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More Freedom and Joy through Forgiveness 

10 Oct

While holding on to resentment freezes relationships and creates enemies—none of which is instrumental in making your life happier—there are great benefits to forgiving: it relaxes the tension between people, creates more connection, and gives you the freedom to continue with your life free of grudges—it makes energy available that can directly go into experiencing more joy.

The question is: how easily can you forgive? For me, forgiveness was hard to learn. In the family i grew up in we had our feelings but did not talk things through. Holding grudges was how we responded to things not going as we hoped or expected. I used to hold grudges forever. I could point exactly to the moment when a sibling, parent, or later my husband, did something that offended or pained me and would rub it in years later. “See, you did me wrong. How can i trust you now?” was my rationale. Not forgetting was my way of protecting myself from more hurt. Did it work? No. It took me years of meditation, happiness studies, and insight to learn that i not only hurt the other with my attitude—i also hurt myself by creating a bullet-proof separation between me and them. I freeze the relationship and make it conditional.

Nelson Mandela said: “Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Forgiving does not mean to let the other off the hook and give them free license to continue with their thoughtlessness or abuse. Forgiving embraces their humanity and ours. They did something callous, imperfect. We were hurt by it. These facts stay. The basis of forgiveness is understanding that—paired with the hope that we can learn. We can learn to be more mindful of the other, and we can learn to not take everything personally. When someone lashes out to hurt, it usually has to do more with their past than with the present moment. Forgiveness can help break through old patterns. The energy that motivated the one who hurt our feelings is dispersed when we forgive. If we don’t forgive, we who got hurt take on the role of the victim and the negative energy intrinsic of being a victim attaches to us. We enter a karmic loop of perpetrator and victim and stay in it until we can forgive.

My most powerful example of the relief that forgiving can bring is forgiving my father. He was aloof toward me, and the only times he seemed to look at me with the eyes of fatherly pride was when he showed off my skills at the piano or pointed out my excellent grades in math to visiting uncles. In private, he was harsh and at times abusive to me. I grew up deeply wounded by his lack of positive bonding with me and held a life-long resentment that turned into “i hate my father” when i was a teenager. One day, already in my 30s, a continent away, and divided from him by the veil of death, i decided to clear my relationship with him. I went on a profound shamanic journey with the clear intent to speak my truth to my father. I did not expect what happened. He spoke back to me and expressed how sorry he was for failing me. He explained his situation and made me see that his lack of expressing care was not meanness directed at me but a part of his situation and human limitation. He asked for my forgiveness and i granted it. This gesture of the heart set me free from decades of pain and changed my relationship patterns more than anything else.

When we speak our truth and open up to hear the other who also opens up to share their humanity and their truth, we gain freedom. If you haven’t yet, start to experiment with forgiveness. See what happens when you let go of resentment and invite the other to let go of defensiveness. Be prepared for amazing results.

*You know about the season of forgiving if you are Jewish. As we are approaching Yom Kippur we are in the midst of the season of forgiveness. In Jewish culture the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the holy time of reviewing the last year, clearing and resolving troubled relationships, and resetting for a fresh start. This life review does not just lead to making resolutions to become a more patient parent or more loving partner; it leads to naming one’s shortcomings vis-a-vis others and includes asking their forgiveness. And in turn, others may come and ask yours. It’s the season of forgiveness. I feel that we all can learn from this tradition that honors awareness and emphasizes relationships and community.

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6 Outside the Romance Box Valentine’s Day Suggestions

13 Feb we all need love

Valentine’s Day is wonderful when you’re newly in love. It is also wonderful when you are with an attentive partner. But when you are alone, or with a partner with whom things are rocky, Valentine’s Day can be a challenge. What can you do to feel a little better?

Here are some suggestions:
• Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Perfection is an ideal. Lives tend to be not ideal and often messy.
• Forgive your partner for not being perfect.
• Forgive yourself for living a life that is not perfect.
• Make a list of at least 3 things that are going well for you. Are you blessed with good health? With a steady job? With a nice place to live? With enough money to feed yourself every day? Write it down.
• If you can’t share Valentine’s Day with a loved one, make it a day for self-care and self-love. Bring beauty into your life, for example buy yourself beautiful flowers.
• Be kind to others. There are many out there who are feeling low today—either because Valentine’s Day reminds them of their loneliness, or, because they are living in deprived or stressful conditions. Remember: you can make someone else’s day with a smile or a friendly word—or both. It’s easy to say something nice and appreciative. We all can make someone else feel better.

Let’s make Valentine’s Day a day to look forward to. Let’s make it a day to remember love in all its shapes and forms: love for other, love for self, parental love, the love of a child, romantic love, platonic love, the love of friendship, the care for others. Gestures matter, regardless of their size.

© Eva Ruland, February 2015

we all need love