I always welcome opportunities to speak about forgiveness, something which is very near and dear to my heart. Tonight will be no exception. Because of my passion for the subject I have been writing and teaching about forgiveness for most of my adult life. This is what got me to write my first book Finding Forgiveness: A 7 Step Program for Letting go of Anger and Bitterness which focuses on personal forgiveness and now a second book The Power of Forgiveness and the Healing of Nations which focuses on political forgiveness.
There is a wonderful line from the movie The Bucket List which is; “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it is worth watching.” I would like to share a story with you which adds to the meaning of this reminder. I was reading a wonderful book called “Into the Light” by Dr. John Lerma. Dr. Lerma, works in the hospice unit of Houston Medical Center and writes about ordinary people who selflessly shared their last days telling stories of their pre-death experiences. The messages which they wanted to share from their pre-death experiences were all the same. It didn’t matter if the person was a 9-year old boy, a murderer, a drug user, an atheist, or a Nazi, the stories were not only mystifying, but very healing and uplifting.
They all talked in depth about the importance for self-love and self-forgiveness and to have loving relationships while here on earth. They also brought home the message that what keeps us from experiencing unconditional love is the unhealed guilt which we carry within ourselves. The more we can heal our guilt and forgive ourselves and others, the more peacefully our lives will end. They too reminded us that everyone here has a purpose – which is to learn how to love unconditionally and to forgive – and that unconditional love and random acts of kindness raise the level of humanity and spiritual growth for all of us here on earth. Dr. Lerma’s conversation with his hospice patients, at the border between life and death, gives us all something to contemplate.
For those who have the courage to follow its path, forgiveness reminds us how to live with love in a world filled with guilt and fear. Gregg Braden, in his book, Walking Between the Worlds: The Science of Compassion (1997), eloquently describes the opportunity forgiveness brings to all of us. “Without exception, each event, every relationship, every love, and every betrayal that you have ever experienced has provided you key emotions and feelings leading to your mastery. How you perceive those emotions and feelings, how you define them in your life, is your way of training and teaching yourself, reminding yourself of the promise of forgiveness.”
We are the ones who determine how much anger and hatred we will experience in our lives, as well as how much compassion and forgiveness we will extend to others. We have been given opportunities to hate and the wisdom to transcend our hate. Think of the personal power we must have to move beyond old choices and to respond to life from a place of spiritual wisdom. Our pain and suffering provide us with the chance to learn how to forgive and to know our truest, most beautiful nature. Forgiveness is the gift given to us to transcend our darkness and, like alchemy, turns darkness to gold.
Forgiveness is the hardest thing asked of us to do, yet forgiveness is extremely powerful. When given a structure and focus forgiveness becomes easier to accomplish than when we think of it conceptually. When thinking about a mountain it is hard to think of being on top. This is akin to thinking about the complexities of forgiveness; but if you saw the steps that get you to the top it becomes easier. As long as you think of your struggles with forgiveness it will have difficulties. If you have a simple structure anyone can do it.
There will always be people who have an agenda not to resolve conflict and who do not want to forgive. Those that do want to resolve conflict and who are open to forgiveness will know its power which is greater than the power of any nuclear force we know of today. Forgiveness definitely has the power to change the world in sometimes unimaginable ways.
Dr. Eileen Borris is a licensed psychologist and has conducted conflict resolution in fifteen foreign countries. She has addressed the United Nations General Assembly, appeared in numerous media interviews and is the author of the bestseller Finding Forgiveness (McGraw Hill). Contact Dr. Borris at DrEileen@DrEileenBorris.com Twitter