Betty-Ann's Both Sides Blog

Feel the Goodness by Forgiving

This year, feel the complete and utter goodness of the holiday season by forgiving others who have slighted or wronged you. It could be a co-worker or a family member but regardless, this one simple act will provide gratifying returns.

When we forgive, we choose to see and accept the goodness in others. That allows us to find goodness in ourselves and ultimately feel the universal goodness flowing through us. Each resonates with the energy of the other. I find this concept from “Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation” distributed by the Center for Action and Contemplation, meaningful and inspiring.

Start by defrosting ingrained thoughts which have hardened like ice cubes. These thoughts probably demand justice, vengeance, and retribution for your perceived hurts and grudges. Next, make a commitment to forgive now, rather than putting it off. This will release you from the limits of quid-pro-quo thinking and mental score keeping. Both are crazy making.

The longer we wait to forgive others the more difficult it becomes. Forgiving gets harder with time as we become more entrenched in our position, with an increasingly bigger investment of self-delusion to overcome.

Unfortunately, we feel justified in our illusions as we live in a world of dualistic thinking. We see others as separate from ourselves and view the world in terms of the polar opposites of good and bad when all things are created with a mixture of both.

Finding the good in ourselves and others while also acknowledging that each of us have weaknesses means we no longer allow faults to destroy our relationships. It’s natural to want to divide the heroes from the villains, the selfish from the generous and the liars from the truthtellers but it’s not possible.

Human nature proves that sometimes we are thoughtful and sometimes we are thoughtless, sometimes we are considerate and sometimes we are ill-mannered. Awareness and acceptance of this frees us from the trap of our judgements.

By recognizing our shared humanity and accepting others as members of the same human family we are open to experience the goodness of forgiving.

Nelson Mandala the first President of South Africa following the apartheid is a perfect example. He was human and had character flaws but showed great leadership through his capacity to forgive. In 1995 South Africa was hosting the World Cup in Rugby and he wanted to use this event to help unite the country. But the anger between the white and black citizens ran deep. He was quoted as saying, “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear and that is such a powerful weapon”. The success of his plan is told in the book and subsequent film “Invictus”.

One of the things he did to help people understand was consider the larger context. He reminded the black citizens that while they had been in the country originality the white settlers had also been there for many generations and considered it home as well. If we look at any perpetrator, we can learn something about what led to the person causing harm. It doesn’t excuse them, but the context helps us understand and see their humanity.

I practiced this at work when I believed others had harmed me. Once a colleague undermined my direction on a project in a particularity negative way. Initially I was hurt and confused. Why was she so angry and unreasonable? Then I considered her circumstances. When I realized that her sister was in the hospital with cancer it all made sense and rather than being irate, I felt compassion. That made it much easier to forgive.

Each of us are flawed. If my sister was dying in the hospital, I would be mad at the world as well and would likely look for someplace to exert my control. If I had been born a member of the white ruling class in South Africa, I might have had ingrained negativity and dismissed others with disdain. None of us wants to admit that but we are human. To find the goodness in ourselves and others we must accept our shortcomings and forgive. Feeling goodness will be the best gift of the holiday season.