Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Forgiving Is NOT Excusing

Forgiving Is Not Excusing

So what is forgiveness?
Do you believe it's a gift you give to someone else?
Do you believe you can only forgive people who deserve your forgiveness?
If you do I would suggest you're confusing forgiving with excusing and accepting with condoning.

I did that for years and I wasn't very happy. Like a lot of people I carried guilt for things long past. Some were real, some were never under my control so not real, some were exaggerated in my mind, and some were left-over childhood thinking. Most were pushed down deep but like a filter over my eyes were still coloring my thinking none the less.

FORGIVE.... NOT because they deserve it, 

but because YOU deserve it!

Forgiveness turns down the heat under your pressure cooker so to speak. If you don't turn down the heat, you'll eventually cook yourself or explode. Endless anger will poison every relationship you have. I see this all the time, and if your anger doesn't actively drive others away, it prevents intimacy from growing.

Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

For as long as you are unable to forgive another, 
you are also unable to forgive yourself. That's the real magic!

You see there's a secret about those who have the most trouble forgiving others. It's only a problem for them because they have difficulty forgiving themselves. 

The Challenges.
The challenges of forgiving others are just the same as the causes of anger. You either think they did what MUST NOT be done to a star like you, or they didn't do what MUST be done for a star like you. In any case, they are worms. They well DESERVE whatever harm can be sent their way. By applying these same ideas to yourself, you'll be unable to forgive even you.

In saying this, I don't mean to condone even the smallest harm that people have done to each other. History clearly shows that we humans are fully capable of hurting each other in very brutal and cruel ways. We can deplore these acts. We can do everything we can to prevent them. But, no matter how inhumane we rate harmful acts done by humans, they are not inhuman. History proves humans can act very, very badly. So honestly, you and I have no sensible reason to believe that humans MUST not act badly toward us. This same point holds true for the universe in general. The 'badness" of an event doesn't serve as proof that it MUST NOT happen. Clearly, the universe is capable of doing whatever it, in fact, does. The universe is not out of whack because you get hurt. Right?

I think it's hard because we confuse acceptance with approval. Just because you accept that certain things happen in the world in general, or people in particular, doesn't mean that you approve of those things. You must accept them though.

It's like this.... 
If you're going to get yourself to buckle your safety belt, you had better accept that you could be in a car accident. You don't have to approve of people being hurt in accidents, but you had better accept it. If you don't accept this fact, you have no reason to buckle up. Refusing to accept that auto accidents can happen to you doesn't reduce your chance of an accident. In fact such refusals may actually raise your odds of being in an auto accident because you drive less carefully. If you don't buckle up, you are just that much more likely to be hurt should an accident actually happen.

I think the same point holds true with the universe in general. While you can't change everything, you can change some things, but even the things that can be changed must first be accepted. Otherwise you will never be able to properly deal with them. If you forget that acceptance and approval are not the same thing, you will not only find it difficult to accept some things, you will find it almost impossible.

Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting! 
We learn by experience. If you touch a hot stove, you can learn to be more careful around hot stoves in the future. You can't learn this lesson if you forget about the hot stove you touched. Remembering the way people have behaved in the past doesn't mean throwing it up to them at every opportunity. That's only an attempt to hurt them now for the pain they brought you in the past. Remembering means using what you learned from the past to make better predictions about the future. If you forget the past, you cannot learn from it.

People who have hurt you once in these ways may not necessarily do it again. BUT, before you take another risk, you are wise to look for evidence you won't be hurt in that way again. 
People can change. But, unless a person's environment has greatly changed, or the person has been diligently and consistently working on change, the chances are the person will keep right on doing what they have been doing up to now. And this is true for all humans including you and me.

Forgiving doesn't mean excusing! 
I really had to put a lot of thought into this and I can only come up with two reasons to excuse what someone has done. 
  1. The first reason is that making 'restitution' or 'fixing it' is impossible or undesirable. Lol you ran over my dog so I'll run over your dog. What, then we'll be even?
  2. The second reason to excuse what someone has done is you don't think anything further needs to happen in order for the person to learn from their experience. Read that again.... You don't think anything further need occur in order for the person to learn from their experience. People can often learn quickly from their first mistake. Excuse those people, we all make mistakes. 
Now unfortunately, some people refuse to take responsibility for what they have done. These people can't learn from their behavior because they insist they are not responsible for their actions or that what they did was not an error at all. You can forgive them but you can't excuse them, THEY WILL HURT YOU AGAIN

So what to do?
The most difficult part of forgiving for me is overcoming the anger and getting yourself to work hard to do it. Righteous indignation is like a drug or alcohol. It feels good for a moment but quickly fades. It's easy to want to re-play the event in your head. 'Righteous Indignation' feels good, it strokes the ego, but the effect is short-lived and the side-effects are more suffering. By holding onto that anger or grudge - you bind yourself to that person or event. You allow them space to live in your mind. You think of them when you'd rather not. You replay in your head the nasty things they said. You've give them your power. If they want to ruin your day, they can with a few choice words (maybe even a look). You've given them the power to cause you to have a total meltdown, maybe saying and doing things you would otherwise never say or do. Yep you just took another swig. It felt good in the heat of the moment. How does it feel afterward though? You've given away all your power. Trust me forgiving is the key that unbinds you.

Remember: acceptance doesn't mean approval, and forgiving doesn't mean forgetting or excusing.

One last thing.
What about when someone is holding a grudge against you? They've declared war and decided that you are the 'enemy'? Their ego wants another gulp from that bottle of righteous indignation. These people are bitter and toxic and they are causing their own suffering. I bet you're not the only person they claim to be victimized by. I bet they see their whole life as filled with injustices. They are miserable, they are toxic, and they will try to make you as unhappy as they are. Try to develop a detached empathy for these people's suffering, they swig from that same bottle, and 'righteous indignation' feeds their ego and gives them a brief relief from their misery. Forgive them anyway.

You don't need to tell them this, in fact you might get 
punched in the nose for your trouble! 

Understand they don't want your forgiveness, they are trapped in their ego, trapped in their past. They may or may not ever come around. Remember forgiving isn't for them anyway - it's for you.

Avoid them if you can, have clear boundaries when you can't. Be prepared to protect your personal space if necessary. Toxic people will try to make you doubt yourself, so be warned. Don't allow them to control how you feel.

What people 'think' about you is none of your business anyway. What people 'think' is all about them - not you. 

What people are 'thinking' is happening in their head not yours. It's a thought process that's all about their core beliefs which is all about their past. NOT you. I try to just imagine the lifetime of real or perceived hurts and injustices (real or perceived - the mind can't tell the difference) that this person who claims to hate me, has stored up in their mind. Those are the things that affect what they are thinking about me. We all see the world thru the colored filters of our individual minds.

Let it go - it's got nothing to do with you.

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