To err is human, to forgive, divine.
Forgiveness is the gift we bestow upon others, giving from the well of forgiveness we have received from others.
June 25, 2021
“Forgiveness is to stop hoping for a different past.”
My dear friend and sometimes spiritual director Wendy Bolender sent the following:
July 13, 2021
Mandy Patinkin shares his favorite line from the movie “The Princess Bride” :
“ Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”
“When someone hurts us, offends us, ignores us, or rejects us, a deep inner protest emerges. It can be rage or depression, desire to take revenge or an impulse to harm ourselves. We can feel a deep urge to wound those who have wounded us or to withdraw in a suicidal mood of self-rejection. Although these extreme reactions might seem exceptional, they are never far away from our hearts. During the long nights we often find ourselves brooding about words and actions we might have used in response to what others have said or done to us.”
“It is precisely here that we have to dig deep into our spiritual resources and find the center within us, the center that lies beyond our need to hurt others or ourselves, where we are free to forgive and love.” (Henri J. M. Nouwen)
May 17, 2021
“…We can only show mercy if mercy has been shown to us (see Luke 6:36). We can only offer forgiveness if we have stood under the constant waterfall of forgiveness ourselves. And only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.” –Richard Rohr
May 19, 2021
Real Men Forgive: A Life and Health-Improving Mantra, By Andy Snyder
…”John Templeton… had a deep spiritual side that helped nourish his great philanthropic endeavors.
With the motto “How little we know, how eager to learn,” our hero started the Templeton Foundation. Its mission was simply to grant money to folks eagerly studying new ideas.
In 1997, the effort spawned the Campaign for Forgiveness Research, an exhaustive study that aimed at taking a scientific – versus religious – approach to the idea of forgiveness.
What Templeton and his researchers found is a lesson for every man.
Forgiveness is one of the best medicines for our body and mind.
Forgive and ForGet
In experiment after experiment, the results are the same. When researchers asked participants to think about somebody they hold a grudge against – i.e., a person they have not forgiven – the folks doing the thinking underwent great physiological stress.
Their hearts beat faster. Their blood pressures surged. Their muscles tensed. And sweat dotted their brows.
No matter how long ago the unforgiven event happened, the body reacted quite negatively just to the thought of it.
Now imagine how many unforgiven things you carry with you right now.
Name them and feel your body fight back.
Failing to forgive puts tremendous stress on your body… stress that will shorten your life.
“When you don’t forgive, you release all the chemicals of the stress response,” says Stanford University’s Dr. Frederic Luskin. “Each time you react, adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine enter the body. When it’s a chronic grudge, you could think about it 20 times a day, and those chemicals limit creativity, they limit problem-solving. Cortisol and norepinephrine cause your brain to enter what we call ‘the no-thinking zone,’ and over time, they lead you to feel helpless and like a victim.”
But there’s a cure for this ailment.
In her book, Triumph of the Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World, author Megan Feldman Bettencourt reveals the research that proves all we must do is forgive, and the stress and the sludge of chemicals that come with it are gone.
So how do you do it? What’s the trick?
After all, if forgiveness were so easy, religions wouldn’t center on the idea and it wouldn’t take dozens of multimillion-dollar research efforts to show us the dangerous nature of not letting go.
Step by Step
Thanks to a surge in research, brain docs have proven multiple ways to forgive others and release our minds from the shackles of angst.
Although they range from just one or two simple steps all the way to comprehensive 20-step programs, most proven forgiveness techniques contain the same basic four ideas.
First, we have to understand what we’re holding on to. What is it and who is it that we have not forgiven? In this foundational stage, we must reflect on failed attempts at forgiveness and why we failed.
From there, step two is making the conscious decision to forgive. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It must be authentic and we must be fully committed.
It’s a step that trips a lot of wannabe forgivers.
Step three is quite emotional. It’s where we confront the pain and work to understand it from other perspectives.
This is where, perhaps, we begin to see the other side of the story. It’s where we contemplate the action from the perpetrator’s point of view. Maybe the crook was trying to feed his starving family. Maybe he got hooked on drugs after hurting his back. Maybe he really is just a bad person.
Whatever the case, to fully forgive, we must fully understand. There are remarkable stories of forgiveness – and friendship – that have been bred from this critical process.
Finally, the last step is to simply reflect. It’s where we examine the many ways the pain has affected our life. Many folks find solace in learning how similar instances affected others. Others simply ramble off a list of grievances.
No matter. This is where we take whatever happened, admit that it changed our life, know that we’re not the only who’s ever been wronged, crumple it all up and walk away.
Finally, our age helps. Research shows that the older we are, the easier it is to forgive and the more health benefits there are to forgiving.
A study by Loren Toussaint of Iowa’s Luther College proved a significant relationship between good health and forgiveness. But it was the folks over the age of 45 who appeared to gain the most. They reported far fewer feelings of sadness, anxiety and restlessness.
The concept is not hard to believe. Forgiveness takes practice.
But with age comes greater baggage. By failing to forgive, we harbor a lifetime of ill will. It builds up and affects our health.
Simply learn how to forgive, strive to do it every chance you get… and watch how your life and health improve.
May 18, 2021
“To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” (Confucius)
May 20, 2021
The Power of Forgiveness Richard Rohr
Among the most powerful of human experiences is to give or to receive forgiveness. I want to share with you a personal story of forgiveness that happened in my family near the time of my mother’s death.
She was lingering on the threshold, and for several days she had been talking about “a mesh” she couldn’t get through.
I was sitting by her bed, telling her how much I would miss her. She said she wanted to hear that from my father, whom we always called “Daddy.” Of course, Daddy had been telling her that for weeks.
So Daddy came over and effusively told her, “Oh, I’m going to miss ya.”
She replied, “I don’t believe it.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! I said, “Mother, you’re a few hours from death. You can’t say that!”
She persisted: “I don’t believe it.”
Daddy redoubled his efforts: “I ask your forgiveness for all the times I’ve hurt you in our fifty-four years of marriage, and I forgive you for all the times you’ve hurt me.”
I said, “Mother, isn’t that beautiful? Now say that back to Daddy.” And suddenly she clammed up. She didn’t want to say it.
I said, “Mother, you’re soon going to be before God. You don’t want to come before God without forgiving everybody.”
She said, “I forgive everybody.”
I said, “But do you forgive Daddy?” and she became silent again.
Then Daddy jumped in and said, “Honey, I never fooled around with any other women.”
We all knew that. She even said, “Well I know that, I know that.”
My siblings and I still don’t know how Daddy had hurt Mother. But any married person knows there are many little ways a couple can hurt one another over fifty-four years.
Then I said, “Mother, let’s try this. Put one hand on your heart, and I’m going to pray that your heart gets real soft.” I placed one of my hands on hers, over her heart, and held her other hand and started kissing it.
After about a minute she said, very faintly, “That melts me.”
“When you kiss my hand like that, now I’ve got to do it.” After a pause, she continued: “I’m a stubborn woman. All of my life I’ve been a stubborn woman.” (Mother was an Eight on the Enneagram!)
“Well, Mother, we all knew that,” I said. “Now look at Daddy and you tell him.”
So she looked over and she didn’t call him “Daddy,” as she usually did. She spoke to him by name: “Rich, I forgive you.”
I prompted her again: “Mother, the other half—I ask for your forgiveness.”
She started breathing heavily and rapidly. Then she summoned her energy and said, “Rich, I ask your forgiveness.” A few more moments of labored breathing, and she said, “That’s it, that’s it. That’s what I had to do.”
I said to her, “Mother, do you think that was the mesh?”
She replied, “It’s gone! The mesh is gone! And, God, I pray that I mean this forgiveness from my heart.”
Then she said, referring to my two sisters and my sister-in-law, “Tell the girls to do this early and not to wait ‘til now. They’ll understand a woman’s heart and the way a man can hurt a woman.”
Mother was so happy then, and fully ready for death.
That’s the power and the grace of forgiveness. But let’s do it now and not wait until later! Let’s ask for the grace to let go of those grudges and hurts we hold on to. How else will we ever be free? In forgiveness, we live up to our true and deepest dignity. We then operate by a power and a logic not our own. We live out of the True Self and not just the tiny self that is always offended and complaining. Without forgiveness nothing new happens, and we remain frozen in a small past.