Friday, May 18, 2012

Oprah on Forgiveness

Oprah says that forgiveness is about giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. I disagree and this is why.

Forgiveness isn't about giving up hope. Hurt feelings exist for a reason and trying to change them never works. Absent of the other person's sincere and complete apology, forgiveness is about creating a better way that does not depend on the other person's actions or involvement. This way is not easy. It is far easier to forgive if you receive a sincere and complete apology.

When a person asks you for forgiveness, are they really sorry for what they did? A person who asks for forgiveness should make:

  • A full apology
  • A promise to never do it again
  • Amends, in whatever way possible, and
  • A sincere effort to establish a pattern of appropriate behavior moving forward

Wouldn't it be great if all you ever had to do was to say you're sorry and people forgave you? The reason it doesn't work that way is because humans are programmed with the common sense to protect themselves from being hurt, abused, misused and taken advantage of. It is a survival instinct, really. Don't ignore these instincts. Like I said, these feelings exist for a reason. If you are having a hard time forgiving, odds are likely that one or more of the four actions above were not taken by the person you are trying to forgive.

A word about #3 - Making amends isn't always easy and everyone should be considerate when it comes to making amends. Once something or someone is gone, you can't bring it/them back. But when you can't make a difference in that person's life, you can devote yourself to making a difference in someone else's life, and by preventing such things from happening to someone else, you can indirectly make amends to the person that was slighted. Also, if you can't fix what was broken, perhaps you can help that person find something to fill the void. Just the sincere effort alone is sometimes all it takes to make amends.

Finally, forgiving a person who hasn't asked for forgiveness takes more than resolve, but it has to be done. Anger serves a purpose also, but one can't ever allow it to reside within for long periods of time. Anger should be used a catalyst for change, not a way of dealing with problems. Once change is accomplished, anger should be discarded before it destroys your opportunities for happiness.

In order for you to move on, forgiveness takes effort and it takes tears, either on their part or on yours, and you will never forgive a soul by giving up hope. If you are on your own, you really have to work at creating your new plan until the old one no longer matters to you. Once you find a way to get back what that person took from you (joy, love, peace, money, etc.) you'll know you can forgive, simply because there will be no more angry tears. And holding a grudge when your life has been blessed is such a waste of energy, don't you think?

Forgiveness is hard work, but our souls were made to forgive and tears are just one of the tools we use.

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