When we try to forgive, it’s something we do on purpose. So how does forgiveness happen by accident? And if we get rid of the feelings of hurt and anger, is forgiveness even necessary? In this article, we learn not only how accidental forgiveness happens but also how we can create forgiveness when we want.
Two high-end chefs fought in the kitchen. The argument was over an orange.
Each of them needed the orange for a dish they were making. They argued loudly about which one should get it. Since time was running out they eventually split the orange in two and both got only half of what they needed. But this problem could have been avoided altogether. One needed the juice for a sauce and the other needed the peel to bake a cake.
Each chef failed to understand the other because they interpreted each other’s behavior in limiting ways. Similarly, we can struggle to forgive when we’ve given unhelpful meanings to another’s actions. However, there are multiple ways to forgive.
We’ll discuss three ways we can create forgiveness in our lives:
A: Accidental forgiveness
B: Forgiveness through dissolving meaning
C: An ancient approach to forgiveness
A: Accidental forgiveness
One client had a mother who criticized him terribly. She would tell him he’d never amount to anything. He would be just like his father, who left them years earlier. As a result, he formed beliefs like “I’m not good enough” and “I’m not worthwhile.” In our sessions, he noted that his mother would tend to blame whoever was nearby whenever a problem came up.
So one of his new interpretations of his mother’s criticism was, “It had nothing to do with the kind of person he was, she did that to everyone.” After he eliminated several beliefs, he decided that how his mother treated him didn’t mean anything about him. As a result, he no longer felt anger towards his mom. He said, “I thought I could never forgive her, now I realize there is nothing to forgive.” When the hurt is gone, often it feels like forgiveness happens quite naturally. Other times we may have to work on it directly by dissolving meaning about the other person.
B: Dissolving meaning to forgive
Often parents get upset at children because children sometimes speak so callously to their parents. Some children say “I hate you” to their parents or worse. Although the parent may know the child doesn’t mean it, it still stings and we may react strongly. This is why in my parenting course, I teach parents how to dissolve the hurt, so they can react with love and compassion even when their children do something that makes them feel angry.
Morty always wanted to have an amazing relationship with our girls. When either of them would get upset or angry with him he would take it personally and get upset. One day Britt walked into the house and he asked: “How was your day?” She snapped and called him a nasty name. This time instead of getting hurt, he did something different. He decided to find other ways to interpret her behavior. Here’s what he wrote:
Her reaction could mean that her teenage hormones were raging.
Or that she had a problem with a teacher that day.
Or that she hadn’t been invited to a party one of her girlfriends was having.
Or that as a teen she needed to start becoming independent and breaking away from her parents.
He realized the events had no inherent interpretation.
Afterward, she once again got mad at him and even called him a nasty name. He then responded in the most loving way imaginable. “I hear a daughter who loves her father very much and isn’t in touch with it right now. I love you.”
She threw her sneaker at the door and he heard laughter. She came out of her room and said “Daddy, I’m so so sorry I talked to you like that. I had an awful day.” As Morty continued to respond in a loving way to Brittany’s upsets, their relationship totally transformed. Britt told me that from that day on she never fought with him or made him wrong again. They grew even closer than they had been. f By dissolving the negative meanings he had given to Brittany’s behavior, he purposefully acted to create forgiveness which transformed their relationship. Years later, she said at that moment she knew she was loved unconditionally which meant the world to her.
Morty dissolved meaning so he could forgive Brittany and allow his relationship with her to flourish. Yet, dissolving meaning and eliminating beliefs aren’t the only ways to forgive. There’s a much older approach that I’ve also used.
C: An ancient approach (My journey to forgiveness)
In 2018, I read a book called the Four Sacred Gifs by Anita Sanchez. One of the gifts was to “Forgive the unforgivable.” A friend of mine didn’t act in the way I thought a friend should when Morty was sick and dying. Two years later, I was still hurt and upset. I had a chance to meet this friend at a conference and inspired by Sanchez’s book, I spoke to her about how I felt about her behavior when Morty was ill. I forgave her. My heart opened. And her response? She apologized profusely and we re-established our relationship.
In this case, I didn’t eliminate a belief. I didn’t dissolve an occurring. Instead, I made a decision to forgive and did it.
So you can forgive others quite by accident, you can do so by dissolving meaning and you can forgive by making a clear decision to forgive.
How parents and children can thrive during hard times
Some parents have noticed that their kids have become more difficult since lockdown. I hear reports of children not listening to their parents, getting angry more often, pushing the boundaries, and speaking to them in a way that they didn’t before. All of these behaviors alone would increase the challenge of parenting. But even worse, you don’t even get a break since there is no more school, babysitters, or nights out. And if you’re working from home too, these challenges are only multiplied.
As a result, being a parent has become more stressful.
Fortunately, there is a way to reduce this stress. You can get your kids to do more of what you want and less of what you don’t even during hard times.
Presenting: How parents and children can thrive in difficult times (online workshop)
We start off by learning how you can feel stronger despite everything that’s changed. Then we learn strategies to help your children feel stronger and do what you need them to do. The goal is to have them come out of this crisis feeling more capable and more optimistic about life. We don’t want them feeling afraid that they can’t cope. You’ll learn how to show them that they can thrive no matter what.
This program will be available near the end of May 2020. To be notified when you can register, join the waiting list.