RSS Feed

Tag Archives: forgiveness

Forgetting

Based on people’s comments about my post on forgiveness, it seems that forgiving others is more of a problem for most people than forgiving oneself.  So I thought I’d say more about that.

I think that we should forgive but not forget.  We have memories and feelings for a reason; they are survival mechanisms.  If someone has hurt you or someone can’t be trusted, you want to remember that.  You want to avoid people who can hurt you and cause you pain–especially if they have no remorse for doing so.

Forgiveness does not condone the other person’s actions.  And the other person doesn’t have to earn your forgiveness by apologizing.  You forgive them because it benefits you to let go of anger. Because it allows you to take away their power to hurt you.

Although we always deserve an apology when someone has wronged us, we don’t always get one. Sometimes it has to be enough to know that you were wronged and to forgive so that you can control the suffering that is in your control.

However, you might want to reconsider being in a relationship with someone who never apologizes for hurting you.

The part of our brain that houses emotional memories makes no distinction between past, present, or future.  It does not know whether the pain is real or imagined.  It does not remember whether the person apologized or whether you have forgiven them.  The pain is always fresh and new.  This is why people have flashbacks in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I don’t have PTSD, but I am an emotional person with an excellent memory.  So it doesn’t take much to trigger a memory of something that someone has said or done to hurt me.  When that happens, it is as though I am living that moment all over again, and my feelings are as intense as they were when it first happened.

This is why forgiveness is an on-going process.  You don’t decide to forgive and suddenly all the anger and hurt are gone.  You forgive, and then the memory comes up, and you forgive again.  And again.  And again.  And maybe in some moments you decide not to forgive because you’re really mad this time.  And then you start all over.

Forgiveness requires patience, because our heart does not follow the time table of our mind.  You cannot will yourself to be ready to forgive; you just have to be open to forgiveness and wait for your heart to follow.

I find great comfort in this because of my excessive guilt problem.  Wherever I am in the forgiveness process is OK–even if it’s more on the “I hate this person” end–because in Buddhism, you accept all of your thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism.  At some point, I trust that my heart will be in a different place.

I may not be there today, or tomorrow, or next week even, but at some point I will be at peace.

Photo courtesy of Allison Szuba

 

Forgiveness

In Buddhism, one of my favorite meditations is the one on forgiveness. In this meditation, you reflect on the 3 types of forgiveness:  asking forgiveness from those whom you have hurt, forgiving those who have hurt you, and forgiving yourself for self-harm.

As I mentioned in a previous post, because of my fear of going to hell, I have no problem asking for forgiveness for real and imagined sins. I also do my best to forgive those who have hurt me because I believe it is a gift to myself to do so. Sometimes the best I can do is to have the intention to forgive, but in Buddhism that is enough.

From my personal and professional experience, self-forgiveness is often the hardest one to practice. One of my parts is a judge who doles out punishments for non-existent crimes. This is fairly common for people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

This weekend I had to repeatedly remind myself that it’s not my fault that I’m depressed. I cannot even articulate what I have done wrong, yet somehow I feel I have failed at something. I didn’t wake up early enough. I went to bed too late. I didn’t make enough of an effort to ask for help. I am being too needy. I stayed too long in my previous relationship. I’m not being forgiving enough or letting go of anger fast enough.

This is how the internal judge is: it can argue both ways, and either way it’s your fault.

I think that one of the reasons that we neglect to practice self-forgiveness is that it’s not emphasized as much as the other two.  For example, in the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us for our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. I am certain that God would also want us to forgive ourselves, but there’s no line in there explicitly giving us permission to do so.

But I am hopeful that this will change with Pope Francis. I confess, I have never been excited about a pope before, but I believe that Pope Francis is an enlightened being. I believe that Mandela was one, as well. So it’s only fitting that as one enlightened being leaves this world, God gives us another one to maintain equilibrium in the universe. I am hopeful that we will hear more from him about acceptance and forgiveness and less about judgement and sin.

So take that, Judge!

I picked this doodle because it sort of looks like snow.

Grief

Tonight I went to the memorial for the student who was killed in the car accident a week ago. I didn’t know the student and wanted to have a better sense of who she was and to feel more of the grief that the community is experiencing.

Handling crises is my least favorite part of my job. I don’t do well with things like grief. My emotions are naturally very intense even at baseline, so when there’s a crisis, I shut down. I guess this is my brain’s way of protecting me from being overwhelmed by my feelings. In a way it’s helpful, since I need to be there for the students, but sometimes I’m afraid I’m so emotionally removed that it’s affecting how much support I can provide.

I do feel bad for the parents. I don’t have children but I can imagine how hard it would be to lose a child, how unnatural and unfair that is. I wonder if they will celebrate Christmas this year, and if Christmas will ever be a happy time for them again.

And I feel bad for the driver. He may go to jail for drunk driving, and for the rest of his life he will have to live with the burden of her death. I hope that he finds a way to forgive himself for what happened and find peace.

Often my friends on FB will post something on the birthday of a loved one who has died and say how the sadness never goes away. It’s daunting to imagine living with never-ending pain–a hole in your heart that never gets filled. That’s why death scares me so much.

For awhile I was really into books about near-death experiences. I think I read them as a way to be OK with the idea of death. I found comfort in reading that all of the people who went to heaven and came back to earth thought heaven was so great that they were depressed when they didn’t get to stay.

My favorite part of these books is where they describe how entering heaven is like a pep rally where all of these people, including your loved ones, are there cheering you on and welcoming you. I don’t know if you get to pick your job when you’re in heaven, but I think I would be an awesome greeter. That makes the idea of dying a little easier, too.

The biggest loss I’ve experienced so far is losing my first husband. He didn’t die but we are not in contact and he does not wish to have a relationship with me, so it’s been like a death to me.

I know I’m probably taking this too literally, but sometimes I wonder, if it’s really true that your loved ones greet you when you get to heaven, would he be there to greet me, since we’re no longer married? Or would he just be there for his second wife when she dies? I imagine that when you are in heaven you can be in two places at once and you don’t have to choose which loved ones you will be with like you have to do on earth.

Even though it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve been apart, I still miss him. We shared so much together that every day I encounter something that triggers a memory of him. But at the same time, I am happy with my life and feel fortunate that I will get to know more people than I would have if we had stayed married. So it’s possible to be happy and sad at the same. It’s possible to miss someone but still go on with your life.

I guess since we all experience losses throughout our lives, these losses just become a part of who we are. I have always felt that if I had to do my life all over again, I wouldn’t change anything, because every mistake and every loss has played a role in the person I have become.

Plus I believe that our task in this lifetime is to experience what it means to be human, and suffering and death are a part of the package. Often in therapy clients want me to take away their pain, and I have to tell them that I can’t, but I am willing to sit with them while they are hurting. I guess that is the best gift we can give to anyone who is grieving. So at least I’m getting that part right.

This is my favorite doodle because it looks like a magical land, like Oz, minus the yellow brick road.