There are people who want to forgive and can’t. Others lack the desire to forgive the object of their grievance. Within the deep and long-held grievance is overwhelming emotional pain that has significantly impacted one’s life.
In effect, this grievance becomes one’s personal antagonist. This negative energy creates an obstacle for one to focus on their full potential possibilities. The pain of a deeply held grievance can be extremely difficult to overcome; therefore, forgiveness may be the only solution. It is easy to turn the lights on — just flip the switch. But one cannot flip a magic switch and all is forgiven. However, there is a process one can entertain to forgive oneself and others. It takes a period of time to learn and absorb these steps, but the benefits are many.
The baby steps towards forgiveness include an understanding of the development of human interactions. If you can see that the general developmental pattern of human behavior applies to you as well as to others, then the door to forgiveness opens a little wider.
As a practical matter, hanging onto your grievance may be more harmful to you then to the object of your grievance. The person related to your grievance may not even be aware of your stress in this regard.
A proponent of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow, believed that everyone was born inherently good. However, when the path to their full potential was frustrated or blocked, they can become angry, fearful and/or destructive.
It is well known that we cannot walk in someone else’s shoes. If one is dealing with someone who is demonstrating harmful behavior, empathy may be required. This is not to say that one should accept physical abuse. In general, most of our human behavior patterns were formed in childhood. Often these patterns of behavior and unique perspectives remain operative in adulthood.
In addition, acceptable behavior patterns in children may not be acceptable as a course of action in adults. As an extreme example: If one was told how much they were loved while somebody was beating on them, one would tend to have a strong, adverse reaction to the word “love.” Without knowing this person’s background information, this extreme reaction would make little sense to others. Sometimes empathy is required when dealing with others that we do not know well. Making assumptions about others is a risky business. The chances of making a correct assumption may be less than 50 percent.
Most of us have regrets about our own past behavior. We relive past events and contemplate over and over again about what we could have done better. There are those who are less forgiving of themselves than of their family, friends and/or acquaintances. I believe that everyone strives to do the best that they can at their level of awareness. As humans, we strive to do better.
With lessons learned, our level of awareness increases our understanding of self and others. When we hang on to our past indiscretions and do not acknowledge our limited awareness at that time, we tend not to be forgiving of ourselves. Ultimately, this can be a heavy, unnecessary burden for us to carry around.
The act of forgiveness does not include condoning the actions of others. It is simply an acknowledgement that each of us has an awareness of our own reality.
Baby steps to forgiveness:
1) Recognize the impact of difficult situations on children raised in situations that are not conducive to becoming a well-adjusted adult.
2) Everyone is trying to do the best they can at their level of awareness. Everyone is not on identical levels of awareness.
3) Learn to forgive yourself. From birth to maturity, we are in a learning environment called the School of Life.
4) When situations are not completely understood, have empathy for others as well as yourself.
5) Accepting the concept of Oneness supports the idea that everyone is interconnected. Therefore, any thought or activity that separates us from others is conflicted with our natural way to be.
If you can’t forgive yourself, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to forgive others!
Charles “Al” Huth, M.Ed., is the author of three books and numerous articles. He currently is teaching a class on human potential at OLLI/SOU. He lives in the Rogue Valley and is an inspirational speaker, teacher and magician. His website is http://JoyAl.org.