Forgiveness is easier when you can separate the perpetrator from the crime. It isn’t the person who is evil, but the act. Forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting what someone has done, but accepting them as imperfect just as we are. Don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you. We all make mistakes, and certain mistakes can seem especially hurtful or sometimes unforgivable, but we hope to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and will make.
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel talked about struggling for a long time with the question of where God was in Auschwitz, and how he could allow that horror to exist. Fifty years later, he came to a realization: “Watching your children suffer at the hands of your other children, haven’t you also suffered?” He was able to forgive God in his heart, even after going through pain worse than we could imagine, losing his family and witnessing incomprehensible suffering. Not only does this show how important forgiveness is, but also how it is possible under all circumstances. Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.
Game Plan: It’s not easy to forgive someone, but you can try these steps from Dr. Fredrick Luskin:
- Close your eyes, and for about 20 seconds, picture the person who hurt or angered you. Let all your grievances come up. Notice what happens in your body — acceleration of heart-beat, shallow breathing, tension, etc.
- Now let go of this image and take some slow, deep abdominal breaths. Focus on your abdomen, and imagine the breath going down into it as you inhale. Expand your abdomen on each inhalation, and deflate your abdomen as you exhale. Take about five breaths and keep your focus on your abdomen. If your mind goes back to the person who hurt you or to anything else, bring the focus back to the rhythm of your breath and the movement of your abdominal muscles as you inhale and exhale.
- Bring into your mind an image of someone you love very much, or a place of peace and beauty. Allow yourself to be flooded with the positive feelings this image elicits. Now bring those feelings down to the area around your heart. Allow the good feelings to penetrate your heart and soothe you.
- Lastly, keep breathing the good feelings into your heart. Now take a look again at the person you are angry at. Let the good feelings protect you. The purpose of doing this step is to break the pattern of stress reactions that normally occur in your mind and body when you think of the person who hurt you. When you surround your heart with positive energy, the power the person has had over you begins to dissipate.