The questions keep coming… "How can I forget all the wrong things that have been done to me throughout my life? How can the thoughts that are in my brain be erased so that they do not keep popping up over and over again? It is not easy to forgive what my brain cannot erase. Who knows the secret? Please tell me!!!"
Complete forgiveness of everyone, including yourself, for all actions and inactions is the key to happiness, but… How to do it? It is one thing to pass the hurdle of agreeing in concept that forgiving would relieve your own tremendous burden of resentments, regrets, anger, and hatred, but it is quite another thing to accomplish that forgiving.
"I can forgive, but I cannot forget," is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note – torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.
- Henry Ward Beecher
Wise words from Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century Congregationalist clergyman and social reformer, but still… How to cancel, tear up, and burn the burden of resentment that darkens our hearts and burdens our spirit?
Let me work from an example out of my own life. I was looking for a good investment and decided real estate was the way to go. I knew a real estate developer who appeared to be very successful and who was looking for capital to expand his business. After we had a handshake deal for me to invest in his company, but before we had signed any legal papers, I got a call from him that some land had become available at a very low price because of foreclosure, but the deal required immediate action. I loaned him what was to me a very large amount of money without proper legal paperwork. To cut short a very long and very painful story of mounting legal fees and disappointments, I never saw my money again.
From my point of view, what this man did was, and always will be, reprehensible. This episode will never leave my brain. So how could I gain peace and no longer be haunted by anger and hate?
1. I recognize that this was a very troubled person, financially, legally, and personally, and that he did not intend to do me personal harm. I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
2. I consciously remind myself whenever resentments reoccur that my anger burns me rather than him.
3. I remind myself that the events are now in the past with, in some sense, no more reality than last night's bad dream.
4. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. Yes, I have learned to be more suspicious of people, but much more important, I have learned that the true cause of my financial loss was my own greed. I invested without proper legal precautions because I hoped to make a lot of money quickly. Shame on me. While that lesson was expensive financially and emotionally, it was a crucial life lesson.
5. I have so much else for which to be grateful. While that financial loss has reduced my lifestyle substantially, I am very grateful for my family, my home, good food, my health, and so much more. I am one of the most fortunate humans on this planet, and simply being granted humanity at all is the most amazing gift.
The key to achieving the freedom of forgiveness is reinterpreting your resentments so they no longer haunt you.
1. See the event from the other person's point of view. By this, I do not mean how you believe they should have perceived the event, or how you believe that you would have perceived the event standing in their shoes, but how you believe that they actually perceived the event at the time it occurred.
2. Although we know logically that the event happened in the past, we tend to feel as if we are being injured in the present moment. Concentrate on viewing the event as history, rather than as something that is occurring now.
3. See the event as a great, if expensive, lesson. Make a list of all the lessons you have learned from the event. Focus on the positive lessons rather than the lesson of not trusting people. Let the lessons include having more gratitude for everything you are blessed with each day.