) another chance to be “good”. Say to yourself, “From this moment on.” Say it over and over if you need to.

Speaking of over and over, the hardest things to forgive in yourself are the things that you do over and over and over, habits you feel you cannot control. Do what you can to take action and try and replace the old habit with a new and improved one. Doing so will make forgiving yourself much easier.

Now, this is IMPORTANT. If someone else does something hurtful to you over and over without being sorry, forgiving them won’t help. You need to stop giving them the chance to hurt you… you need to stay away from them. If they stalk you, tell your parents, call the police, do what you must to defend yourself. When you are finally safe you can then find it in your heart to forgive them.

What would forgiveness look like if you…

– Found out your best friend revealed a secret of yours?

– Were embarrassed because your mother posted a really goofy picture on your Facebook page?

– Did something (again) that you think is bad?

– Someone lost their temper with you and later apologized?

SIGNS OF SUCCESS:

Congratulations! You are practicing forgiveness when you…

– Remember that everyone makes mistakes

– Admit to your own mistakes and take responsibility for them

– Share your feelings and tell someone  how you feel rather than take revenge

– Correct your mistakes instead of punishing yourself with a guilt trip

Keep trying. You need more practice when you…

– Live in denial and refuse to look at your mistakes

– Judge and criticize others and yourself

– Allow careless, mean people to keep hurting you

– Feel hopeless and helpless over bad habits

– Keep making the same mistakes without learning

We know it’s not easy bringing out the best in ourselves, but all of us at The “V” Channel encourage you to practice the virtue of Forgiveness. No matter how “bad” you’ve been, or how terrible others have treated you, we know that someday you will experience the satisfaction and benefits of forgiveness, turning “Fantasyland” into a reality where you will experience the benefits of living life at a higher standard of behavior.

Stay connected! Like us at Facebook. We’ll be posting more virtues stories and videos in the near future.

Email me today at Scott@theVchannel.com. When you join The “V” Crew you’ll be helping to guide the next generation toward a common belief that virtues can shape a world where people are willing to take personal responsibilities.

Wishing you and your kids “Victory via Virtues!”

Scott Feraco
Founder
The “V” Channel

Special thanks to The Family Virtues Guide, by Linda Kavelin Popov with Dr. Dan Popov Ph.D., and John Kavelin.

©2012 SCOTT FERACO. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 29, 2012 4:06 pm

    We all carry “baggage” in life. Imagine the weight that lingers from the guilt of all our bad decisions and regrettable actions.

    It can become overwhelming, and then instead of looking back analytically and reflecting upon mistakes that we can correct, many of us choose to become hard-hearted. It is easy to grow callous to any constructive criticism and to become deaf to any pleas for self improvement.

    That is when people stagnate and calcify, becoming locked into an inescapable world of who they are rather than who they desire to become. And that’s the beauty of forgiveness. It allows us to dismiss all that baggage and leave it behind. It permits us to make self amends and move away from our least desirable aspects toward something more ideal.

    Spring time always reminds me of starting anew. It is a season for pruning away the dead branches in our gardens, and for watching the re-birth of many plants. They say that hope springs eternal, and I believe that with forgiveness comes newness and hope.

    Why hang on to past resentments? Why not work toward moving forward and resolving differences and disagreements with others and with one’s self. Forgiveness is regenerative. Dickens’ Scrooge taught us that. We don’t have to be the people we often regret being. We are capable of change; we have the ability to learn and grow and improve, and it all begins with releasing the burdens and baggage of old feuds and grudges.

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