Finding the Gifts in Pain
Suppose by reading this article you could begin engaging in a process that aids you in lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, lowers your levels of depression, anxiety and anger, and makes you feel happier? Would you be interested? If you would read on because we are going to explore the benefits of forgiving.
Recently I read two articles about people who had survived the Holocaust. One was about a ninety year old woman who seventy years after her ordeal still could not forgive her tormentors. The other article was about a man who had lost his entire family in one of the camps but who told his daughter that the most important value of his life is forgiveness. Which one do you think had a better quality of life, the one who retains her anger or the person who has learned to move on?
We forgive for ourselves. Forgiveness allows us to move forward in our lives by releasing our pain and anger. I once heard someone say, “Not forgiving is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to keel over.” It’s not going to happen. When we hang on to our anger and resentment we hurt ourselves not the other person. Forgiveness is a heart choice we can make at any time. So often when someone hurts us it is not about us. It is about their anger and pain.
When we forgive we are not condoning any behavior. It is not necessary to remain in a relationship with the person we are forgiving. If fact, if the other person is abusive it is essential to get out of the relationship and move on to healthier ways of being. One myth about forgiveness is that we only need to forgive once. Each time we feel the pain we can forgive again on a deeper level, like peeling an onion.
Kathleen Lawer-Row has studied forgiveness for years. She writes that once we forgive someone for a painful experience we never experience life in the same way. We are more flexible and see life in a less black and white scenario. We come to know that we can create our own path. We don’t have to carry the hurt forever.
Oprah had a guest one many years ago who defined forgiveness as, “Giving up the hope that the past could be different.” When we do that we lead more peaceful, sacred lives. Jack Kornfield wrote, “Imagine a world without forgiveness. Without forgiveness the world would be unbearable. Without forgiveness our lives are chained, forced to carry the sufferings of the past and repeat them with no release.” Why create that world when we can create one that is filled with love and compassion?