Friday, December 10, 2010

Forgiveness ~

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:11

Why does it matter that Christ came to this earth? So that we can be forgiven of our sins and live with God eternally! So on this Friday--yes it's already Friday--I want to give you some good information about forgiving others. I am glad when Friday comes, even though I've been retired for many years now. This week has been somewhat a trial in regard to situations with some family members, and although I try not to address anyone personally in my blog, I feel free to address everyone equally. So this morning, I was reminded of a section on Gandhi in one of my most interesting self-help books, which has to do with forgiveness. The examined life is rare these days, but it can go a long way toward giving us peace and happiness.

Gandhi achieved political revolution through nonviolence, and was the prime mover of Indian independence from Britain in 1947. Gandhi's life was changed forever when he was forgiven by his father, a situation that is talked about in Michal J. Gelb's  book Discover Your Genius: How to Think Like History's Ten Most Revolutionary Minds.

And this is very important. Gelb says that "before attempting to ask for forgiveness from those you may have wounded, experiment with forgiving--in your heart--those who may have wounded you."

And he asks you to make a list of the people who have hurt you and how you were hurt. Just do this in a stream-of-consciousness way and keep your pen on your paper continuously. Stop after 15 minutes and take seven deep breaths. Rank the hurts from 1 to 10 with 10 being highest and 1 being lowest. Open yourself to the possibility of granting forgiveness to the people on your list, beginning with the lowest. If you can manage forgiveness even on a spiritual level, there is a possibility for healing for both the offender and yourself. 

And you may be asking, "How do I do it?" Straight from the pages of the book, here are some further steps for giving you the strength to change your life and the lives of others by forgiving them. 

EMPATHIZE. Understanding helps. It's easier to forgive when you understand why someone hurt you. Of course, that can be very challenging when you feel deeply wounded. But if you can put yourself in the other person's position and imagine looking at the world from his or her point of view, you may find it a bit easier.

PRAYER. Just as you might pray to be forgiven you can also pray for the strength to forgive. True forgiveness seems to be an act of grace that cleanses the spirit of the giver as much as the receiver.

ACCESS SPIRITUAL GENIUS. Gelb says to call on the example of one of your spiritual heroes, someone like Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, or the Dalai Lama. I would give you the name of Jesus. Like most disciplines, learning to forgive takes time and practice, and it's best to start small.

Remember: You must forgive to be forgiven. Jesus prayed, "And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
One good way to change your heart so that it's ready to forgive is to "practice joyful service." Gandhi believed that service to others, rendered in a spirit of joy, was life's supreme pleasure. If you begin with small acts of kindness in your everyday life, it will be like Shakepeare's candle: "How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world!"

You can make a list of seven acts of kindness you can perform in a week. Plan to do at least one act of kindness or service each day for a week. Record your reflections in a notebook and aim to discover the type of service that gives you the most joy. Then make it a regular part of your life!

This is simply one little section from a long chapter on Ghandi, but I thought it might give us a small start on forgiving others at a time when we seem to have lost that virtue. We live in an anxious world that is getting more difficult all the time through no fault of our own. We must do what we can do. Forgiveness and prayer are the two big practices that can change the world into a better place.

I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend!


  1. To continue the theme of the examined life on a Friday I will describe "the practice of making amends" which Ghandi taught as going alongside the principle of forgiveness. This is also the principle shown in the Bible. We also find the idea of it in the story The Velveteen Rabbit, as the importance of becoming real.
    We must realize that we have to prove we are worth forgiving by a process known as "making amends."We are then working each day to make ourselves better people to those we have hurt & we care about. If we have done or said anything hurtful to others are we carrying inside the guilt for this? We can write about it, share it, & work to make amends for it. We can reach out to others, apologize & make amends. We must prove to others we are sincere. If we are humble we prove to others that we are worth forgiving & we are working to be a better person. We realize that we must associate with positive, uplifting & spiritually minded people who encourage us to be our best self. We must determine which people cause us to do the opposite. Do we need to make changes in our associations?
    We cando this exercise. Name the person, think about how they felt, think about how I can make amends. Write aletter,add an apology & describe what you plan to do to make amends.
    Face to face is the most direct way to apologize,but writing helps you get out a fuller statement & verbalizes your feelings as well as getting them out for interpretation. Words & gestures of apology are not enough. The words sound hollow if there is no effort to change one's behavior or make amends.
    What forgiveness is not:
    1.Condoning,excusing or minimizing the deed(s).
    2.Forgetting the deed, denying our pain, pretending it didn't happen.
    3.A weak refusal to confront the deed.
    4.Remaining in or surrendering to the hurtful situation. (martyrdom)
    5.Becoming friends again.(forgiveness can lead to this, but it does not require this.)
    Rationale:We take full responsibility for our actions & make our apologies mean something real by commiting to making amends.

  2. Thanks very much, Paula, for your contribution to the blog. Forgiveness, like Christianity, is hard and it's easy. And obviously, if there is misunderstanding on both sides and nothing is resolved, the problem takes on a life of its own and continues to give more pain than it should. That makes it harder for both parties to live a life following Christ. Sad situation.

  3. "If they do not hear Moses & the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead."

    Some people will believe what they want to believe because they want to believe it.