Archive for the ‘Forgiving One Page at a Time’ Tag

FORGIVE AND FORGET?   8 comments

I have really enjoyed seeing sales of “Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses” increase as I’ve shared some reviews, but I had promised to get rolling on the issue of forgiveness. So here’s my first entry. It ties directly back to promises I made when my web site was established some time ago.

First, let me say that I personally don’t like posts that are too long. I find myself anxious to get back to writing “My Father’s House,” so I’ll assume that it’s a good idea to keep my own posts short. That means what I say is going to be imperfect. I hope that in itself will encourage arguments, examples, and other comments.

So, here goes.

I loved Lewis Smedes “Forgive and Forget,” but I hated the title. I was told later by someone who knew him personally that he didn’t like it either. Publishers have a way of imposing things on authors. Why not like it? Because it’s basically impossible, certainly unrealistic, to think you can forget the offense you’ve suffered.

Try to shove the offense out of your mind? Well, to put it maybe too simply, but realistically, you’ll be pushing it into your body to create all the possible negative effects of stress. Like a viral or bacterial infection it will grow without control.

The truth is, you can work on relieving the terrible aftermath of suffering an offense, but you won’t forget it. What will happen with good forgiveness work is you’ll lose the emotional pain and protect your body.

Forgiveness usually takes hard work over time. Why would you want to forget the benefits of that herculean effort and all you learned from it?

If I can tear myself away from my other writing, I’ll soon be sharing the forgiveness process as presented in “Forgiving One Page at a Time.”

By the way, I loved Smedes’ later book, “The Art of Forgiving

I grieved as if I had known him personally when he died.

THE SCIENCE OF HUMAN GOODNESS   12 comments

Many years ago now, my friend and colleague Barbara McEwen, a physiological psychologist,  made me aware that I didn’t fully understand the meaning of “The Survival of the Fittest.” Like so many people, I thought it meant that the winners were the ones who managed to beat the competition and pass on their genetic material. Barb pointed out that cooperation is every bit as important as competition, evoking my reaction of “Of course, why didn’t I know that,”

Sadly, Barb is no longer with us to see the influence of people like her. But, fortunately, scientists are now exploring the implications of humanity’s cooperative side, with an emphasis on human goodness. Right now I’m reading a collection of articles by scientists who are exploring this side of humanity. They don’t deny what we can’t avoid seeing — the competitive side of our heritage. But it’s not the only side. (In fact, right now it seems to me that’s the major battle going on politically and throughout the world: selfish competition vs. compassionate cooperation.}

The book to which I am referring is edited by Dacher Keltner and Jason Marsh,”The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness.”It’s a selection of articles from the magazine “The Greater Good.” It’s one of three magazine I need in my life to offer the positives over the noise and stress of today’s communications.

I’m not going to review the book here, or try to summarize the kinds of things that have been studied. I just want to mention two of them: gratitude and forgiveness.

As for gratitude, I’d like, ironically, to start a competition. Who can provide the longest list of things for which one is grateful.

As for forgiveness, I’m going to break down and summarize, bit by bit, the content of my own “Forgiving One Page at a Time.”

So be prepared, I’m about to start compiling my own gratitude list and share the numbers, not necessarily the content.

Forgiveness will be next.

Tell me, does that sound like a good plan?

 

“RULE” #2. APPRECIATE YOUR SHADOW   8 comments

Rule #1 requires honesty and accepting responsibility. Both those things require knowing one’s self, including the Shadow. And that’s not easy, because the Shadow is that part of ourselves that lurks deep in the background where we don’t want to acknowledge it. Why is it hidden? Because it’s not acceptable. So the thought scares us – seeing things we don’t like about ourselves.

In fact, this may be the hardest “rule” of all. Those shadow places are pretty well closed off. But if you can do it, be prepared to hang on to those shadowy things when they pop up. And even if you reject it when someone suggests something about you that you don’t like, take it home with you and examine it when no one is looking. Nothing says you have to tell them you’ve discovered they’re right. (Though it might not hurt.)

It does help us, though, to understand – even empathize – with those “others” out there. And when we understand and empathize, we’re better able to come up with a way to handle the situation to our own benefit as well as for the general welfare.

There’s a funny thing called attribution. We can look at the same thing and attribute different causes depending on who’s involved. Someone else walks out of the store without paying the bill. They’re stealing. I walk out of the store without paying and I’m forgetful. It plays right into the blame game.

From my adult vantage point, I can get pretty uppity about violent kids in “good” neighborhoods. Then I remember when I was ten years old, visiting someone with my parents. I went with their ten-year-old daughter up to the privacy of her bedroom. There she described the gang she belonged to, the idea being to fight with the other gang – and win. The funny thing is, I remember it to this day because I was jealous. I mean deep in my bones, to the bottom of my well of emotion, jealous. The Shadow practically filled the room.

So it’s important to acknowledge our own unacceptable parts. And besides, folks tend to like others who are as flawed as they are. “Perfect” people are pretty boring, or maybe just not believable.

But here’s the funny thing. For some of us – my fellow Scandinavians may recognize this – part of what’s unacceptable may be stuff that other people think is great. “You shouldn’t think so highly of yourself.” “Don’t puff yourself up.” “Being humble is a good thing; don’t brag.” It may seem weird, but good things can lurk in the Shadow because those childhood warnings drove them there, and the general culture keeps them there. How many good assertive contributions are lost because one isn’t willing to admit to positive virtues?

My apologies to the Shadow. It’s so much more powerful than I make it sound here. But because it’s so powerful, it’s worth getting to know and accepting.

The path to forgiving [or any other healthy thing] means accepting your own dark side. Preface to “Forgiving One Page at a Time: The Diary of your Journey to Restoration and Confidence.”

FORGIVING ONE PAGE AT A TIME   2 comments

Push the Forgiving One Page at a Time button/photo to the left of this post and you’ll find the option to buy a signed copy of a modified version of When to Forgive.

Including less detail, and fewer case stories, it provides a way for you to work very directly with your own forgiveness issues.

Amazon..com advertises an e-book version which has one review – mine, which tells you not to buy the e-book. Why? Because it defeats the purpose, and the publisher did it in spite of my objection.

That’s because the book is designed to be your own workbook/journal. After a general introduction, it includes written material on the left hand page, and guides on the right hand page for you to enter your own reactions/situation.

Like When to Forgive it’s purpose is to help you make your own decisions about whether to forgive and how. Like the larger book, it helps you take into account the reaction you can expect as a result of what you decide and do.

If you’d like to see reviews of this book, go to amazon.com

If it’s all the same to you, however, I’d appreciate your buying directly from me.

I’m including a photo below of the comments on the back cover.

One person called me with a report but refrained from posting it on amazon. What he said pleased me, though. He said he and his wife had an argument just before she left for a meeting. Restlessly angry, he picked up a copy of forgiving One Page at a Time which was lying on the table. “I went through most of it,” he said, “and then called her to apologize.”

One never knows what reactions will result when someone explores his or her own distress over a perceived injustice.

Back Cover One Page ...

 

 

 

 

 

I believe clicking on this image will enlarge it. (I hope so, anyway.)n

FORGIVING ONE PAGE AT A TIME and WHEN TO FORGIVE   13 comments

Last evening I finally got my DVD working and watched a program on Forgiveness. Unfortunately I was alone at home, so there was no one with whom to share my distress. So now you are it.

The problem with the topic of forgiveness is that people are talking about all kinds of things. Not just apples and oranges, but throw in some carrots and tomatoes too

So, here are some things that distressed me. One person thought that forgiving meant not getting angry. WRONG. Anger is the first step – well, maybe the second – in a long tough process of deciding whether to forgive, and if so, how.

Another person thought forgiving meant saying what the other person did was all right. WRONG. If you think the other person did nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to forgive. No, forgiveness happens, if you choose it, because the offender did something wrong.

Some seemed to think that forgiving means the lawbreaker will pay no price for the crime. WRONG. You are not the legal system, though these days you certainly do have an opportunity to influence it. You can forgive, relieving yourself of the negative effects of un-utilized anger, without preventing appropriate legal penalties.

And that brings me back to anger. What a gift! What a motivator! The issue is not to avoid or deny anger, but to harness it.

Some thought they couldn’t forgive unless the offender requested it and showed sufficient remorse. That may be the truth for some people, but it has its negative effects. Mainly the loss of power. As long as you are waiting for the person who hurt you in the first place to take action, you are powerless, stuck with your anger and pain.

One more thing I noticed. A couple of people said murder was unforgiveable because the person who was hurt is dead and therefore can’t act. But the truth is, the murder of one person has a wide-ranging effect on loved ones, fellow workers, the larger community. The killer has hurt each of those people. Each one has the right to forgive – or not.

There’s more, but I’ll stop here. My point is that the decision whether to forgive – and how – is a long, complicated personal process. And yes, I did say “whether” to forgive. That’s the point.

And as I see people wrestling with these problems, I can’t help wanting to make sure they are aware of my two books on forgiving. The point in both of them is to help readers make their own decisions. No speeches, just guidance through the options and considering the outcome of one’s choices.

I’ve got to find out how to put a PayPal button on my blog. In the meantime, Please reduce my stress and yours by checking out When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time

By the way, if you decide to buy “Forgiving One Page at a Time,” don’t choose the kindle edition. I tried to stop the publisher from turning it into a kindle book. It won’t work, because it really is fashioned as a diary with some points and questions on the left hand page and a place for your own entries on the right.

One last thing. If you have an opinion about either of the books, please do share it in the comment section.

Thanks

FORGIVENESS; FOREGO-NESS; CONTROL   10 comments

I’m back! I tried to stay in touch with you all while I was on vacation from this post, often with just a “like” to let you know I’m paying attention.

And now I have probably more to say than either of us would prefer, but I hope you’ll stay with me. As usual, my thoughts have been grinding away.

I just finished reading “All But My Life” by Gerda Weissmann Klein, the memoir of a young woman born in Poland in 1924 who endured and survived the brutality and slavery of the Nazi holocaust. Because she is such an excellent writer, one feels the abject misery and humiliation without her ever telling us what we should be feeling. Just the direct reporting of events is all that’s needed for a powerful reminder of the abomination of which “ordinary” people are capable. And an indicator of the stealth with which the reality of developing sadism creeps up on victims who have faith in the goodness and decency of humanity.

I read it on the heels of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, a fictional portrayal of the gradual involvement of “innocent” people in supporting the Nazi terror. It would be difficult, I believe, for one to read this without heightening the awareness of the ever-present threat of horror built on indifference.

These observations lead me to the quote from Pastor Martin Niemöller, who, an outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler, spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

Both books I’ve mentioned remind me of the potential danger in avoiding awareness and confrontation. And both books offered much in the way of analysis of personal approaches to survival.

But my purpose here is more limited to the thoughts I’ve been having about forgiveness. The person who recommended Klein’s book to me suggested it was a story of forgiveness. But I realize something different – perhaps parallel to forgiveness –was going on. The author never focuses on her anger toward her tormentors, but rather on what she can do to survive. In other words, all her energy was directed toward staying alive.

I noticed that same phenomenon at the time of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre. When the parents of a murdered child were asked by an interviewer whether they would be able to forgive the shooter, their response was, basically, “We can’t spend our time focused on him. We have a family to care for. We need to find a way to go on, and maybe even heal.”

I think we need a new word, something like “forego-ness.” While the point of forgiveness is that it starts with blaming the offender and experiencing our anger, the two examples above demonstrate foregoing any attention to the wrongdoer. Control rested in the hands of those parents, and in the charge of author Klein. They simply bypassed the anger, the first step in forgiveness, and went directly to focusing on taking care of themselves.

I have regularly defined “forgiveness” as the decision not to punish an offender and the relief that follows. I think I should describe that relief more specifically as removing power from the offender and taking back control over one’s own life. If refusing to forgive is like locking oneself in a cell and handing the keys to the offender. Then the result of deciding not to punish is equivalent to taking the keys back.

As always, I know I have to point out this doesn’t mean one decides the offender shouldn’t pay a price, but rather that the forgiver’s life can move on without being controlled by concern for the one who caused the pain.

The metaphor for “forego-ness” would have no image of keys or cells. One simply doesn’t lock oneself in the cell in the first place.

I do hope I’ll get some comments on these ideas. And I hope the commenter will be you.

And there’s still When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time for your perusal if you choose.

VENGEANCE vs. FORGIVENESS   6 comments

I think it’s safe to say that vengeance is the most powerful obstacle to forgiveness. I have been reminded of that recently in reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality

I’m especially alert these days to quotable material as I anticipate the four-session discussion of forgiveness I’ll be leading at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota. So I made note of page 151 where he reports “good advice about not engaging in revenge.”

A number of wise men have warned us against the would-be benefits of vengeance. Mark Twain said, “Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” Walter Weckler further observed that “revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst.” And Albert Schweitzer noted that “Revenge … is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.”

 The problem is, as Ariely points out, the urge to vengeance is a powerful built in response to perceived offense. For those who would encourage forgiveness – as I do – it’s a problem requiring solution. Part of the solution lies in the other point he makes, that the vengeful emotion fades a bit with time. That’s why we count to ten, I guess.

But there are other things we can do, as some of my clients have done. We can, for example, engage in wonderful fantasies of clever methods of torturing the offender. Carrying out the fantasies would probably not be a good idea, much as they would backfire on oneself  – guilt, for example, an awareness that one’s own morality has been breached.  Or the very fact that someone who has been punished rarely smiles with a “Thanks I needed that.” Nope, vengeance breeds vengeance.

But maybe we need to add something. Vengeance doesn’t necessarily mean physical violence. In fact, Ariely goes on to give examples of what might be called positive effects of vengeance. One quick example (page 154). Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose successful steamship company was basically stolen from him by a couple of associates, responded as follows:  “Gentlemen, you have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.” Then he formed a new company so successful that eventually he regained control of his first company.

OK. I’m sure the punished associates didn’t perceive that as positive. For them it was emotional and financial violence. But it did work for Vanderbilt.

I’ll leave it at that. Food for thought. Knowing the hazards of vengeance, how do we handle it when it comes so naturally? It’s complicated. And now I’ll shamelessly refer to my two forgiveness books, both of which recognize that forgiveness is a difficult but doable process: When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time.

And if you come across some nice, tidy “forgiveness” saying, I’d be very happy if you’d share it in a comment. Or maybe even a personal story of dealing with vengeance?

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