To forgive everyone for everything will make your life a whole lot easier. It’s very easy to talk about the benefits of forgiveness, but not so easy to do it. Especially if others have hurt those you love. And if people who were hurtful, are not even sorry.
The Ignatian Guide to Forgiveness shares 10 steps to heal from betrayal, loss, deception and personal attack. We can not forgive due to the anger or even silence of another, or skewed stories we hear or tell. Marina McCoy uses gentle honesty to lay out 10 teps to forgiveness with real-life steps and stories, and a powerful prayer for healing.
It is hard to stay angry at someone if you are praying for them. It is also hard to stay angry unless you feel superior. And it is hard to feel superior if you are praying for them, since in prayer you approach God as a forgiven sinner. Timothy Keller
But there is another way to look at this. If the person who caused the hurt is sorry, then there is good reason to forgive. But if that person does not feel empathy or shame, he or she is likely a narcissist. That means ‘no conscience’. And if there is no regret or bother to that person on causing hurt – you will be waiting a very long time, for someone to say sorry. So while you carry on crying and gnashing your teeth forever, the person who did it all just moves on, and forgets. Someone said that ‘not forgiving someone, is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die!’
How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged. Kushandwizdom
Vex King writes that no matter what others have done to you – it’s your responsibility to heal from it, because the people who created the mess likely won’t help. Will Smith once wrote that not forgiving will fill you with hate. He says ‘Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too’.
So why should you forgive? It does not mean saying that the other person is ‘let off the hook’. Whether you believe in God or Buddha, Divine retribution does exist in some way or another. You either have to confess your sins, get reborn to learn the same lessons – or at the very least, come back with the same energy that will keep you in a not very happy place (people who are nasty are like that, they are never happy inside). So just forgive, even if it’s just to be selfish.
Today, I choose to forgive you. Not because you acknowledged the hurt you caused me. But because my soul deserves peace. Najwa Zebian
Incredible Stories of Forgiveness
These incredible stories of forgiveness are good to read, if you are having a hard time forgiving others. We all go through hard times, and these stories show that even in the midst of the most pressing times, some people still try to forgive, which makes life easier for them too. Yes you likely have had it bad. But probably not as bad (or worse) than these guys:
- Alison Botha was a young attractive and successful woman in South Africa, in the 90s. One day, she was abducted by two men who raped her and slashed her stomach so some of her organs came out, stabbed her over 30 times, slit her throat and left her for dead. After dragging herself to the roadside, she was saved by a passing vet student. After many months of recovery, she forgave the attackers, so she could move on with her life. Today she is a happily married wife and mother, author and president of a foundation that helps others to find inner peace.
- Amish Grace is the story of a young man who (bitter at God for the loss of his child) walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse, and shot several children, leaving 5 dead and another paraplegic. By the afternoon, the families of those he had killed forgave him. They attended his funeral (he shot himself dead after he killed others), and set up a fund to help his widow and family left behind. The murderer’s mother was so amazed, that their behaviour inspired her and her husband to forgive him too. She spent the rest of her life campaigning for Christian forgiveness, and even would go and look after the girl left disabled, to give her parents a break.
- Gill Hicks lost both her legs in the London Tube bombing in 2005, when 55 people were killed and many more injured. She says that every person who helped her that day helped her to honour life without hatred, and for her to ask if the suicide bomber would want her forgiveness. Rather than hate, she wants to know why a 19-year old man from Northern England would take his own life, and try to take hers. She has since created an organisation to help deter others from falling under influence of extremism.
- The Forgiveness App was created by Sue, an Aussie businesswoman. She created it to help others heal, after wanting a way to let go of bitterness. Her elderly father was senselessly murdered. Knowing he would not have wanted her to go through life angry, she wanted to do something positive to help others. Just type in who you want to forgive, then send it off and get positive messages back.
- You likely remember the story of Abigail Witchalls, the young mother stabbed in the neck (and left paralysed) in front of her young son, a few years back in Surrey (the alleged attacker committed suicide 10 days later, distraught as he could not remember what he had done). Abigail, her husband Benoit and her mother (all devout Catholics) forgave him, saying they only felt sadness.
- The Forgiveness Project was set up by an Italian journalist, and recounts stories of forgiveness, to inspire. This is big stuff: mothers forgiving men who murdered their sons, sons of terrorists and adult children who forgive parents, after years of abuse. All say that when they finally learned to forgive, they felt great relief. The site also has stories from people who have murdered others to former child soldiers, who are all trying to forgive themselves.
The Hawaiian Art of Forgiveness
Ho’oponopono may be a mouthful to say (it means ‘to make right again, right again’) but it’s a wonderful Hawaiian method to forgive, that has been around for many years, and is used by people of all faiths and traditions. It was brought to the attention of the western world by Dr Hew Len, who was an expert in the method, and was asked to take over as governor in a prison for the criminally insane.
Hawaii is a small island, so this method had been used to help heal anger, as there is no way to get away from each other. Restorative justice (where criminals and victims often heal through meeting either each other or victims of similar crimes) is based on these healing circles.
The prison in question was so bad, that staff would regularly call in sick, as they were terrified of the patients. So Dr Hew agreed to take over, but only on the condition that he never met the inmates, and just chanted his mantra over the case notes instead. Sounds batty, but it worked. Within 4 years, all bar 2 of the patients had got better, and the prison/hospital had to close down, for lack of residents.
So what is it? It’s basically a little prayer based around 4 phrases that you repeat over and over to yourself (aloud or silently) whenever you feel angry with someone, or have resentment. Many cultures (including Catholics who often recite ‘mass for the souls of the dead’) focus on ‘generational healing’, with proof now that we can inherit DNA from traumatic events of our ancestors. If you ever feel that your life is ‘running along the lines of a Greek tragedy’ and your parents or ancestors had similar experiences, it could well be partly to do with this.
The idea of Ho’oponopono is not to just heal the present, but also heal the past. Whatever your religious beliefs (or none), this can only do good. It doesn’t have to be kooky, but you are essentially creating healing, where there is discord (the words of St Francis of Assisi, hijacked by Margaret Thatcher when she gained power). The words of the prayer go like this (in any order)
I love you.
What you are doing here is not saying ‘forgive me’ to the person. It’s a bit more organic than that. Here we go a bit ‘yogi living in a cave’. I am you and you are me, and we are all One. So if there is a serial killer around, we are collectively responsible for the energy that brought him into existence. It does not mean we are to blame. But as the Buddhists (and Jesus) would all say; compassion is the answer. Not so easy to feel compassionate when we read about things that upset us (animal abuse, climate change, child abuse). But it’s the answer all the same. It’s a journey, even if most of us are not there yet.
The idea is to keep saying this until you feel more forgiveness, and let things go. If you find this impossible, just recite it whenever you feel it helps, say 10 times or so. Some people suggest reciting it (perhaps under your breath) if you see two people fighting. You could even try it after separating dogs fighting.
Some people report miracles, though obviously you have to be careful what you read online and even in books. But there are many cases of people feeling like they want to kill someone, and it all disappears. There are only two emotions: love and fear (not hate). So if you face the fears of your anger and dissolve them, love only remains.
Not comfortable with this technique, if you’ve been raised in a traditional Christian tradition? In fact, the Catholics are fans. Catholic writer Carolyn Berghuis says this is a wonderful way to transform negative emotions, and recommends it as part of her LIVE method to help face life’s Nine Faces of Struggle. Of course, forgiving yourself is often one of the hardest things to do, and her method covers that too.
Australian Catholic lawyer Michelle Whitehead has a wonderful PDF guide to Ho’oponopono that’s worth a read. She covers its history as a prayer circle and is not a fan of the modern ‘new age’ methods to create a ‘sweeping clock that clears all negativity’, believing it takes things to the ridiculous. She is however a fan of using it to complement her faith:
As a Catholic, my understanding of Ho’ponopono is very strongly dependent on a Christian view of God. If that makes anyone uncomfortable, I take full responsibility. I am sorry, Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you! Michelle Whitehead
Why Eva Forgave the Nazis
Eva forgave the Nazis, because it was the right thing for her, and she believes for others. If you have never read her story, here it is: Eva Mozes Kor died in 2019, in her 80s. As a child in Poland, she and her family were taken to Auschwitz, where she never saw her family again, apart from her twin sister. Her last memory of her mother was of her screaming, as she was separated from her two beloved twin girls.
The two sisters went on to become used in the infamous Nazi experiments, often without any painkillers. The experiments led to lifelong health issues for Eva, and the early death (after release) of her twin sister.
After the War, Eva emigrated to the US and got married and led a fairly normal life. But a few years ago, she was invited to Israel, to lay a wreath for the Jews murdered during the Second World War. After years of feeling bitter, she agreed, but on one condition – that a former SS guard signed a document to recognise the reality of the gas chambers.
After the doctor agreed, Eva spent a long time writing to many Nazis to forgive them, and even forgave Adolf Hitler, You can imagine this caused fury in some quarters, but she knew for her, it was the right thing to do. Her trauma at what had happened led her to berating local teachers for ‘wasting food’ by colouring Easter eggs.
Forgiveness for her, created great healing, and the rest of Eva’s life was dedicated to promoting this cause. Although criticised by many, Eva’s philosophy was that ‘Hitler did what he did, due to hate. And I don’t want the world to have another Hitler’.