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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 July 3, 2020

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

2. Focus on your breath

Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

3. Get organized and purge old items

A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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6. Smile more

Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

7. Don’t worry about the future

As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

8. Eat real food

The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

9. Choose being happy over being right

Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

11. Make use of filtering features on social media

You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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12. Get comfortable with silence

When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

13. Listen to understand, not to respond

So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

14. Put your troubles in a bubble

Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

15. Speak more slowly

Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

16. Don’t procrastinate

Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

17. Buy a coloring book

Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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18. Prioritize yourself

You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

19. Forgive others

Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

20. Check your expectations

Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

21. Engage in active play

Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

22. Stop criticizing yourself

The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

26. Manage your money

Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

27. Stop trying to control everything

Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

28. Practice affirmations

Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

29. Get up before sunrise

Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

30. Be yourself

Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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