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.”

The Benefit of Suffering

Lots of people say they choose what they want in life. Yet in reality, they’re not choosing what they say they’re choosing for their lives.

Why? What’s the matter?

Mary and William became restless after hearing an infidelity treatment assessment and prescription from their therapist.

The life recovery plan entailed focused work and taking responsibility for their individual and relationship recovery.

Both of them knew what they wanted: to save their wounded, dying marriage. But at a point of really choosing what they choose, a problem arose.

For some reason, they were trying to avoid getting well – the very thing they say they’re choosing for their marriage and family.

Both felt uneasy with strong urges to “escape” what’s difficult.

At this point, I saw what the problem is. Most avoid things they really want to have (not choosing what they choose), unconsciously avoiding painful and uncomfortable situations.

Dr. Rollo May, one of the world’s noted psychotherapists, once wrote:

“People should rejoice in suffering, strange as it sounds, for this is a sign of availability of energy to transform their characters. Suffering is nature’s way of indicating a mistaken attitude or way of behavior, and … to the non-egocentric person every moment of suffering is the opportunity for growth.”

Heraclitus said, “Where there is no strife, there is decay: the mixture which is not shaken decomposes.”

Scripture affirms what they say. “… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which had been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Sufferings and difficulties are doorways. To wholeness. Character. First-hand knowledge about life. Healing then is to quit trying to avoid the challenge of hard tasks.

There lies what’s profoundly positive, meaningful, and joyful in our lives … and truly choosing what we say we choose.

Why People Overworry

A few nights ago, I was watching one of Dr. Chuck Swindoll’s public speeches on YouTube.

I liked the the question and theme of his talk: “What is the #1 struggle of people today?”

In my brain, I had several guesses before Dr. Swindoll announced it. Money? Sex? Power? Marriage? Family?

None of those.

Dr. Swindoll pointed to this: WORRY – our #1 struggle.

Agree. Whatever the life issue or breakdown, too much worrying is so common. A frequent resultant pattern in most people’s reactions.

The overworry then produces large doses of anxiety. Paralyzes productivity and problem solving. Causes unnecessary pain in relationships.

Psychologist Dr. Chad LeJeune explains how it works:

When you’re hiking along a cliff, for instance, she says your brain may tell you “I might fall” and you picture yourself falling. She says it’s a helpful thought because you realize you need to be careful in your walks.

However, “when your anxiety is high,” Dr. LeJeune continues, “you’ll experience that image not as ‘I might fall’ but as ‘I will fall’ ”

This shows that, with heightened anxiety, you’re less able to discriminate between the thought of “might happen” and reality.

I’m reminded of a patient, Edward, whom I once invited to the MRT city train station. It’s part of his anxiety panic “exposure therapy.”

Edward retreated. Ran away from the exercise. He had experience being mugged and held up in the MRT many years ago. In his mind, he said it will happen again.

Psychologically, it’s called “cognitive fusion.” A thought becomes fused with what it refers to. The fused thought is experienced as reality … outright an inevitability.

Celebrate the Process, Not the Result

A new year slogan says, “The best is yet to come!”

I like that. In my experience, and in the experience of a great many people, it can be true or inspiring a lot of times.

In my case, I’ve learned to just need to wait a while, get single-minded, probe more, take action more, to receive my best.

To receive the best that’s yet to come, here’s a well-proven tip: patience in the midst of process.

A broken-hearted, traumatized woman once asked me, “How long is therapy going to take to heal her pain of childhood abuse and rape?” She’s still receiving therapy for months for problems rooted in the terrible trauma of 20 years ago.

If you or someone is in the process of therapy, have patience. Healing from disease or injuries – whether physical or emotional – can take months, even years, especially when advanced. The best to come is one of deep-process healing and then strengthening for the future.

A major part of the process of psychological and spiritual healing is not only dealing with wounds from the past. It also involves acquiring skills, strategies, and new perspectives for facing the future in a healthy way. It calls for new ways of thinking, feeling, responding, behaving, and relating.

Don’t allow your self to be discouraged when your best life is not instantaneous. Individuals who are truly going to be healed from lingering emotional wounds are going to have to walk through a process that takes time.

Not only are you to be encouraged and steadfast in working through the process. But you are to be joyful that you’re on the way out! To freedom. To healing and wholeness. To your best life ever.

As Jeff Goins, one of my favorite writers, put it, “If you can celebrate the process, you can enjoy the outcome.” Measure the process, not the results.

This is critically important towards your way to “receive the best yet to come” in your life.

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.”

Seeing This Life As It Really Is

“Nothing is yours forever.”

The money you have in the bank, your car or house, your business, even the family you have. You only “own” them while your heart still beats.

Think about it. The fact of life is, there is no real, lasting ownership.

Even your own life is not yours. You lose that someday too.

This is a hard truth for multitudes. For we live in a culture that constantly creates the illusion of ownership. We delude ourselves with the belief that we can’t be happy without owning or having.

I think of my life. Some future day, some quiet, heavily overcast morning, the sun rises again. But that day, I will be gone. Absent from my body.

Dust will settle on the books and study desk I love. Another will have the keys to my condominium I now carry … and withdraw money from my bank accounts … and fill my personal space with his or her own laughter and tears.

That’s reality for all of us. Painful and difficult as it may be to endure such thoughts – that’s basic fact, that’s sure and real!

Nothing is yours forever. There is no true ownership on this temporal earthly life.

I once worked on this reality with a Chinese multimillionaire. He was overly attached to his possessions, leading to unnecessary mental and physical health problems.

He was big on “owning.” When I laughed about it, he started healing!

This reality we’re talking about, I remind you, is a world from which most mentally and emotionally disturbed patients have escaped. They’ve become pathologically attached.

And its this reality to which they must return before health is redeemed.

Seeing reality, seeing this life as it really is, is unquestionably the healthiest place for you and I.

When Another New Year Comes

We mark our calendars with New Year. 365 days of 1,440 minutes a day is about 525,000 minutes supply per year!

New Years are milestones. They represent significant points in the passing of time.

Stop and reflect about your self. Your life, every new year.

It looks like New Years are designed to enable us to make an annual life self assessment. Not only of length of years we’ve got, but our depth or quality of life as well.

Are you just growing older? Or, are you also growing whole and healthy?

The psalmist gives us a best wish to say each rolling new year along this line.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

I’ve a caution for you and I.

These New Years are not like an insurance policy where there can be pledge of automatic renewal. Obviously, no one holds a guarantee of another forthcoming new year added into his or her life.

So, if our Creator gives you another new year, He must have some plans for you. He has some things in His mind that He wants you to pull off through your self and life.

Surely, that includes more than your coming 525,000 minutes for the new year!

You need wisdom.

Wisdom comes privately inside the self. It’s a by-product of right choices, habits, and principles applied to circumstances and relationships. It’s a fruit of a disciplined, deeper self.

Can you find marks of wisdom in your self, life, and future plans when another new year comes?

Make the most of the time given to you. One of these New Years will be God’s terminal point in your life!