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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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