Last night I curled up on the couch with a blanket and a coffee and watched a movie called Kite Runner. This film is set in Afghanistan and is about two best friends who end up parting ways due to the war and a terrible incident that occurs between them. Many years go by and finally one of the friends is presented with an opportunity to redeem himself and win his childhood companion’s forgiveness. The story that ensues is one of the most heartbreaking, honest and beautiful stories that I have ever had the pleasure of watching. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried my eyes out at the end of this one.
One of the main themes in Kite Runner is forgiveness. Forgiving others for what what they have done to you and forgiving yourself for mistakes you have made. Inspired by this touching story I decided to write a few thoughts about how you can learn the art of forgiveness.
NOTE – this is not a religious post. Forgiveness, like ethics in general, is not something that should be limited to those who go to church. This post has practical and meaningful applications for every one of us.
Giving forgiveness a chance
Forgiveness is a tricky subject that is hard for many people to approach. I know that one of my family members is completely shut off to the idea of forgiveness, especially when the recipient is my father. Sometimes pain and hatred get in the way of more helpful solutions like forgiving and moving on.
If you feel like you might be one of those people who don’t “believe” in forgiveness I ask that you read on and see if any of these points hit home for you. I used to be like you. I found it extremely hard to forgive people who had hurt me. But my attitudes changed when I saw some concrete evidence that showed me that I would be happier if I gave forgiveness a chance.
I ask that you give it a chance too.
How forgiving are you really?
Many of you might think that you are already pretty forgiving people. I know a lot of my readers are extremely loving people who are excited about self-development and helping others. But are you that forgiving? Let’s see.
Here is a list of a few people you might have forgiven, and a few you might not have. Some of them have made some small mistakes, others have caused terrible harm. How many (if any) have you forgiven:
- Your father
- Your mother
- A teacher that embarrassed you in school
- Your political leaders
- Osama Bin Laden
- The guy who cut you off in traffic
- A guy you got in a fight with
This might seem silly but sometimes it is easier to forgive someone for a big thing like killing your friend in a car accident than it is the guy who deliberately cut you off in traffic. Why? Because you can see the former person’s remorse. You want to forgive them. You don’t want to forgive the person who doesn’t care a less whether you are happy or sad. You really don’t like that person.
Other people might find it easier to forgive the guy who cut you off in traffic than the guy who crashed in to the twin towers in New York. After all, those people killed thousands of innocent human beings. Why the f%&k should we forgive them.
You might be right. Maybe we shouldn’t. All I am asking is for you to take a look inside and ask, “how forgiving am I really? Do I always forgive, or only some of the time?”
Why we should learn the art of forgiveness
So why should we learn to forgive those who have done us wrong? Why should we give them a second chance? There are many philosophical answers to this question but I want to tell you one practical reason that you might not have thought of: it is ruining your life.
A few years ago when I was in India listening to one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings he started talking about forgiveness. Now the Buddhist concept of forgiveness is very different to the Christian one. In Buddhism there is no God to pray to for forgiveness. There is just you and your mind and your relationship with other sentient beings. His Holiness started talking about how he thought it was kind of stupid to not forgive someone. My ears pricked up knowing that he would have something interesting to say about forgiveness after what had happened to his country.
The analogy he gave was very illuminating. He talked about how you might be angry at one of your enemies for something they did to you. You carry the anger around with you every day. You think of how horrible that person is and how you would love to get back at them for what they did. But while you are busy hating them hey have long forgotten about you and your issues. They are off enjoying life. They are moving on. But you are stuck. Stuck in a moment that happened long ago. And the only way for you to move on is to forgive them.
I think this is one of the best approaches to take if you do not like the idea of forgiving someone. Do it for yourself. If you don’t forgive that person it is going to be you that suffers. They don’t care. They have moved on. But you will be stuck in an angry place for a long time to come. This is the main reason why we should learn the art of forgiveness; to give ourselves a second chance at happiness.
How to forgive yourself and others
Now I want to give you a few strategies to help you learn how to forgive yourself and others. Not everything here is going to work for you. That’s fine. Just take what you think might work and apply it to your situation. [Read more…] about The Art of Forgiveness: How to Learn to Forgive Yourself and Others