Posts Tagged ‘pride’

It’s Stronger to Forgive

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

032In stillness, when the silence seems almost magical and we sit by ourselves in a comforting, peaceful place…we can sometimes hear the whispers of Higher things. One of these is forgiveness. Make no mistake, however; though its voice is soft, forgiveness brings us power and strength beyond comprehension. Although many think forgiveness is a sign of weakness, of submission to or acceptance of injury from others, nothing could be further from the truth! Forgiveness comes from a highly evolved soul, one which knows that we can pardon others’ hurtful behavior while at the same time not remain a victim of it.

Forgiveness reflects love of self, so to find it we must turn our attention inward instead of outward. It is within every person’s reach, and yet impossible to achieve without at least some willingness on our part to feel it. In other words, to forgive is a choice, and some of us need to go through the pain of not forgiving before we’re ready for its healing effect.

The Pain of Anger

Why is it painful not to forgive? Because without forgiveness, hate is like a ball-and-chain, keeping us bound to the thing we loathe. In a very real sense, we give up our power to whatever we hate. Consider all the pleasures, happy thoughts, and creativity that could fill the hours we spend brooding over some person or situation we resent. Hate also breeds retaliation, causing more injury, destruction, and sadness…and of course, more hatred. Simply put, anger and animosity only lead to more of the same, and our entire lives can pass beneath this dark cloud of negativity.

Unlike the gentle tones of forgiveness, the voices of hatred, vengeance, and bitterness are loud, adamant, and raucous. They noisily grab our attention with promises of immediate gratification, causing us to say and do things we feel guilty about later on. Unfortunately, however, besides being the loudest voices, they sometimes yield short-term rewards. When we act out our resentment, we gain a false sense of power, righteousness, and superiority. In the anger equation, we are right and someone or something else is wrong! And let’s face it, who doesn’t love the satisfaction of being right? (Of course, we’re “right” according to our own view of what that is…) Also, if others cower to our bullying, we feel mighty and in control.

In its extreme form, intense anger demonstrated by tantrums, yelling, and physical aggression can be a physiological stimulant that accelerates our heart rate, breathing, and muscular tension, among other bodily effects. These sensations can actually be a “high” to some, who unconsciously look for a “fix” again and again. In this way, anger is like a drug, and one to which many become addicted. Like any addiction, however, the behavior and feelings often must be escalated to achieve the desired release.

Even on a lesser level of intensity, dwelling on the people and situations that are unacceptable to us can take up so much of our time and emotions that it becomes a distraction from dealing with other less compelling but very real emotions and problems. Things we might unconsciously wish to avoid are non-glamorous aspects of being human, including fear of close relationships, anxiety in social situations, confusion, low self-esteem, boredom, lack of motivation, feelings of failure…the list goes on and on. Like any escape from reality, however, anger blocks pleasurable feelings as well, like satisfaction at reaching a goal, appreciation of beauty in the world and people around us, and gratitude for the gifts we have in our lives. The saddest consequence of clinging to antagonism is that we become “stuck” – unable to grow emotionally and spiritually.

Working on Forgiveness

To forgive, we sometimes need more than just willingness. We actually have to work on changing our attitudes. Depending on how gravely we feel someone has injured us, this process can take time. The good news is that if we persist, we will always – ALWAYS – succeed in forgiving. Furthermore, even if we can’t forgive someone fully yet, we’ll feel better immediately just by taking small steps to try. Think of forgiveness as opening a window just a crack in a stuffy room. The fresh air we let in revitalizes us so much, we will want to open the window even more.

It’s crucial to understand that we cannot forgive others until we have forgiven ourselves. You’re probably wondering what you must forgive yourself for… The answer will be different for each one of us. What are the things you need to look at about yourself and your behavior that are or have been harmful to others or to you? It’s time to come clean about these things – write and talk about them, take responsibility for them, and make amends if needed. Now, here’s a real challenge: if you’re in conflict with someone else, say, a person you simply can’t stand, apologize to him or her for your part in the dispute! Sound crazy? You won’t believe how you’ll feel if you give it a try. Amends can also take the form of simply making better choices in the future. In many cases, we ourselves are the ones to whom we owe the greatest amends.

The hardest job is to develop more love and compassion toward yourself, but when you do this, the ability to forgive others comes naturally. If you get mired in resentment toward a particular person, here are some tricks you might try. One is to silently wish the very best for them (even if you know you’re lying initially). Do this every time you get caught up in anger at the person, and you’ll find the feelings loosen up and disappear over time. Another strategy is to make a short list of the person’s positive qualities, and read it to yourself daily or whenever negative thinking threatens to take charge of your brain!

One other fully guaranteed bitterness-buster is to make a list of the things you’re grateful for in your own life, apart from your anger at anything or anyone else. This is basically a positive displacement exercise, because if your mind is full of gratitude, there’s no room left for destructive thoughts.

Spiritual Help is Limitless

Alexander Pope said, “To err is human; to forgive divine.” In just these few words, Pope expressed that the act of forgiving requires more than just our mortal ability. As human beings, we make mistakes, have misunderstandings, and hurt each other. That’s where all the anger and hate comes from in the first place. Without something more powerful than our own limited mental and emotional capacities, we frequently aren’t able to forget or let go of that which has caused us pain. This is where we must reach out for spiritual help, and once we do, we are ultimately granted the strength to forgive no matter how deep the hurt.

What is your “something more powerful?” Many call it God, but others prefer terms like Universal Order, Higher Power, or Spiritual Center. It really doesn’t matter what we name it, as long as we are aware of two critical things: that He, She, or It has infinite power over the world and every single one of its troubles, and is a loving force that cares about us deeply as individuals.

Forgiveness and love are something we’re all born with. It is “life,” people, and painful circumstances that then start chipping away at us, teaching us to fear and to build protective shells around our core. If we didn’t have to create these insulating layers between ourselves and the world, we would all be able to trust, and freely love and forgive each other. It’s food for thought, wouldn’t you say? Maybe the true challenge and goal of life is to find your way back through all that accumulated defensiveness and hatred to reconnect with your whole, forgiving self. Seen in this way, the return journey is worth every step.

Face-Down in Facebook

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Even though I don’t think of myself as a “chronic Facebooker,” i.e. someone who is compelled to post on this giant of the Social Networking Machine several times each day, I do find the site somewhat addicting. But like a drug, it can affect my moods and emotions, and not always in a positive way. As the high-tech version of a real-life community, Facebook offers yet another stage on which I can soar like a meteor or fall on my face. Only in this particular venue, everyone I know, along with many I don’t know, get to witness my hits and misses!

I resisted as much as possible to even check out Facebook, but was finally worn down by the constant references to the site, and admonitions of business advisers that if I wasn’t “visible” on Facebook, at the very least, my small writing and editing business was sure to wash up on the shores of Never-Heard-Of-It Land. What choice did I have?

Since it was relatively easy to set up and navigate, Facebook seemed interesting and potentially entertaining at first. Of course, being a grown-up adult with actual work and responsibilities, I immediately rejected any involvement with Mafia Wars, Farmville, or the other gaming possibilities. Heavens! I have enough problems keeping my kids from running amuck, food in the cupboard, and my pets from destroying our house, without worrying about managing a farm.

It was exhilarating, though, to see people I know accept my “Friend Request.” My list of friends grew in number to the respectable double digits. I am not a triple-digit-friend-list person – this I know. But I tend to be more into quality not quantity, so in my world, less can be more. My little and overly-utilized brain can only handle so much, after all.

Being the somewhat reserved type, I didn’t post anything at all for quite some time. I didn’t know what to say… I felt like the new kid on a playground, wanting to join in but not knowing any games! Observing the site’s rules of engagement took some time, but eventually, after reading what my “Facebook friends” were contributing, I became bold enough to “post a status.” I tried some Wise and Profound Quotes first, wishing I had been the deep thinker who had thought them up. To my surprise and delight, others clicked “Like” on a few of these witty one-liners.

The most exciting moment, of course, was when I posted the link to my latest blog entry, after which three people actually posted complimentary comments, and a total of five clicked “Like.” To me, that was like an audience throwing roses onto my own personal stage. Is there any more potent tonic than an artist feeling appreciated for her work?

Talk about instant gratification for a show of approval! I was hooked and wanted more of those virtual strokes. In my imagination, people – friends, friends of friends, perhaps friends of friends of friends – would like my posts so much, they’d start looking for them, waiting for them… I yearned to be a Facebook favorite.

But like the high from a sugar-binge destined to end in a crash, it was inevitable that my dreams of Facebook fame would wear off and I’d be let down. This, of course, came quickly when subsequent posts drew minimal or no response on the part of my so-called “friends!” Even my darling boyfriend neglected to bestow his virtual praise on several of my posts. More of that, I thought, and he’ll be my real-life ex-boyfriend!

Status updates, a link to a new article I had written, even my favorite Taylor Swift music video got no “Likes,” and no comments. Had anyone even looked at them, I wondered? Was I not the amusing wit I thought myself to be? Self-doubt began to seep into my insecure psyche…

And then, it happened. One of my network of Facebook friends disappeared off my list. I had been “de-friended!” What? Was it something I had posted? Maybe everyone secretly despised my obnoxious remarks! My head reeled. It was too much. I felt rejected in the Facebook world, and it hurt just as much as in the “real” world.

In dealing with the anguish over this situation, though, a tiny light of sane thinking shone through my murky haze of self-absorption. Had I been so focused on my own status that I had ignored other people’s comments and posts? Somehow I had overlooked a basic tenet of all relationships: whether in a live community or using social media, one has to give as well as receive. Translated to Facebook, that meant I needed to pay more attention to what my friends were posting, instead of focusing only on what attention my statuses were getting. The thought of contributing to my Facebook community instead of simply drawing ego gratification from it began to take hold. It was yet another experience with humiliation leading me to humility.

To redeem myself in part, I have made some other notable observations after my first year of being on Facebook. It has become apparent to me that most of my friends respond more favorably to the visual – photographs, videos, or graphics – than to the time-consuming challenge of reading. Perhaps it’s just faster, easier, and more fun to look at a nifty picture than to have to concentrate on digesting the written word.

Whatever the reason, when I’m feeling ignored, I simply post a particularly adorable picture of one of my pets, and I get plenty of “Likes” every time. So if my goal is to play to the crowd, I may as well give them what they want: cute animal pictures seem to do the trick and are far less intellectually taxing than writing something. I’ll leave my writing exploits to those who care to put in more than five seconds on a topic of interest.

Perhaps I was missing the most significant point of Facebook. Readers want it to be entertaining – and instantly so – more than anything else. Posts should be supremely sweet, shocking, or dramatic. But most importantly, short! What I need now to help my business is a colorfully animated graphic of pens dancing on a piece of paper, or books with arms and legs blowing kisses. Hmm… perhaps I can find a graphic designer through Facebook.