Forgiveness of Others

Tiers of Forgiveness

Good morning. I hope the day is dawning brightly for you, wherever that might be.

I saw a twitter post this morning from someone who said they did not have the guts to forgive someone. It prompted me to tweet and let them know of my forgiveness article that they can receive if they opt-in to my site. Having tweeted about that, I was led to thoughts about forgiveness.

The thing about forgiveness is we always do it for ourselves, never the other person. Nelson Mandella said once that resentment is like drinking poison thinking it will kill your enemy. Truer words could not be spoken. Your enemy usually has no clue you are resentful, and it is you who is tied up in knots over some issue.

That’s why you never forgive for the other person; you forgive for yourself, to clear the chains that bind your heart. By offering forgiveness, you are not saying you condone what was done, not in any way. The event(s) that happened were wrong, you were wronged, and it will always be a part of who you are.

But there is a way to look at a situation that takes the sting out, that allows you to find forgiveness.  It is a process. This process of forgiveness takes place over time, in tiers, of you will.

I experienced physical, verbal, and emotional trauma in my early years, and I grew up angry/livid and bitter about it. I refused to even consider forgiveness; I lived my life as a victim, filled with self-pity. To numb the sting of my feelings, I drank for 26 years. When I finally was an absolute emotional mess, I gave up the fight and became sober.

Through my sobriety, I became, after about two years, to look at forgiving. Actually, this is how it happened…

Soon after I became sober, I was doing a self-appraisal, looking at the relationships I had had with men over the years. What I remembered was getting drunk and yelling at them that they were worthless, would never amount to anything.

I was horrified to recall this, and felt badly that I denigrated their spirit, their soul, in such a way. Then I realized I did not mean that of them; I said it because I was lashing out in desperation with thoughts I had for myself. i.e., I thought I was worthless.

Then a while later, I began to wonder if the person who told me I was worthless actually meant these words about himself, and perhaps he, too, was lashing out at me in desperation. A light bulb went off as I began to consider this. It opened the door ever-so-much to be able to consider this person as a wounded soul.

When I was able to see him in this manner, I felt badly for him because I knew how horrible it felt to feel worthless about myself, and I assumed he felt the same way about himself at the time he said it to me. I began to have compassion for this wounded soul.

Over time, I was able to see his behaviors and treatment of me as merely an expression of how badly he felt about himself. Over a period of a couple of years, I was able to offer forgiveness to him.

This is how forgiveness came about for me. For you, I invite you to consider the following as a method of forgiveness:

  • consider whether you have ever done the same thing that was done to you that you cannot forgive for;
  • if you have, own your behavior, An apology may be in order;
  • if you haven’t, then look at the other person as a wounded person, unable to help themselves for what they did;
  • have compassion for this wounded individual, knowing how fallible and fragile they were;
  • allow the chains that bind your heart to slip away over time, as you continue to apply more compassion for a fellow human who is themselves scarred.

Try this out and let me know if you were able to find forgiveness by leaving a comment.


How to Show Compassion to Ourselves

Yesterday, we talked about how to show compassion to others. Today, we shall talk about how to turn that compassion toward ourselves. Remember, our goals are sobriety and inner peace. And, I’d like to add the goal of gaining a balance in our lives.

We always do the best we know how at any given moment, with the tools and knowledge we have at that time. Always. Therefore, when we do something for which we are not proud, or something hurtful to another that we regret, we can stop and remind ourselves of this.

Instead of beating ourselves up or feeling remorse, we can look at ourselves with compassion. We can understand that we did the best we could, and vow to change our behavior in similar situations in the future. This does not condone or excuse the hurtful things we do; we still need to apologize and then change our behavior.

But we can soften how we see ourselves, and not harshly criticize. Harsh criticism gets us nowhere except into shame. Shame gets us nowhere except into a negative space, and that is detrimental for us. Remember, we did the best we knew how to do at that moment. If we knew better, we would have done better.

Life is filled with lessons. Instead of looking at things as failures on our part, we can instead look at all situations as learning experiences, ones from which we can grow and heal. I believe that’s why we are presented with difficult situations – to learn, grow, and heal.

A word of caution about self-pity. It is detrimental and fuels our desire to drink away that for which we are pitying ourselves. Self-pity excuses our responsibility to see ourselves with honesty, to make amends, and keeps us blaming others for our transgressions. Beware of self-pity; it is toxic for us.

Today, practice viewing yourself with compassion. Consider yourself a wounded individual and acknowledge those wounds. Realize that that’s why you were unkind or unloving to another or yourself. Apply compassion, which is nothing more than sympathy, and see how your self-talk softens. You will feel more love for yourself, which will ward off the temptation and desire to drink about what you did or said, and you will know more peace.







What is Compassion?

Our next stop as we work our way through my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing is compassion. And what is compassion? It is the ability to feel sympathy or sorrow for another’s sufferings and is usally associated with an urge to help.

what is compassion

Fields of Compassion

To interject, the interesting and very unique thing about my book is that I wrote three-quarters of the verses that appear in it before I even discovered the gates and photographed them.

Such is the case for the verse that accompanies Fields of Compassion. I wrote the bulk of the verse in Colorado in 2003, immediately following an uncomfortable experience with a homeless man, and I found the gate image in Napa Valley, California in 2005. I later re-wrote the last stanza, which I quote below. I rewrote it because the original was just a demonstration of self-pity for my shame.

What happened in 2003 was, I stopped at a light in Denver and there was a homeless man on the corner. I didn’t want to give him money, so after a brief encounter of our eyes meeting, I looked away with shame and avoided further eye contact.

I felt horrible that I couldn’t even acknowledge this man, another human being who was struggling. After I went through the light, I stopped and wrote the verse that goes with the image, in which I talk about how I could not even show my compassion to this man, and that I cried for the lack of compassion we show one another. 

The end of the verse reads, “All it would take is a look, a smile, to let this man know that I care about him, feel his plight, want to help. I can offer a fellow human being a smile, a hand, and fill a vacant field with compassion…”

Back to our definition for the question what is compassion? You can have sorrow for another’s plight, and you can take it one step further by acknowledging them. All it takes is a smile, a nod of the head. Sometimes you wish to reach into your pocket to help with money, but even if you do not do that, you can display your sympathy, your compassion. This goes for anyone who is suffering.

It even holds true for yourself when you are suffering. You can show yourself sympathy when you are healing and dealing, for example, with grief, sorrow, or remorse that arises.  You can fill your empty field with compassion.

Compassion is not to be confused with pity, feeling sorry for others, and especially feeling self-pity. Now, Webster includes pity in the definition of compassion, yet, in my experience, I have found that self-pity was very destructive for me. It perpetuated my blaming of others for my woes, kept me drinking over it, and it kept me from moving forward and taking action. It stopped me from being useful to others. And pitying others I found to be demeaning. 

I hope I have answered for you the question what is compassion. How do you show compassion to another or yourself?


How to Manage Feeling Worthless

Corner of Worthlessness

I try and try to climb to the light of my being, yet, I cannot scale the wall of my worthlessness. So I collapse, again, in the shadows…

a heap of broken debris in the corner.

Feeling worthless. One of low self-esteem, loss of self-respect. The feeling that no one appreciates your efforts, that you do not matter to anyone, or to very few. Nothing you do is good enough, so why bother? Just writing about it brings an energy-draining feeling.

From there, feeling worthless often leads to self-pity, which can generate shame for having those feelings. Many numb these feelings with the use of drugs, alcohol, shopping, eating… In the most drastic cases, these feelings lead to suicidal thoughts and, sometimes, actions.

Where does it originate? Some say it stems from the early, formative years, if one repeatedly hears they are defective, not good enough. Yet, one can develop feelings of worthlessness if in a bad relationship, for example, where one endures continual put-downs, degradations. The words heard become adopted as our own and we continue to degrade ourselves; we don’t need others.

How would one manage feeling worthless? It is said that doing esteem-able acts is a way to increase one’s self-esteem, and thus, decrease or resolve those feelings. One might also discover their calling, whereby their actions are geared toward fulfilling an identified purpose. Often, one’s purpose is useful to others, which raises one’s self-esteem and self-respect.

Counseling of some sort to resolve those underlying feelings can be very useful and yield a positive self-esteem and self-confidence, thus, minimizing feelings of worthlessness.

Doing an honest inventory of yourself and your skills can lead to the realization that what was told to you was not true, that you do have many assets and many positive attributes.

Feeling worthless is so damaging to our spirit. It leads us to dangerous places in our mind and heart. The degrading things we were told or that we tell ourselves is not who we are. We are all delightful beings, each with specific skills and strengths. Learn those about yourself. Above all, be gentle with yourself as you heal.