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How to Forgive Anyone for Anything

How to Forgive Anyone for Anything

Their daughter was brutally murdered on the streets of Cape Town, South Africa while working against Apartheid.

Five years later, Linda and Peter Biehl arrived in South Africa to support her killers’ freedom.

For them, forgiveness didn’t excuse the horrendous crime. They simply let go of any vengeful feelings. They empathized with the feeling of rage that existed in South Africa at the time.

“I don’t see them as evil people,” Linda Biehl said. “They have already taken responsibility for their actions and asked for forgiveness.”

Obviously, this is not easy. But if you practice forgiveness, you’ll feel a lot better. Dr. Maxwell Maltz called it, “the scalpel which removes emotional scars.”

There are three steps to forgiving anyone anything:

  1. Make anger your enemy.
  2. Watch your thoughts carefully
  3. Practice compassion for the person who wronged you

But first, it’s vital we understand what forgiveness is NOT…

Forgiveness is not a weapon

If you feel superior to the person you’ve ‘forgiven,’ you still have work to do.

Forgiveness is not a card to draw during your next argument. As Henry Ward Beecher, the American clergyman said: “Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note – torn in two and burned up, so that it can never be shown against anyone.”

That doesn’t mean you excuse the person’s actions. You don’t have to stay with a cheating spouse or an thieving business partner.

However, you should aim to walk away from the relationship with a genuine compassion for the person who wronged you.

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Step 1. Make anger your enemy

Just because you have the right to be angry doesn’t mean you should.

Anger and hatred are the most destructive human emotions. You lose sleep, you don’t work effectively and you alienate those around you. Steadily, your situation gets worse. And because you blame someone else for your misfortune, the cycle of hatred never ends.

“By giving in to anger, we are not necessarily harming our enemy, but we are certainly harming ourselves,” said the Dalai Lama.

The person is not your enemy. The anger you feel when you think about that person is your enemy.

The Dalai Lama talked to a monk who spent 25 years in a Chinese labour camp. The monk suffered torture, hunger and indignities beyond imagination. Yet he was calm and serene. The Dalai Lama asked the monk how he held his composure for so long.

“I was often afraid of hating my torturers,” the monk replied, “for in doing so I would have destroyed myself.”

Step 2. Watch your thoughts

Now you’ve decided anger is your enemy, you need a weapon to fight it. The most effective way to fight anger is simply to notice it as a sensation.

We have a really bad habit of labeling ourselves by our emotions. We say “I am angry,” when really we mean “I’m experiencing anger.”

Anger can literally hijack the mind and consume you. It’s a bit like love, only far more devastating.

But when you notice anger as a sensation, you separate yourself from it.

Emotions – especially strong ones – appear most vividly in the body. When you experience anger, your head might tense up. Your chest might start to tighten. You take short, shallow breaths.

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Draw attention to these sensations. Notice where you feel the anger in your body. Rather than feed the emotion or give in to it, simply observe it.

Anger needs fuel.

You keep your anger fueled with stories that replay in your mind over and over again. Chade Meng Tan, who runs Google’s Search Inside Yourself program, calls this ‘feeding your anger monsters.’

The more you feed your anger monsters, the bigger they get and the worse you feel. But when you pay attention to your thoughts, you can decide to cut the food supply.

“Therein lies the source of our power,” says Chade Meng Tan. “If we do not feed them, they will get hungry and maybe they will go away.”

Step 3. Practice compassion

Now you have a way to control your own emotions, it’s time to feel compassion for the person who wronged you.

This is the hard part. Just as we label ourselves by our emotions (“I am angry”), we label others by their wrongdoings: “She is unfaithful.” “He is a bully.”

“Forming the image of the ‘enemy’ as despicable, we generalise it to mean the whole person,” says Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. “We solidify the ‘evil’ or ‘disgusting’ attributes we see as being permanent intrinsic traits.”

We need a fresh perspective. Here are two simple facts:

  1.  Everyone wants to be happy.
  2. The person who harmed you believed their actions would make them happy.

Did it make them happy? Did their actions bring them lasting peace and fulfillment? I can tell you the answer is almost definitely ‘no.’

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Sometimes the person realises what they’ve done and shows remorse. Forgiveness for them is acknowledging of what they’ve become.

Others don’t show any remorse or accept any blame. They need your compassion even more, because their ignorance will always keep them on a cycle of misery.

Martin Luther King didn’t brand Civil Rights opponents as ‘evil racists.’ He said they were ‘damaged human beings.’ Under no circumstances was it acceptable to respond with violence and vengeance.

Buddhist compassion works the same way. This isn’t cheap pity. It’s a wholehearted desire for all living things to be freed from suffering.

If a person can do something so terrible and feel nothing, imagine what mental tortures they must wrestle with.

A technique for practicing compassion

Whenever Chade Meng Tan feels anger towards someone, he practices a simple exercise called ‘Just like me.’

Repeat these words. As you say them, picture the person you’re trying to forgive.

“This person is a human being, just like me.”

“This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.”

“This person has experienced pain and suffering, just like me.”

“This person wishes to be free from suffering, just like me.”

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“This person wants to be happy, just like me.”

“This person wants to be loved, just like me.”

Practice this until you feel a genuine compassion for the person who wronged you. Then wish for them to be happy. Wish for them to be loved. Wish for them to be free of suffering.

Kindness is the most sustainable source of happiness there is. Forgiveness is arguably the most powerful act of kindness you can offer.

Sources:

Peter Biehl obituary http://articles.latimes.com/2002/apr/02/local/me-biehl2

Radical Forgiveness, Linda Biehl interview http://moonmagazine.org/linda-biehl-radical-forgiveness-2013-02-14/

A Mother Forgives Her Daughter’s Killers http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20140604,00.html

Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill, by Matthieu Ricard

Search Inside Yourself, by Chade Meng Tan

Psychocybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz

I Am, documentary by Tom Shadyac

Featured photo credit: diwero via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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