November 7, 2012

forgiveness {and} gratitude

so, i'm in this class at uvu called "positive psychology" -- it's interesting, extremely applicable to real-life, and i can't help but truly enjoy it. this class has taught me incredibly important lessons.

these lessons have become recurring themes in my life as of late, most emphatically that of forgiveness.

a month ago, at the beginning of october, i gave a group presentation on "satisfaction with the past."
this topic included not dwelling on the past, learning to forgive, being able to forget, and finding gratitude.

when i signed-up for this presentation on august 29th i knew it was probably going to be the most meaningful topic for me to study, but i truly had no idea how far-reaching its affect would be. it seems Heavenly Father wanted me to have a full-fledged life learning course in forgiveness and its associated concepts so i could internalize them. every day of this semester these topics have weighed heavily on my mind and almost daily i experience opportunities to either learn or apply the lessons of leaving the past in the past, forgiving, forgetting, and being grateful for the hardships i've faced - for they have made me who i am.

over and over and over and over again
the Lord's hand-picked situations, circumstances, events, and people have left me in awe of His knowledge of me, His compassion and understanding of each one of us, and His continued patience with such a stubbornly slow-to-learn mortal. through these last two months He has taught me what i could not learn on my own. this has made such an impact on me that i thought i would share my thoughts and insights with you.
do with them what you will :)

clicking here will take you to the powerpoint i made for the presentation. but don't feel obligated :)

dwelling in the past --
we all do it. why?
because we all have regrets .... hurts .....
memories full of pain or embarrassment or offense.

i am horribly guilty of dwelling in the past.
this prevented growth and happiness that could have been mine.

what kept me dwelling in the past???

the people who left me hurting inside and often my own actions leaving me embarrassed and unable to forget.
so ultimately the answer is: my inability to forgive, both.....
myself  and others.

forgiveness helps us get out of the past.
forgiveness is an act of charity.
forgiveness, just like charity, is a Christlike quality.

when others hurt us, leave us in so much emotional and/or physical pain, it is difficult to comprehend forgiveness. well, i have learned that forgiveness is not what i once thought it was. forgiveness is....

not reconciliation
not a pardon
not condoning (justifying, minimizing)
not excusing the offense
not denial of harm
not a decaying of memory

if all of that is what forgiveness is not, then what is forgiveness?
it definitely feels like it is supposed to be many of the above explanations when forgiveness seems to be expected of me.

joanna north defines forgiveness as:
“a willingness to abandon one's right to resentment, negative judgment, and indifferent behavior toward one who unjustly injured us, while fostering the undeserved qualities of compassion, generosity and even love toward him or her.

**this definition includes the emotional aspects {overcoming resentment}, cognitive aspects {changing negative judgments} and behavioral {ending indifference}.

........sooooooo...... really? i get the good news that i don't have to reconcile with the person who brought me pain and suffering, nor do i need to pardon or condone their actions. but now i find out there's a catch! forgiveness means i don't act indifferently? that's the easiest way to deal with the offending party if forgiveness must be granted due to a guilty conscience.


let's get on with it, then.

there are many different ways to process through our hurts or anger toward forgiveness. my powerpoint discusses a few of those ways and goes into a bit of detail.
not covered in my presentation is the four phase model of forgiveness applied in forgiveness education:

  1. uncovering phase – discovering how chronically holding on to resentment, anger, or hate has a negative impact on your own life.
  2. decision phase - making a choice to try and forgive.
  3. work phase - trying to forgive by reframing the incident, accepting the hurt, and trying to find an empathetic understanding of why the offender acted the way he or she did.
  4. deepening phase - where you try to gain a deeper sense of meaning as a result of having gone through the injury. a sense of universality prompted by realizing that many people have experienced many hurts and that you are not alone.
**research with this model and incest survivors who completed this forgiveness education showed an increase in their ability to forgive and to hope and a decrease in their scores on anxiety and depression.

the following is a poem i feel expresses forgiveness quite beautifully.
a roommate, who has helped me in countless ways make progress in this area of my life, showed it to me and it rings true to my soul.

"to forgive"
--by mestup poems
to forgive
is not to forget.

to forgive
is really to remember
that nobody is perfect
that each of us stumbles
when we want so much to stay upright
that each of us says things
we wish we had never said
that we can all forget that love
is more important than being right.

to forgive
is really to remember
that we are so much more
than our mistakes
that we are often more kind and caring
that accepting another's flaws
can help us accept our own.

to forgive
is to remember
that the odds are pretty good that
we might soon need to be forgiven ourselves.
that life sometimes gives us more
than we can handle gracefully.

to forgive
is to remember
that we have room in our hearts to

begin again ……
and again

life is so hard.
why make it harder by keeping the gift of forgiveness wrapped and stowed away, never to be given and instead to rot as resentment in our hearts?

buddha said, "holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."

here is a lyrically clever song, one that i have come to love and that comes to mind at random times during my days. you should really take a listen :)
matthew west "forgiveness"

learning to forgive others helps teach us how to forgive ourselves.
how ironic.
God knew all along that we'd need this understanding.

when we forgive others and others forgive us, we understand a little more how important God's grace is in our lives. He forgives us for everything we do - and no matter who you are, i think we all know that everyone sins. God forgives us each.

how incredible!!
i sure need His grace and i'm so grateful He gives it to me.

i believe this is where gratitude comes in:

  • finding the lesson in the hardship can bring gratitude.
  • this gratitude helps us leave the past in the past.
  • leaving the past in the past brings happiness to our present and our future.

i am so grateful for everything life has thrown my way.
i have learned forgiveness because of my adversity.
i have learned true friendship, strength, and what great joy comes from the peaceful times.

i want to live my life full of gratitude.

gratitude is a decision.

gratitude changes us. it changes others.

and..... i think we all know forgiveness changes everyone.
it sure has changed me.