Friday, December 5, 2008

Forgiveness - The Most Important Gift You Can Give Yourself This Holiday Season

Forgiveness, what is it really? "Forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentments and thoughts of revenge. Forgiveness is the act of untying yourself from thoughts and feelings that bind you to the offense committed against you," quoted from Katherine Piderman, PhD.

Why is forgiveness the best gift you can give yourself? Dr. Piderman says that bitterness and holding grudges results in long-term health problems for you. Your bitterness and feelings of revenge do not hurt or effect the person you are angry with. They hurt you.

By holding a grudge you have given your power and control away to the person who hurt you. Think about it...if you are constantly replaying a hurtful event in your mind, if you let these feeling rule how you feel during the day, if your feelings of resentment toward someone are crowding out your positive feelings about your life, if you feel out of control and helpless in the presence of this person...well, you have let the person who hurt you take over your life. Your life is now about reacting to them, how they will react to you and the negative feelings of revenge.

It's time to let go of the pain and consider forgiveness when you find yourself:

-Dwelling on the events surrounding the offense
-Hearing from others that you have a chip on your shoulder or that you're wallowing in self-pity
-Being avoided by family and friends because they don't enjoy being around you
-Having angry outbursts at the smallest perceived slights
-Often feeling misunderstood
-Drinking excessively, smoking or using drugs to try to cope with your pain
-Having symptoms of depression or anxiety
-Being consumed by a desire for revenge or punishment
-Automatically thinking the worst about people or situations
-Regretting the loss of a valued relationship
-Feeling like your life lacks meaning or purpose
-Feeling at odds with your religious or spiritual beliefs

When you forgive you are not condoning the actions of others. You are releasing yourself from past events so you can move forward in your everyday life. Saying 'I forgive you' is a weight off of your shoulders. It doesn't matter if the person who offended you ever changes.

Dr. Piderman says, "Forgiveness also means that we change old patterns of beliefs and actions that are driven by our bitterness. As we let go of grudges, we'll no longer define our lives by how we've been hurt, and we may even find compassion and understanding. "

Take the example of the Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania - In October 2006 a gunman lined up five little girls (the daughters of Amish parents) and shot them before shooting himself. The Amish live in a culture of forgiveness that is as natural to them as breathing. After the tragedy some of the families went to comfort the widow and three children of the gunman and attended the gunman's funeral.

This type of forgiveness is foreign to most of us in Western culture but it is taught very clearly in the Bible and most certainly in the doctrine of the Catholic church. Jesus tells us to behave in just the way the grieving Amish community did. If a parent whose child has been gunned down can be forgiving of the family of the man who committed the murder can't we forgive the every day slights and the bad judgment of others?

Again in her excellent article, Dr. Piderman advises this about how to know if you have truly forgiven someone, "Forgiveness may result in sincerely spoken words such as "I forgive you" or tender actions that fit the relationship. But more than this, forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. The offense is no longer front and center in your thoughts or feelings. Your hostility, resentment and misery have made way for compassion, kindness and peace."

Forgiveness is a choice and an ongoing process. Give this important gift to yourself so you can be at peace not just during this holiday season but for the future. You are the most important person in this equation. To realize that your sense of self and security does not depend on the actions of others but on how you treat and feel about yourself is very powerful.

So, give forgiveness to those who have wronged you and offer apologies to those you've hurt. Be happy during this time of love and giving. It amazing how easy it can be.

17 comments:

Linda Lou said...

Great blog (as always), Lisa. One of the books in my bookcase says, "When you truly understand, there is nothing to forgive." I've found this line especially helpful when I'm angry at someone. There's a reason why people act the way them do; once we understand why they act that way, there's nothing to forgive.

Fin said...

A lovely post Lisa. It is something Meg struggles with.

Susan said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Susan



http://www.car-insurance-choices.com

Lisa McGlaun said...

Linda,

I actually wrote this article for me because I need to listen to this advice right now.

I'm glad you commented and yes you're right when I truly understand there is nothing to forgive. I get it.

Thanks for the quote...love you,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Fin,

Please give Meg a cuddle and tell her I understand. Hope to see her soon,

Best Wishes,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

Susan,

I really appreciate your comment. I'm not posting as regularly as I used to. If you ask to follow my blog then you will know when there is something new to read...or you're welcome to browse through the posts over the last year and a half to find something that interests you.

I'm so glad you let me know that you're reading. Welcome!

Peace,
Lisa

Hoo Don said...

Forgiveness is a great quality to have, one which is in all of us, it just varies in the amount held within each individual. You can forgive some once, depending on the offence twice, but surely continual offending must turn forgiveness into some form of resentment. Once bitten twice shy. The concept of forgiveness is very sweet but the aftermath is at times a bitter pill to swallow. Would you forgive me if I ate all of that lovely cake.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Don,

I understand what you are saying perfectly. I have a few people in my life that fit into this category. I've found that those are the ones I need to forgive the most.

I've learned that I can't change them and because of our connection I can't write them off...I'm the only one I can control. So I treat them the way I want to be treated, protect myself when I have to, and forgive them every time so that we can continue to work together.

It's worked so far. I don't always succeed but I try...and you can have all the cake you want. Enjoy!..:)

Peace,
Lisa

Edd Staton said...

Beautifully written. Resentment is one of the most insidious manifestations of judgment. We often make other people's behavior all about us when it's really all about them. Realizing this, forgiveness is always the best choice.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Edd,

That's a great piece of advice...their reaction really is all about them. Have a Merry Christmas!

Peace,
Lisa

L. Venkata Subramaniam said...

Very nice post. Truly sometimes we just forget the basic things in life and complicate it for ourselves.

You are right forgiveness sets us free to get on with our life in peace.

It is amazing what some of the Amish families did. But yes looking back what wrong did the gunmans family do? To them it was a loss too.

Very nice article.

Lisa McGlaun said...

L.,

I couldn't agree more. Come back again and keep reaing. Glad to have you here commenting.

Peace,
Lisa

Lisa McGlaun said...

L.,

I couldn't agree more. Come back again and keep reaing. Glad to have you here commenting.

Peace,
Lisa

markstoneman said...

This issue must be in the air. Speaking of Faith and Interfaith Voices both did shows on the topic this year, which you can listen to on the internet. I ended up doing a short piece on them (linked above), and they inform my New Year's Resolutions as well. One can't move forward without accepting who one is, and that takes compassion and forgiveness, beginning with oneself and then looking to others.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Mark,

I'm always so happy to see your comments. Thanks for the input. I'll follow the link you provided.

Peace and Happy New Year,
Lisa

markstoneman said...

Sorry, it looks like I got the wrong link. Not enough caffeine this morning. Here: Forgiveness.

Caregiving said...

Great article, I really enjoyed this post and thanks for sharing this.

Rose.