What would 2019 be like if we let go of all complaints and resentments? If we could admit that perhaps we’re not always right, and released the wounds and conflicts of the past? What if, when we thought of a person we didn’t like, we refused to gossip, criticize, or hate?
That might make for a pretty happy 2019, right?
I’m talking about forgiveness: We leave others’ misdeeds in the past, realize we’ve made similar errors, and find compassion for our common imperfections. It does NOT mean “forgiving and forgetting” or putting up with more mistreatment. When we object to someone’s behavior, we can set boundaries. But we don’t continue to hate them.
A LESSON IN FORGIVENESS
In William P. Young’s best seller, The Shack, the main character, Mack, is grief stricken and cannot shake his overwhelming sadness and anger after his daughter is abducted and killed.
One day, he receives a mysterious invitation to go alone to a shack in the woods. When he arrives, a heavyset black woman flings open the door, enfolds him in her arms, and says, “Welcome, Mack! I’m so glad you came!” She asks to be called Papa, the name his lost daughter and wife had used for God. Soon he meets Jesus, a Middle Eastern man wearing a tool belt; and Sarayu, a diaphanous presence of goodness.
Throughout the weekend, these three teach Mack about love and forgiveness. In one scene, Mack goes to a cave to meet Sophia, who is sitting in a large, raised judge’s chair. She fixes her eyes on Mack and cautions him not to consider his daughter’s death as a tragedy, leaving only pain in its path. Sophia tells him our human perspective is too limited to perceive the perfect order of things; therefore, we need to stop judging and surrender our thinking to a wiser power.
Later, after Mack asks if he must stop hating the man who killed his daughter, Jesus replies, “Forgiveness is . . . about letting go of another person’s throat.”
When Mack asks how to do this, Jesus suggests saying, “I forgive you” a hundred times for a few days. He adds that such acts of forgiveness would open Mack’s heart and bring God great joy. He follows this advice and finds freedom from his overwhelming pain.
YOUR OWN FORGIVENESS WORK
Do you have a situation or person that stirs up negative feelings in you? Perhaps it’s time to begin working toward forgiveness by using growth practices such as prayer, meditation, therapy, or 12-step work. Also, I’ve experienced great healing with Colin Tipping’s Radical Forgiveness.
You’ll know you’ve forgiven a person or situation when you can no longer generate the “hot” feelings of anger, self-righteousness, or sadness listed on the left side of the table below. Your renewed perspective is softer and more peaceful, as shown on the right.
|Non-Forgiveness (Worry and Fear)||Forgiveness (Peace and Joy)|
|Resentment or anger||Freedom to give and receive love|
|Judging others and myself||Seeing the essence of goodness in others and myself|
|Hating and attacking through words or thoughts||Remaining openhearted and compassionate toward others|
|Thinking I would be better than that (Pride)||Realizing that we all make mistakes (Humility)|
|Resisting life through frustration or irritability||Accepting life by being in the present moment|
|Wishing things were different and attaching to those outcomes||Trusting perfect order through non-attachment|
|Defensiveness and insecurity||Peace, trust, and courage|
As you release the negative, more love flows into your life and out to others–it’s the very best way to live! I wish you a happy and resentment-free new year!
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Gigi Langer has been clean and sober for 32 years, and holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. She’s a sought-after speaker and retreat leader who has helped thousands improve their lives at work and at home.