Forgive That #!@&!#!? Why?

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Photo – Courtesy of Casa Dresden

When I posted this article back in 2008, little did I know where THAT little forgiveness project would lead. The concept of Forgive it Forward could not have been further from my mind! I am re-posting this to share how important it is to pay attention to those little nudges we get along the path … including those to forgive. You never know where they will lead or, in this case, WHEN they will take seed and lead.

This Year, International Forgiveness Day is August 8, 2010

This original article was posted: August 1, 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008 is International Forgiveness Day. An article by Michael E. McCullough, entitled Vengeance 101 in the July/August issue of Spirituality & Health lists projects that can be implemented in the spirit of encouraging the world to be a more forgiving place. Those of you who know Ray and me know this is a big topic for us. Neither of us would be here today were it not for our willingness to forgive and our willingness to accept forgiveness.

So, we cannot let this day go by without support. We are picking Project #4 on the list – with our own twist, of course. It states, “Promote a climate of apology and compensation in your family, neighborhood, congregation, or place of work.” We wish to promote a climate for consideration, contemplation, and conversation – if you care to join in – as to where our lives would be without the willingness to forgive and accept forgiveness.

When we say forgiveness, we are not talking about the “pardoning” kind. (The kind that says, “You’ve done me wrong. You’ve hurt me bad. You’ve altered me. I will suffer with this pain forever but I will forgive you.”) Yes, pardoning is a starting point. But pardoning, at best, offers a compromised peace. A peace that teeters atop past offenses, stashed yet never forgotten. Throw a few more offenses on top of the pile and this version of forgiveness crumbles rapidly. Pardoning would never have gotten Ray and I around the block after our reconciliation.

When we say forgiveness, we are talking about the kind that erases the “offense” forever; the kind that shifts our perception, converts the offense to a classroom, the offender to a teacher, the experience to an opportunity for growth. A growth that allows us to say, ” I forgive you.” with the subtext being, “I see this differently. I was mistaken when I thought you harmed me. Look at what I have learned. Look who I have grown to be. Look who I have uncovered. I’m okay. There is nothing to forgive here.” This kind of forgiveness does not crumble.

Yeah. Yeah. Easier said than done. You’re right. But it is doable. It took Ray and I eighteen years, nine months, and a betrayal to give birth to that kind of forgiveness between us. (It’s all in my book, Bernadette’s Pages.) We signed up for the class, became teacher to each other, and grew up in spite of ourselves. We wouldn’t change a thing in the way it happened. We needed every bit of that classroom to receive – and share – our gift. (Including the additional fourteen-plus years of practice that have come afterward.)

So, in the spirit of encouraging the world to be a more forgiving place, Ray and I invite you to consider where you are with (or without) forgiveness in your own backyard.

  • If you find yourself looking back on a moment where you truly forgave and are reaping its benefits today, extend gratitude. (And share it. The world needs gratitude, too!)
  • If you are struggling to find the willingness to forgive, what purpose is your pain serving? (There’s a hidden “payoff” somewhere. Find the payoff and you’ve taken your first step to freedom.)
  • Imagine for a moment, waking tomorrow morning with no memory of past hurts, slights, or failures. Do you feel relief? Or anxiety and fear?

Forgiveness is not just an ideal to strive for. It is a tool that radically changes lives – always for the better. Ask anyone who has given it. Ask anyone who has received it.

We are not limiting our forgiveness project to August 3. We welcome your comments and any experiences you would like to share on the topic. Every thought for forgiveness is a prayer for a more forgiving world.

Let us start our process of reawakening with just a few simple concepts: Thoughts increase by being given away. The more who believe in them the stronger they become. – ACIM

FIF: Earth boyDid you miss the Forgive it Forward video? CLICK HERE to see the 3-minute video!

Curious how it ALL started? CLICK HERE to see the 2-minute video book trailer

Did this make your day a little brighter? (Then “LIKE” this or SHARE this!) And feel free to add to the conversation below!

©2010 Enlightened Ink – If you are inspired to share or quote from this article please share The Messy Room with it. Together we grow.

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21 thoughts on “Forgive That #!@&!#!? Why?

  • August 3, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Wow. Thank you. And forgiving Self is so important … I know a lot about pardoning (thanks for the term!) but not so much about forgiveness — at least forgiveness of myself. Thanks for the anchor and the reminder to practice, practice, practice until it becomes part of who I am.

    • August 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

      Forgiveness issues are pretty universal and don’t change much, so you’ll find these earlier comments just as applicable to today! Feel free to comment on any of these or add your own thoughts!

      • August 4, 2010 at 4:36 pm

        So, yeah, I clicked on the “like” to see if I could like myself … 🙂 and found that I do!!!

  • August 4, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Forgiving Self is important. Funny, when I feel most guilty and least willing to let myself off the hook it is real hard to forgive and forget someone elses “transgressions.” Guess I think I need the distraction, eh? Thanks for joining our project, Laurie!

  • August 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    “Had I not judged to begin with, there would be no need for forgiveness.” paraphrased from April 29, One Day At A Time In Al Anon

    I don’t know where most of us learned this definition of ‘forgiveness’: “You’ve done me wrong. You’ve hurt me bad. You’ve altered me. I will suffer with this pain forever but I will forgive you.”

    Perhaps we learned it from our parents while we were children. Or perhaps it is something that is learned globally, that is, for some reason, deeply embedded in the collective consciousness. But regardless of where or when or how I learned it, it was a belief that held me hostage for years. This “pardoning” holds us all hostage, victims to the offenses of our transgressors – victims that condemn, condemners who then hold hostage those who have wounded us. In the end, our roles become so blurred that we have to ask: am I the persecuted or the persecutor who blames you for my pain?

    What I have learned is: that when I choose not to suffer, I hold no-one in contempt.

    Thank you, Bernadette, for opening this invaluable discussion.

  • August 4, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    By the way, I owe a gratitude not only to you, but to all who have taken the time to write their comments here.

    I have highlighted this entire page and have made copies to take to my domestic values/domestic violence group on Tuesday night. Founded on the principles of 12-step recovery programs, D.V.E.S. ( is studying this month, “willingness to making amends”. It is that secondary gain in holding on to pain that frequently keeps us from being “willing.”

    The journaling technique that you were so courageous to share in “Bernadette’s Pages” : “I don’t ‘get over it,’ ‘forgive,’ ‘let go,’ because I am afraid. What am I afraid of? Why am I holding on to this?” is one that I encourage all of my DVES participants to do. One that I have done myself. One that I would encourage EVERYONE to do.

    But you, Bernadette, were honest and vulnerable enough, not only to do it, but to share those secret thoughts in your book.

    Indeed, as the Course in Miracles says: “In my defenselessness my safety lies.” I love that defenselessness, vulnerability within you. It, as well as these writings on forgiveness, I believe are the real keys to peace on earth and peace of mind.

    A special “thank you” to you and to all who write here. Your insights and your lights will be shared. (you can blog on my page anytime !)

  • August 5, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    So true, Sandra: “when I choose not to suffer, I hold no-one in contempt.” I love that! It is a choice that serves me well.

    Lately, I’ve been replacing the word choice with decision. (Sometimes I’m lulled into a comfortable familiarity with the word choice.) But decision? Holy cow. I’ll pay attention to that! A decision puts me “at attention” and in a place of recognizing the power I engage with. I make “Conscious Contact.”

    There is a quote that used to be on our refrigerator, “You will decide upon a matter and it will be established for you.” (from somewhere in the Bible.)

    It is our experience that when we consciously choose/decide, Ray and I are supported no matter how difficult the choice or decision appears to be. Sometimes we forget that a choice to forgive is a choice not to suffer.

  • August 6, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    What an awesome experience this is – one candle seems to light another, and so the illumination shines upon us all.

    Bernadette, when I made the “decision” to share your “forgiveness project” on my own website’s blog, I had no clue that I would receive such a beautiful comment as the one below. Thereafter, I was inspired to follow the light (link) to Philip Wheeler’s blog @ http://www.philz1224.wordpr… where I found these most inspiring writings: “god of fear/god of love” clipped from Richard Moss’s book “The Mandala of Being” and Philip’s article “The Sharing of Spirit.”

    Indeed, this has been a “sharing of Spirit.” Thank you so much for opening these discussions. I have copied and pasted Philip’s response to my own blog (below), as I know that it is one that is “intended” to be shared. Please read on:

    “While of course it would be difficult for anyone to reasonably argue against forgiveness (and my association with Sandra has been an immeasurable aid to me in this regard), I cannot help but consider the possibility that a frame of mind of fearlessness and a releasing of the notion of “possession” (in its grandest sense) could preclude the need to forgive. If I can eliminate the pain I might feel from someone’s actions before it occurs – noting possibly their motivation and choices are driven by whatever it is inside them and not me – then I might be able to stave off my need to forgive. Maybe – and being just a layman I cannot sufficiently emphasize the “maybe” – eliminating the thoughts that would eventually lead to forgiveness might save some turmoil. It’s just a notion, you know…

    I would also like to express my congratulations and best wishes to all involved with DVES and hope you make great strides!”

    (thank you, Philip)

  • August 7, 2008 at 11:44 am

    I have to ponder this! It is profound and in a way, disturbing. Reading it I realize how little I have truly forgiven myself and others no matter how many burning and cleansing ceremonies i’ve performed. It seems to me that the process can only be done one at at time and that can take a lifetime.

    many blessings to all and many thanks to Bernadette

  • August 7, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Forgiveness – makes me think in circles. Here’s what’s going on in my mind. To truly forgive I have to trust – trust that me or someone else won’t do the thing that needs forgiving over again. But we’re human so we’re gonna mess up. But I get so tired of messing up – this is me here – and so tired of forgiving myself and starting over. I also think forgiveness requires more moral strength than I have. Gee – I wondered what thoughts I could torture myself with today. Now I know – forgiveness. Okay – I forgive you for bringing it up!

  • August 11, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I’m not sure that forgiveness requires a trust in someone’s future behaviors. I’m not going to invest something as precious as trust in someone who consciously or unconsciously repeats the same “mistakes” without trying to learn and grow from them. (My trust is my gift to you; honor it.) I think the difficult thing here is to discern a “mistake” without “judging a guilt”.

    When I remember that it is someone’s pain that leads them to hurt others, I can practice compassion for them, without taking their behavior personally. That behavior/mistake is not mine to “own”; it is only mine to “witness.” And as a “conscious” witness, I bless and let go of someone’s deeds. I put them back into the hands of God instead of carrying them around in my head forever. After all, my role was only that of the “witness.”

    I think that the most difficult thing for us to do, is to try seeing someone through the eyes of innocence in the “now,” without “price-tagging” them with their past or their future. (suddenly, I hear my angels telling me to read and re-read what I have just written, so that I can stop “price-tagging” my own value based upon past behaviors and future fears. ie: is this a price that I’m willing to pay)

    Here, in this discussion, I think that “trust” and “faith” are different things. Perhaps “forgiveness” requires that I only have faith in my commitment to not hold someone’s “sins” against them. Not to be the judge that sentences them to the punishment of guilt and shame, to recognize that they will fail, sometimes, as I do, to live up to the needs and wants and desires that I have pending. When I can see that whatever a person does or does not do is more a reflection of them than it is of me, I can more easily not own the consequences and the responsibility of their actions. I can have faith that his/her spirit is guiding them to the highest good and that the “lesson” is one that they are getting/learning, whether they choose to learn that lesson through joy or through pain.

    When I am free from judging someone, I am free from my beliefs that I have to “fix” them too. There is a freedom that comes from not having to correct/fix others. And there is an even greater freedom that comes from not having to “fix” self (as if there’s something “wrong” with me).

    That freedom is called acceptance. When practiced enough it mirrors back to you and becomes self-acceptance – mess ups or not. (somehow, I needed this reminder 🙂

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  • June 9, 2010 at 2:58 am

    FORGIVENESS! God sent His son… Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you! Because He loves you!

  • August 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    One thing I know is that I really don’t believe that forgiveness requires to trust someone’s future behaviors.
    I believe simply when we forgive it’s a choice to do so. When we do…it takes us to a better place. If someone has a bad behavior. It’s something that I do not own. Simply it’s theirs. My responsibility lies in being responsible for my actions.
    Does that mean I like their action? More then likely I don’t. But forgiving them frees me up to get to a better place.

    Faith is one thing but I think it requires trust to make the right choices.

  • August 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with Kerry. There is the flipside too – the pain of not being forgiven…. I can forgive but can I be okay in the world when others don’t forgive me? Working on it.

    • August 4, 2010 at 1:27 pm

      That DOES take a lot of work for me as well … as you know! It’s part of wanting everyone to be okay and I have to remember … it is a process as much for them as for me … and we all row the boat differently!

  • August 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I find it easier to forgive now than I have in the past… I remember a sermon at my very favorite church Unity in Fletcher, NC… When I go through life I have my imaginery sign.. one side says “it is about me” and the other says “it is not about me”… when someone enters my world and makes a comment or “does” something to me I can view that side that says “It is not about me”… that is about them and what they are going through that day… but how I react back to what they are doing is the “it is about me” side.. and when you answer back from your own heart and not react back then I find I have very little baggage to carry around with me the rest of the day… no forgiving necessary…

    • August 4, 2010 at 4:38 pm

      How I react is the piece of the puzzle that is about me! Thanks for the reminder!

  • August 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Some time ago a estraordinary book came into my life: Forgivness, the author Robin Casarjian
    Fofivness is not to act as nothing have happened, forgive is let go the memory and protect ourself for the incident, the person… You can forgive talking with or if you dont feel or is impossiblle for you, just go within and talk to the person or the situation, blessed it because of the lessons he/she/it had show ans release it…
    Forgivness is the first step for unconditional love…

    • August 5, 2010 at 11:14 am

      “Forgiveness is the first step for unconditional love…” that is so true but easy to forget … Thank you for sharing, Liliana

      • August 5, 2010 at 11:37 am

        It is true that are moment in life, that we forget “Forgivness”, but we have to feel that forgivness is a dialy practice… Since you open your eyes in the morning… all the time, is a way of living…
        And really if we get conciouss of this we will live without scares, and if we have one or two they will not bothered us and let us live and love life…

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