FORGIVENESS AND ACCEPTANCE ARE HEALING
 
 

FORGIVENESS

Having ways to deal with our hurts, we can release these so that we are no longer bothered or even driven by them.



See
methods for releasing hurts.

 
 


We are then free to move on with our lives.

This doesn't mean that we should forget what happened. Even if this were possible, it wouldn't be wise to overlook the lessons of the past. Having been badly burned, we must do our best not to get burned again.

There are many ways to do this. Some are simple, sensible, direct and easy to implement.

We can keep the land cleared of brush that can catch fire.

We can be careful not to ignite fires through insensitive and careless actions.

We can educate people about fire safety.

We can stay carefully away from where fires might break out.

There are further possible approaches, but they get more and more extreme.

We can hunt down every known and suspected arsonist.

We can set up road blocks and inspection stations at the entrance to every forest, checking that no matches or hazardous materials are brought into the forest.

Where would we stop? How much would we let our anxieties from the past govern our actions in the present?

It is natural for fires to break out periodically in nature, mostly from lightning. If there aren't periodical fires, brush may get so overgrown that when a fire does break out, it burns the vegetation much more severely. And nature recovers from the fire, which actually opens up spaces for new growth. Farmers have also used this approach in controlled burns.

It is natural for fires to ignite in the hearts of men who feel that they are being treated unfairly or unjustly. This does not justify what the terrorists have done, but it suggests that we might consider ways to respond to their actions that differ from the current focus of fighting fire with fire.

In order to do this we have two major challenges. The first is to seek to understand the terrorists' motivations. The natural tendency is to approach this exploration with blame and with the wish that THEY should be the ones to change. This is a choice that is almost always doomed to failure, as it is beyond our range of influence or control. What we have the power to do is to find those seeds for the hatreds that we ourselves have planted, which have grown over many years and fueled the flames of terrorism.

The second challenge is by far the harder: to look within ourselves, realizing that how we respond is our own choice - with major consequences if we fail to choose forgiveness.

Jerry Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione point out that failure to forgive can have several consequences. Carrying resentments and failing to forgive often contribute to negative symptoms, such as lack of response to medications, stress-related disorders and blocks in relationships. Forgiveness is not about the other person changing. It is about choosing whether to take on the life of an avenger or releasing the negative feelings and resuming a normal life. "Not forgiving is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die."

   
 
Surprisingly but clearly, from the responses of some of the victims' families, it is possible to reach to a state of acceptance and forgiveness even in the initial reactions to having family members victimized.

See
"Not in our son's name"

 
 


Forgiveness can actually benefit your health, as shown in recent research.

Forgiveness is good for your health!
FORGIVE TO LIVE
By Angela Pirisi

Still holding grudges? Check your pulse: New research suggests that harboring feelings of betrayal may be linked to high blood pressure which can ultimately lead to stroke, kidney or heart failure, or even death.

In a study exploring the effect of having a forgiving personality on both psychological and physical stress responses, University of Tennessee (UT) students discussed two betrayal experiences--by a parent and by a friend or romantic partner. As they spoke, researchers measured their blood pressure, heart rate, forehead muscle tension and skin conduction responses.

The results, presented at this year's American Psychosomatic Society Annual Meeting, showed that "high" forgivers--those who forgive easily--had both a lower resting blood pressure and smaller increases in blood pressure rate than "low" forgivers bigger grudge-holders.

Talking about betrayal can make anyone's blood boil, says Kathleen Lawler, Ph.D., head researcher and psychology professor at UT, but forgiving transgressions appears to promote better overall health: High forgivers reported fewer physician visits for physical ailments. "Forgiveness might enhance health by reducing the excessive physiological burden that comes with unresolved stressful experiences, like the hurt and offense attributed to others," she explained...

From Psychology Today Magazine, Jul/Aug 2000

   
 


For most of us, forgiveness requires a lot of time and healing - of hurts, fears and angers. Reaching forgiveness does not mean that we would ignore or condone terrorism, nor that we would forget their heinous acts. What it does mean is that we would not let terrorism come to rule our own lives - becoming avenging terrorists ourselves.

Forgiveness can also be developed between groups of people, even when they have been warring over many years.

Raymond G. Helmick, SJ and Rodney L Petersen (2001) have edited a book of major importance in this time of soul-searching and groping for immediate solutions following the events of 9-11. An extraordinary spectrum of authors share their experiences of mediation and advocation for peace in many of the most difficult situations in chronically conflict-ridden countries.

The contributors to this collection of essays have broad experiences in mediating and helping to transform relationships between warring parties in chronic conflict situations, as in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, South Africa, and in other countries where tensions have escalated to genocide proportions. They bring to their discussions the wisdom of religious teachings, psychology, mediation, pattern recognition that transcends the immediate conflict situation and plain old common sense.


Some of their observations and suggestions:
Victimization naturally generates anger, hatreds, feelings of loss of control, and the desire for revenge. When the original traumas occur on national or racial levels, there are cultural as well as personal wounds that fester – sometimes over generations; even over hundreds of years. It then becomes a way of life to hate an enemy and seek revenge – which only generates further cycles of hurts and further vengeance. Hatreds lead to distancing of the conflicted parties, so that neither side has an experience of the actual reality of its opponents. Each relates to the other side through traditional, culturally accepted stereotypes and myths of the opponent as the nasty enemy – without the opportunity of learning whether these are accurate beliefs because of lack of contact with the enemy.

Leaders within each group may use the conflicts to their own advantages, distracting their constituents from domestic problems, using the enemy as scapegoats for angers that would otherwise be directed at the administration for unresolved social problems, fueling a war economy, and riding a wave of patriotism. Such politics may impede the progress of reconciliation.

In reconciliation in couples therapy, working on the positives in the relationship and on the feelings can be effective, but it takes much more work on the positives to overcome the negatives. Working on the negatives alone is less likely to be effective.

Working with people in cultural and national conflicts is much more challenging and difficult than working with individual couples. First there have to be preparatory sessions with each side. Victims have to begin to explore their angers, hatreds, wishes for vengeance and feelings of not being in control. They must begin to relinquish holding onto the advantage of perceived righteousness of victimhood. The aggressors have a harder time at this stage – needing to acknowledge and address moral wrongs of having been oppressors. Each side must begin to see and acknowledge the hurts and injuries of the other side.

Next, the two sides have to get together to explore how to initiate dialogue between them. The presence of a respected third party as advisor is helpful.

Reconciliation work may be done best in teams, where the team members model the openness and honesty that is needed for bridging grudges that have built up over tragic, years of horrendous, bloody conflicts.

   
 
Encouraging the development of human connections is essential to success. The oppressed side needs to feel that its hurts and suffering have been heard and acknowledged by the oppressors. The oppressors need to come to a place of acknowledging that they did hurtful things and to ask for forgiveness.
 
 


The mediators must realize that it is not their place to come up with the solutions to the problems, and that resolution of differences may be a task that takes many years. The goal must be to establish an atmosphere of mutual respect and forgiveness, leaving the conflicted parties to sort out for themselves the specifics of how they do this.

A brief review is inadequate acknowledgement of the profound wisdom that is shared in this outstanding book.

A major gap in this anthology is the omission of capitalism/scientism as the most prevalent and conflict-promoting modern religion, with its trinity of money, fame and power/control.

Hopefully, it will eventually be possible to find ways to mediate between the Al Quaeda terrorists and Western nations. While such suggestions may seem far-fetched in today's atmosphere of President Bush's pursuits of verngeance and wars, hopefully healing will prevail rather than ever-repeating cycles of violence.

   
 
The skeptic may scoff that no concrete healing suggestions are offered. This is precisely because none are presently apparent. The experiences of those engaged in forgiveness mediation is that what is needed is to hold a healing space within which all the parties involved in the conflicts can evolve their own healing process, negotiations and agrements.

One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.
         Andre Gidé

 
 

WORLDWIDE FORGIVENESS ALLIANCE
The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is a non-profit, tax exempt educational foundation dedicated to the establishment of the first global holiday, International forgiveness Day, to be celebrated on the first Sunday of every August.
http://www.forgivenessday.org/default.htm
We honor and acknowledge individuals and organizations who are Heroes of Forgiveness". We also provide detailed material and seminars on the power of forgiveness. Through forgiveness, one opens to greater compassion and experiences:
http://www.forgivenessday.org


A CAMPAIGN FOR FORGIVENESS RESEARCH
Forgiveness research projects.
Personal stories of forgiveness posted on site.
http://www.forgiving.org/


INTERNATIONAL FORGIVENESS INSTITUTE
Disseminates information about forgiveness to people across the globe. Planning to accelerate our action-oriented programs, as they help individuals, families, and communities to explore and implement forgiveness for the purpose of restoring healthy emotions, rebuilding relationships, and establishing more peaceful communities.
Thrice-yearly publication, "The World of Forgiveness," which highlights work on forgiveness within such varied domains as the peace movement, the legal profession, English literature, psycotherapy, educational and developmental psycology and other disciplines.
http://www.forgiveness-institute.org/

FORGIVENESS NET: The meaning and power of forgiveness - human and divine
Quotes and images
http://website.lineone.net/~andrewhdknock/ImagesWords.htm (pictures)


SPIRITUALITY AND HEALTH
Section in magazine with various references and resources on forgiveness.
http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/newsh/items/blank/item_186.html

 

ACCEPTANCE

Unhappiness is the product of dissatisfaction with our present condition. We constantly compare where we are now with our past or with our wishes and dreams for the future.

   
 
We often speak of acceptance as a generally desirable state, and in counseling often work hard to achieve this. Very little research is available on acceptance. Randall Mason and colleagues published a lovely study showing that people with higher acceptance levels on a complex rating scale did better following surgery for retinal detachment.
Mason et al article  
 


Acceptance is another step in the resolution of traumas such as those with 9-11 residues.

Modern society has invested heavily in safety and security. We have bought the illusion that we can control our environment, that we can eventually conquer all diseases, and may soon expect to halt the processes of aging. We are even led to believe that someday we may be able to banish the grim reaper - death.

9-11 has shaken our sense of security.

On the surface, 9-11 shows us that there may be no way to stop an enemy who is so determined to hurt us that he will sacrifice his life to do carry out this mission.

On deeper levels, 9-11 shows us that there are major tensions and hatreds in the world - dry tinder just waiting for a spark to ignite into flames of violence.

On deeper levels yet, 9-11 sounds an alarm that something is very deeply wrong with our world.

America has grown accustomed to believing we are safe because we are the most powerful nation in the world. We have lived in comfortable isolation from direct attacks by those who are unhappy with some of our exports: our lifestyle that is not family-based; our self-serving economic policies; and our attitudes of superiority. We have proselytizer our lifestyle through the media, music and films. We really believe as a nation that we are the greatest and best and most worthy of emulation.

But many are not happy even within our Western society. Depression is rampant. Scientists estimated in 1997 that 18 million Americans suffer severe depression each year, with one in five experiencing a major depressive episode during their lifetime. We spend billions of dollars every year on antidepressants and tranquillizers.

9-11 invites us to ask, "What is going wrong with our world?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 


Our pursuits of money and security are not bringing us the happiness we are led by our culture to expect. The parable of "A full and busy life" in many ways says this better than a reasoned discussion. We foolishly pursue money rather than happiness.

See parable

 
 


Values in traditional societies still revolve around the family. In many of these nationalities there is a greater closeness with the land and with the flows and ebbs of births and death. There is less obsession with control over nature, and more acceptance of the human condition as being an intimate part of nature.

9-11 has jarred us because it challenges our sense of control over our lives and destinies. We are so used to being in control that death itself has become a stranger to us, and one which we distance ourselves as much as possible.

In being a nation of do-ers, a nation of control freaks (relative to the rest of the world, which knows and values rest and "doing nothing"), we have a hard time understanding the liberation that surrender and acceptance bring.

Surrender requires purity of intention. In the absolute freedom it grants in response to our letting go, it requires an absolute commitment of holding on to nothing. Whatever you thought you had - the idea, the expectation, the plan, the hope of how things should be - you must let go of it fully. Surrender is stepping away from the certainty of your categories into the no-man's land of all possibilities.

And it is surrendering, in letting go into the void--into the mysterious, unnamed, mystical formless future; into the arms that are invisible - that we become finally ready to receive it all. Surrender is the giving of your all to the All; the waiting with an absolute absence of expectation for the totally perfect thing to occur.
                               Daphne Rose Kingma
 
                             Finding True Love


   
 

Several other healing approaches may be helpful with 9-11 residues and other anxieties and fears.

EmotionalBody Process invokes acceptance, forgiveness, healing and love as healing forces.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer has a lovely book suggesting several meditations on compassion and acceptance of others - as reflections of ourselves.

Often, we seek to know ABOUT HEALING but hesitate TO ENGAGE WITH HEALING.

Article on EmotionalBody Process

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

 
 


Here is a meditation adapted from these techniques that invites you into forgiving and acceptance:


Quotations are from:
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
(p. 46-47)
 
 

Start by selecting a relatively small problem, an annoyance or frustration that angered you but didn't hurt very deeply. It could be someone who was rude to you in a store, or someone who cut in front of you while driving. Write down what this is and how you responded.

Go into a quiet, meditative space. You might use a breathing focus to get there, such as watching your breath as it comes in and goes out. Tell any thoughts, feelings or sensations that might come along that you can give them your full attention later, but right now you are focusing just on your breath.

When you feel you are centered, with your body quiet and your mind relatively free of distractions, find a space within you where there is love, acceptance, healing and forgiveness. Ask your for inner resources to strengthen each of these healing qualities. If you are comfortable with this, prayer might be appropriate for support from higher support, from God, Christ, Buddha, Allah, angels, or whoever is there to help you.

Now, focus on the incident you selected and on the brief rush of negative emotions you felt. "Be aware of what it feels like to put another out of your heart, if only for a moment. Let your self replay the incident and expand the internal railing against the other's inconsiderateness."

"Now decide: Do you want to find a way to have compassion for this other person in the situation that annoyed you? Are you willing to see another you in their behavior?"

If your answer is YES, start to see that same situation from the other person's perspective. Though you may know little or nothing about them or why they chose to behave like they did. Consider what may have been behind what they did. Were they uncaring? Reckless? Selfish?

"Consider why you sometimes - possibly under very different circumstances - behave recklessly, carelessly, or in a manner that doesn't consider others." You may be responding in a state of tiredness, under pressure, angry or frightened.

Explore a range of possibilities until you are able to sense "another you in the behavior of this person who annoyed and irritated you." When you reach this resonation, imagine that you are holding yourself and the other person in that space within you where there is love, acceptance, healing and forgiveness. Now sense that you are holding yourself and the other person in this space when you are weary, afraid or angry. This is not about condoning the negative behavior. "...simply hold in your heart this other and yourself when either of you is struggling with this particular challenge of being human."

When have explored this process several times and you feel it is working well for you, you may consider using this for more serious challenges to your compassion.

 

   
 


In
some measure, forgiveness and acceptance are psychological processes. Taken to deeper levels, they open into spiritual awareness.

More on these in later pages.


See spiritual fallout of 9-11

 

 

 
       
 

 


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