Forgiveness and Healing
Forgiveness is about choice. The conscious choice of happiness over frustration…calm over the constant replay of sadness that comes from the feeling of abuse; either physically or mentally. The part I struggle with is the complete waste of time that anger and sadness generate by the loop of thought that is created by the constant replay of tragic thought. The moment of clarity to step back and visualize life without that replay is a hard one to achieve. Yet, one must realize that the longer you hold close the feelings that manufacture the painful vision loop, the harder it will be to let it go.
For that reason, confrontation of those feelings with a resolve that can make a difference is a giant step toward your long term happiness. Like many other facets of your life, the cumulative nature of reliving and replaying your personal trauma over and over will take a great deal of your mental bandwidth.
Let’s use a simple analogy that I came up with. Consider for a moment that you have a bad tooth. It causes you pain every day. Your dentist, after viewing your x-rays let’s you know that there is a real problem with the decay surrounding the nerve in that tooth. What are your options? You can tell yourself that you can stand that amount of pain for a while and do nothing to fix it. You can start drinking cocktails early in the morning to self medicate some of the pain away. You can start taking some readily available pain pill medication in hopes that it will quiet the pain to a level that you can live with. You can man up and pull that tooth with your own pliers after a dozen beers…in the Old West I believe whiskey was the common denominator of choice. That option is going to leave a gap that will let you spit water better if it is in a strategically place location. Or, the last resort is a root canal procedure that actually can eliminate the pain and save the tooth. It is the most expensive route of choice, maybe because it takes a while to eliminate the pain permanently and that takes some real work, effort, skill and healing.
Now consider instead of your tooth, we are considering your soul. Due to some chaos in your upbringing and general family attitudes, your soul has some decay that causes you pain. After one meeting with a therapist, she suggests to you that she can feel and see the pain that surrounds your heart. What are your options? You can tell yourself that you can stand that amount of pain and do nothing to fix it. You can start drinking cocktails early in the morning or whenever the pain becomes too great. You can use a variety of drugs, legal or otherwise, to deaden the pain on an as needed basis. You can man up and feel the pain each day and become someone who chooses to live without joy or kindness because the pain sets you in a direction each day that does not allow you to give yourself away. The wall you have created with that pain will remain in place for as long as you can stand that level of discomfort. Or, you can CHOOSE to confront that pain and work hard enough to eliminate it and then perchance actually heal it.
Sound similar? Let’s just take wild shot here as to why our country is undergoing an epidemic of pain pill related deaths. Are you aware that more people die each year in the U.S. from pain pill overdoses than die in automobile accidents? It is the painful truth. Why don’t we hear more about it? Could it be the drug company lobbyists are doing their daily best to keep a lid on the situation? Nah! That couldn’t be…they want to heal you…or do they? Where do you see healing anywhere in the equation of taking pain pills? In this era of immediate gratification that we are accustomed to, why not just pop a pill to feel better? And I have heard they really do make you feel better. Add a little alcohol and ALL your problems go away…or do they? Healing? Where is the healing part of that equation? IT DOESN’T EXIST! Your physical heart actually takes a beating from drugs and alcohol from any study that you might find. So you have only added to the pain long term from my perspective…and it is still there if you find the strength to quit the drugs and/or alcohol.
Consider what it takes to fix your heart when the constant pain of sadness and longing for love overwhelms your daily thought. What is that will fix the pain permanently? Here’s where CHOICE rears its head once more. You have to WANT to feel better. You have to want to choose happiness over long term pain. And if you could possibly buy into my philosophy of “your happiness…is my happiness” you NEED to do it for your children. And frankly, the pain will not go away by itself…period.
My belief is that a combination of forgiveness and understanding are the essential components for the first steps on the path to recovery. There are a number of ways that forgiveness can be found. The short cut to forgiveness can happen if two parts come together. First of all, courage is an essential emotion that needs to be summoned to complete this first part…and timing is all important. If the person who is the source of your pain is alive, you can summon your courage and have a face to face discussion where it can be possible to gain the understanding of how and why that person has passed on the chain of dysfunction. And that is where it begins. Most situations that create unhappiness are not generated by design with the sole intent of causing harm I believe. They are passed down through generations of anger and longing from loneliness and abuse mentally or physically. The likelihood of abuse is dramatically greater in families where abuse has been passed down from other family members. For me…I wish the death penalty was used in clear cases of physical abuse. To me there is no greater transgression in life than this. The ultimate source of trust turned against one’s own family needs to be derailed. The wall that is created by this abuse is the definition of criminal in my eyes…and should be dealt with as such.
Healing from this situation takes the ultimate courage. Face to face understanding of how this trail of tears and fears has perpetuated needs to be dealt with while the offending party is alive if possible. The eyes of the perpetrator will most likely turn away in shame when confronted with truth. There is no defense I am aware of that justifies this abhorrent behavior. Simply saying it was done to them is not a good enough excuse in my world. This is where someone has a chance to break down a wall for generations to come. It confounds me that someone would bring a child into the world and then guarantee future sadness by committing an act so heinous. Anyone who is aware of this abuse and stands idly by is just as guilty in their silence. Healing comes in the form of forgiveness and understanding…followed by the desire to give one’s own heart away to others. Closing the door with sadness is a life not worth living. Joy is stolen for good. Wholehearted love is not possible. I believe the only way to win in this situation is to truly find the path to completeness by living with a vulnerable heart again. The road to this path of love is a bumpy one that requires support from any source that can make safety of the heart the primary goal. It may be driven by professional help, but emotional victory can only come from within. Happiness can only be achieved by rising above the pain.
I found some sensible and forthright ideas that can lead to a beginning of healing that made sense.
Here are some steps to make forgiveness happen:
- Set aside time to discuss the issue one on one. Make sure it’s a good time to talk.
- Identify the problem or harmful event. You must both agree that you’re ready to discuss the issue.
- Fully explore the pain and concerns related to this issue for both of you. Talk openly about what has happened that harmed one or both of you. Don’t try this unless each of you is motivated to listen and show respect for each other’s viewpoints.
- The offender asks for forgiveness. A sincere apology is a powerful addition to a request for forgiveness. “I’m sorry. I was wrong–please forgive me” is one of the most healing things that can be said between two people.
- The offended agrees to forgive.
- The offender commits to refrain from doing the thing that caused the offense.
Expect forgiveness to take time. A relationship has the best chance to heal when each party takes appropriate responsibility to make things good again in the relationship.
I am not a trained professional in this area. I am a motivator. My goal is to find hearts that need support and love and supply a jump start of belief, that life can be better and brighter. If you need a hug or a look of recognition at the beginning of your fight…I WILL BE THERE FOR YOU. That is why I declare that I am “ALL IN” for the remainder of my life, where other’s happiness is the goal of each day’s activity. I will help you find resources that will can start your journey to wholeness. My dream is to have a network of Greatful Dads that can be counted on to share access to their hearts, so that you can see that it is possible to have a relationship that can be stable and loving with NO fear at the core. Love at its finest is unconditional and can be learned through support and understanding. It is a shame that more parents haven’t mastered the simplicity of this love.
The other predominant source of pain which can be more difficult to deal with is apathy. Apathy is the quiet killer of children’s hearts. It shows up in a variety of manners. These days, going back to my equation, lack of time that is invested in a child’s life in the early years becomes a lethal dagger that can last a lifetime. Making a child feel not worthy of love is incredibly cruel. Having that happen as a result of chasing the American Dream, with material goods at the core, is incredibly hurtful and way too common. The lack of understanding that the formative early years are beyond priceless is the center of my message. There is no “do over” in child rearing. You have to make that time count. The cumulative effect of caring begins here. The opposite is also true. The cumulative effect of apathy creates a “stolen childhood” where emotional bankruptcy is created. Money does not buy happiness and a family that believes that everything is okay because they have the resources financially to do anything they desire…can be bankrupt emotionally from top to bottom. Again…spending twice as much time caring for one another…. and half as much money is a good tenet to live by.
I found a resource that makes sense to me as a way to find forgiveness through commons sense ideas and heartfelt discussion.
Marriage and family therapists James Harper and Mark Butler offer additional help in forgiving and seeking forgiveness from others.
Seeking forgiveness from others:
- Engage in self-confrontation – regularly examine your actions and motives. Ask “Is it I?” – be the first to confess and apologize, and, if appropriate, reconcile and restore your relationship.
- Self-disclose – share your feelings and story with family members or loved ones.
- Avoid confessions in which you blame or fail to accept responsibility (such as saying, “I’m sorry, but if you wouldn’t have said that . . . . ).Search for solutions instead of blame.
- Live your own forgiven-ness – we all have experiences where others have forgiven us.
- Remember that every person’s sense of worth is important – realize that by forgiving them you aid in their personal experience of forgiveness.
- Seek with all your heart and mind for anger to be lifted. This may often include prayer, meditation, or some other activity to rid yourself from anger’s poison.
- Develop empathy and emotional understanding for the situation of your offender. For example, do they have parents or children? What were the circumstances surrounding what they did?
- Avoid unnecessary retelling of the offense – dwelling on such reinforces an unforgiving heart as well as solidifying the event in your mind.
- Remember that forgiving rarely entails memory loss but freedom from preoccupation with the offense – do not let your thoughts, emotions, and reactions be consumed by the offense.
Forgiving one another from our hearts helps restore the peace and contentment that can be a part of every family. But forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. By forgiving another, regardless of the actions of others, you do yourself a great service. You let go of bitterness, contempt, vindictiveness, and desires for revenge that sap you of mental and emotional energy you could use in other areas of your life. It is important to let these things go because if you don’t, the other person – even if you never see them again – continues to hold power over your emotions and your thoughts – and you.
They give this template I believe as valid starting points in overcoming your pain. The key remains in my eyes…you’ve got to really want it to make it happen. That’s when ICE comes into play once again! Believe that there can be a brighter day and YOU can make it happen. What is the alternative?
Healing again comes from achieving a life that works at creating a path to your own heart. That vulnerability is the core that allows you to feel safe to share your fears, your joy, your tears, your pain, your disappointment, all of your emotions with others. That connection is what makes life complete. Hiding behind the wall of pain is all too common and virtually guarantees a life of longing and loneliness. That is the source of so many unhappy adult children. They have given up the hope that joy can be theirs. When I find myself having my own pity party, I have found that picking up the phone and asking someone “what can I do to help you today” is the way to crawl out of that lonely despair. I learned that from my mother who taught me by example that filling up your own cup was done by giving yourself away. That is where God lives for me. Giving away my love for free with the sole goal of brightening someone else’s day for no good reason. Losing yourself in love. Watching over others became the way of life for my children in the single digit years of their lives and is perhaps the greatest gift I could have given them. The unforeseen byproduct of that is they do it for me…almost on a daily basis. That is why I have tried so hard to share that message. It works in two directions and lasts a lifetime. Loving with no regrets is the ultimate use of your heart and time. Find that way and the path you create can last for many generations to come. It’s the only way I can see to live forever…