The Medicine of Forgiveness

Forgiving people is healthy. Life-giving. Not only for your mental, emotional, or spiritual health. But also physical health.

Science shows that our physical bodies can be ravaged by negative emotions. Cancer and other deadly diseases as well as depression-levels are high among non-forgivers.

I know a 45-year-old man who’s full of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness in his heart. Over the years, he poisons his body with negative emotions.

Today, his life is at risk. He’s set to undergo two dangerous coronary surgeries.

Forgiveness is healthy.

It’s a forgiver’s project, not the trespasser’s. Forgiveness is for you, not for the other person.

I often hear people mean, “I’ll forgive you if you change or ask forgiveness.” That’s not how true forgiveness works to heal.

Forgiveness is unconditional. It says, “I forgive the person who wronged me regardless of whether or not the person repents.”

This doesn’t mean you sanction or condone the abusive behavior done. True forgiveness recognizes the reality of wrong done.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness is a separate construct from reconciliation.

People who truly forgive people heal. They set themselves free.

However, at the same time, they don’t assume that their forgiveness has necessarily influenced or made the other person repentant of the wrongs made.

In fact, many forgivers rightfully choose not to reconcile. They create significant boundaries between them and the unrepentant persons who hurt them.

Dr. Charles Zeiders, author and psychotherapist, writes:

“Human nature is fallen, and people are capable of sadism, abuse, and grotesque behaviors that will again hurt us … We forgive, but we do not pretend that the people we have forgiven have been touched … or that reconciliation is possible. Even though we forgive in this life, we might have to wait for the next life to enjoy full community with those who have harmed us.”

Keeping Hope Alive

Awhile ago, I read of Major F.J. Harold Kushner in New York Magazine. He was an American marine held by the Viet Cong for 5 1/2 years. Something happened to him:

“Among the prisoners in Kushner’s POW camp was a tough young marine, 24 years old, who had already survived two years of prison-camp life in relatively good health. Part of the reason for this was that the camp commander had promised to release the man if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with others, the marine turned into a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. As time passed, he gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold, he became a zombie. He refused to do all work, rejected all offers of food and encouragement, and simply lay on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks, he was dead.”

Famous author Philip Yancey says, “Kushner’s experience is a tragic, negative example of the need for some hope to live for.”

Can that happen to any one of us? Sure. I’ve seen this countless times in my therapy sessions. A loss of hope sickens the mind, heart, body, and soul.

As Dr. Carl Jung put it, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.”

But mind you, the loss of hope is gradual. Never overnight. It’s often imperceptible that you’re not conscious that it’s already happening to you. If you were, you’d stop the deadly disease.

The disease of hopelessness is like erosion. Silent. Never hurrying up. Slow but constant.

But the good news is, this disease is not terminal. It can be operated on, cured.

I have thought about this always. If you recall my previous sharings – both personally and professionally – a lot in this life would steal or take away our hope to move forward.

Hope and health are inseparably interconnected.

The medicine of hope is determination that refuses to quit when we encounter the pain that losses and sufferings bring into our lives. It must be worked though or else it remains a barrier to our health.

In the bestseller book, “The Road Less Traveled,” the author insightfully teaches us:

” … it is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed they create our courage and wisdom. It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually … this tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.”

Your Extended “Gifts”

While the Christmas and New Year 2017 holidays are not over yet, it’s not too late to give extended “gifts.” To our selves. To others.

Possibly this may be your “gift” per day from here onwards.

Here are some suggestions for your extended “gifts:”

• Forgive one who hurt you, including an enemy.

• Smile a little. Then a little more. Till you laugh.

• Reduce your anxiety or demands on others.

• Converse warmly together without gadgets, phone, or TV.

• Do wash the clothes for Mommy or Daddy.

• Fix coffee or breakfast for someone you care about.

• Visit your grandparents with your cheers and gifts.

• Listen.

• Find the time to fulfill a promise.

• Express appreciation.

• Ask for forgiveness when you did wrong.

• Take a walk with your child.

• Learn the art of under-reacting.

• Enter into another’s grief.

• Speak kindly to someone you don’t know.

• Be gentle and patient with an angry or depressed person.

• Support to reconcile a broken relationship.

• Give hugs to people.

How about that?

Extended “gifts” to you and others! Sincerely. Lovingly. Without expecting anything in return.

That is mental health and wholeness, isn’t it?

Do You Take Care of Your Self?

Self-Care is vital. You miss or neglect it, you break down. You get ill. You experience unhappiness.

There are known effective ways or strategies to maintain self-care. I’m thinking of some specifics below where we may need to actively work on to improve and maintain our self-care.

Assess and get ready to better self-care.

Physical Self-Care:

* Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner)
* Eat healthy
* Exercise
* Get regular medical care for prevention
* Get medical care when needed
* Take time off when needed
* Get massages
* Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
* Take time to be sexual—with yourself, with a partner
* Get enough sleep
* Wear clothes you like
* Take vacations
* Take day trips or mini-vacations
* Make time away from telephones and gadgets

Psychological Self-Care:

* Make time for self-reflection
* Have your own personal psychotherapy
* Write in a journal
* Read literature that is unrelated to work
* Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
* Decrease stress in your life
* Let others know different aspects of you
* Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
* Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibit, 
sports event, auction, theater performance
* Practice receiving from others
* Be curious
* Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Self-Care:

* Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
* Stay in contact with important people in your life
* Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself
* Love yourself
* Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies
* Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
* Allow yourself to cry
* Find things that make you laugh
* Express your outrage in social action, letters and donations, marches, protests
* Play with children

Spiritual Self-Care:

* Make time for reflection
* Spend time with nature
* Find a spiritual connection or community
* Be open to inspiration
* Cherish your optimism and hope
* Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
* Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
* Be open to not knowing
* Identify what in meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
* Meditate
* Pray
* Sing
* Spend time with children
* Have experiences of awe
* Contribute to causes in which you believe
* Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

Work Self-Care:

* Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch)
* Take time to chat with co-workers
* Make quiet time to complete tasks
* Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
* Set limits with your clients and colleagues
* Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
* Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
* Get regular supervision or consultation
* Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise)
* Have a peer support group
* Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest
* Strive for balance within your work-life and workday
* Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest