Forgiveness Versus Unforgiveness
I must admit I don’t spend a lot of time reading articles and blogs on the internet.
If I did, it is a pretty safe prediction I wouldn’t spend much time doing much of anything else.
As a lifelong learning addict (especially when the learning doesn’t require scary things like tests or having to fight other students for the choicest parking spot) I could easily fill my brain with lots of information I would as quickly forget – even while I’m pretending to lock it in and justifying it as “professional research.”
So I have to pick my inner student’s battles, so to speak, and just hone in one or two posts or articles that really speak to me at any given time. Such is my ongoing fascination with a post alluringly titled “15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently.”
I would really like to be one of these “happy people” too so I’ve been studying this one a lot lately.
#3 on the list tackles “forgiveness versus unforgiveness.” In this segment, the writer points out that it is not healthy to hold on to anger. Which makes me feel both very smart (like everybody else, I already knew this, of course) and very stupid (because somehow I still manage to do it anyway).
There is a quote from Buddha included: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
I have gotten burned a lot in my lifetime, and frankly, when I start to feel that getting-too-hot feeling moving from my hand up to my brain and back down again, I have only found two things to do that are really helpful: breathe, and call my mentor.
My mentor has taught me that it is not good to act in anger, so if I must act, calling her is a much better action to take than attempting to throw Buddha’s danged boomerang of a hot coal at the person I am absolutely convinced I could never ever EVER forgive.
While the neglected coal cools, she can also casually slip in a reminder (yet again) that it takes time to forgive. Or at least it takes me time. I like what the writer of “15 Powerful Things” says, “forgiveness is a gift (we) give to (our)selves.” But frankly it is usually much easier for me to give gifts to others than to me anyway, so it just makes sense that it will take me some time to give the gift of forgiveness to myself too.
In working with my mentor, I have discovered that finding and feeling and holding on to forgiveness is about first finding and feeling and holding on to all those other “5 Stages of Grief” feelings (this is a great post on the 5 Stages from one of my fellow PC writers, Julie Axelrod – thanks Julie!). In other words, I have to first go through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance before I can get to the forgiveness part.
Sometimes I even have to go through these five stages when the instigator is a positive emotion such as joy or relief! I had steeled myself for one reality and another comes along – I have to let the first one go out and make space before I can welcome the second one in (even if it is much preferred to its departing kin).
In other words, I must be respectful and acknowledge my unforgiveness (which requires feeling my denial that there is unforgiveness present in me).
Next, I must feel my anger and let it all out (preferably not in the company of the person I need to forgive, unless appropriately channeled into mutually productive conversation).
After that, I have to bargain with myself before me and me can agree that only TOTAL forgiveness will do (there is a lot of “well I can forgive this but I absolutely WILL NOT forgive that” involved in this stage).
Upon completing the bargaining to everyone’s satisfaction, I then must feel my sadness for whatever it is that has prompted my need to offer forgiveness.
Finally, I am ready to accept, forgive, (hopefully but not always) forget, and move forward.
Today’s Takeaway: How do you handle the need to forgive? Do you use the Kubler-Ross 5 Stages of Grief model or have you found another path that works well for you?
Cutts, S. (2012). Forgiveness Versus Unforgiveness. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 27, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2012/07/forgiveness-versus-unforgiveness/