Forgiveness is not about saying that the situation was okay. In many cases the situation probably shouldn’t have happened, but the harsh reality is that it did.
It happened because there was a priority belief that was activated that drove you or that person to behave in that way. When protecting our self-worth, logic and morals often fall by the way side and is replaced with desperation to do anything that will take away the pain of being less worthy.
Whether we are talking about mild anger, small indiscretions against us, or full blown abuse and moral injustice, behind every behaviour, there is always a person who believes they are worth-less to begin with and are doing these things in order to protect their self-worth and make them feel better about themselves.
Their behaviour is not about you and all about them!
Understanding human behaviour and why people do the things that they do can be an empowering exercise that will help us to forgive that person. Forgiveness in my opinion is not about the other person. It is about your relationship with what has happened in your life, or what is happening in your life.
Holding onto past hurts, only hurts you and takes away your enjoyment of life. No one can make you feel any sort of emotion. It is always your interpretation of that situation that causes you to feel the way that you do. Thus, if you are feeling any sort of resentment, criticism, blame, judgement, anger or bitterness towards another person, then it is because of how you have perceived that event and what you have perceived this event to mean about you or your life.
Understanding what is driving that person’s behaviour, as well as what is driving your reaction and then being able to upgrade that with your knowledge of the reality of true self-worth and how to look at situations in a more peaceful way, will stop you from feeling stressed or emotional about the situation.
Here are a few common examples that you may relate to where you have felt that someone else ‘should’ have behaved differently and you now feel blame or resentment because of how your life now is because of that person’s actions. Here is how to change how you look at it too:
Other people are criticising me
This one happens a lot when you are a parent. There are many people that will be quick to criticise your choices and what you are doing with your child, believing that you are doing it wrong and they know the right way to go about it. This could be the way you breastfeed, how you put your child to sleep, how quickly you feed them solids, how you handle tantrums and backchat, heck it could even be how often you give your child a cuddle!
There is a big difference between advice that was aimed at helping you and criticism. That line will probably be determined by how you tend to distinguish between criticisms and constructive advice though. Regardless, if someone is outright criticising you and deeming your actions wrong and theirs right, then what they are doing is all about them and not about you.
People who criticise other people often feel worth-less themselves. In order to feel good about themselves they go about pointing out other people’s downfalls or assert their knowledge to you. One of the things that I’ve noticed the most in my years as a life coach is that people who have to assert it the most, often believe it the least.
Often people can see something in you which challenges something they don’t want to see in themselves. Perhaps you are telling someone how you feel and they quickly judge you for feeling this way. This could be because they are feeling the same way and feel bad about it, or because they see this feeling as a threat to their quality of life somehow. Perhaps they may feel like they are better than you (worth-more) because they don’t feel this way. They criticise you in an attempt to make you feel even worse, so they can feel better. That doesn’t necessarily make them out to be a monster. We’ve all done it. We’ve all looked at someone going through hard times and felt better about ourselves because we are not.
Understand that people that judge, criticise and condemn other people are doing so to feel better about themselves, which must mean that they felt bad about themselves to begin with. This puts them on the same calibre as you. We are all just trying to make it in the world and feel like we are worthy and successful in our lives. It’s just that some people don’t know how to do this without bringing other people down. Often we do it out of sheer habit and ignorance, not realising that we are hurting other people’s feelings. We are just doing it to make ourselves feel better.
Understanding that there is the same self-worth aspect underneath others’ behaviour that you too display sometimes but perhaps in different ways, can help you to be compassionate about that person instead of angry, because they are experiencing pain in their lives in order for them to behave this way.
Relationships with your partner
Example: ‘He should be helping me more’ – When you are talking about any issues with your partner that start with you saying ‘he should’, then you need to get an understanding as to ‘why he is’. Regardless of the fact that you think he ‘should’ be helping you more, the reality is that he is doing as much as he’s doing which may be nothing or it may be something and you feel it should be more.
The reason why he is doing as much as he is (or as little as he is) is because of beliefs he has about the situation. Maybe he believes he doesn’t have to do the things you want him to; perhaps he believes it’s your job. Maybe he has different priorities than yours. Maybe he believes that you are both happy with the arrangement. Maybe he believes that he does enough. Maybe he is avoiding doing more because he finds these things demeaning to his ‘definition of a man’. There are specific reasons why he is doing what he does and if you first find out why he is doing them that way and what the self-worth component is for him not helping you more, than you have more information to work with in reaching an amicable agreement.
Whenever you have an issue with your partner (or anyone else for that matter) it is helpful to understand the priorities they have that govern the decisions they make and the actions they take. They can only every respond based on the information and beliefs that they hold IN EACH MOMENT and if they have an incorrect view of self-worth or have their self-worth attached to some identity, ideas or outcomes, then this will reflect how they behave. Understand the motive and you will understand the behaviour.
Once you understand the behaviour you can accept that this is where he is at in his development. Accept that he can only ever operate with that information until he is given new information to work with and then work on a way to give him that information and help him to change his priorities.
Detach yourself from his behaviour (separate the human from the behaviour) with the understanding that his behaviour is all about him and his priorities are not about hurting you. Look at it from this viewpoint can help you to accept the reality of why he behaves that way and then work on doing something about the problem in the rest of the TRACK process. Because remember, just because you are accepting a situation, it doesn’t mean you are meant to just put up with it. The reality step is about accepting your reality, knowing that it has unfolded the way it has due to everything that has happened leading up to that event and it couldn’t have been any other way.
Your husband’s reactions and choices are because of everything that has happened in his life and the beliefs that he has formed leading up to this moment and that is currently what is dictating his behaviour. This is the reality that you need to accept in order to be able to move towards the solutions to your problems. Otherwise you keep getting stuck in ‘but he should be….’, when the reality is, he isn’t!
A past traumatic event
Sometimes the underlying cause of stress and depression can be because of a traumatic event. Especially if you are talking about any sort of abuse, whether it is physical, emotional or sexual, having children can bring up these issues like it happened only yesterday.
Memories of what happened to you at the age your kids are at, or issues to do with love, affection and caring for your child can often be painful.
It is normal for you to have these experiences influence and affect the way that you parent, but if they are becoming a stress to you, then it is because of how you are perceiving the situation and how you are now perceiving that experience as affecting your life.
Sometimes painful memories can haunt you when you remember some of the bad things that have happened to you and this can bring with it a lot of pain. However it is not the memories themselves causing pain, it is the beliefs attached to those memories that are causing you pain. The brain remembers things all the time, but it is how we rate those memories that cause us to feel the emotion of happiness, sadness or anger. For example if you were to remember getting your first pet puppy as a child, you would not feel stressed. This is because you are remembering that event as a good time for you. However the memory of the abuse can make you feel anger or resentment towards that abuser. This is because you may believe that it ‘shouldn’t have happened’, ‘he should have been punished’, ‘I should be a happy mum knowing how to love her child, but he took that from me’.
Should this event have happened? Absolutely not! It shouldn’t have happened and I’m not going to tell you that what this person did was okay, because it wasn’t. However, the reality is that it did happen and all of those previous comments with all of those should/coulds running through your mind are in conflict with this reality and is what is causing your pain over those memories. Your anger and your resentment is stuck in the should/coulds of the past that is now over.
You are the person you are today because of everything that has happened in your life and what you have learnt from it. That experience is just one of many that has made you who you are and made up what you know. If you look really hard there are things that you have learnt from that experience that now benefit your life that you would not have known without having gone through that. If you could turn back time would you still take back that experience? I’m sure you would, however you cannot do that. All you can do is accept that this has happened and that it has been an experience amongst many that has contributed to your life so far.
Each of us have adversities that we did not enjoy, but have benefited our life. Just because it was an adversity that you had no control over or that was caused by someone else’s poor opinion of themselves and consequently poor behaviour, it does not mean that there was not some valuable learning in it for you.
It’s okay to find the value in this situation and to accept that this too is part of your journey through life and part of what you know about life as a result of this experience. Finding this value does not release that person from the wrongness of their behaviour. It releases you from the pain of this behaviour. Those painful memories are only painful because you are seeing that whole situation as devaluing your life, just like any other event that causes us stress.
When you change how you look at it, you will change how you feel about it, which will influence how you respond to your current life. Rather than looking at what it robbed you of, search for what it gave to you. This situation may have helped you become independent, strong-willed, may have caused you to be physically fit, or have taught you to learn self-defence. Perhaps that event has resulted in you being extra aware of who your children will be around and to know the signs of this abuse happening to your kids so that it doesn’t happen again. Perhaps you have received some counselling as a result of this abuse that has given you knowledge about life that you find valuable in many other areas of your life that you would never have known about had you not had that experience. In every situation of bad, there is also an equal amount of good. It is the law of polarity. You just need to search for it.
There is one more point that I would like to make about abuse that is crucial to you being able to forgive and more forward from the pain of this event.
What this person did, was not your fault!! It was not about you. It was all about him/her and how badly they were feeling about themselves. It was about what they had learnt to believe about life and how they felt they needed to handle things. You did nothing wrong. Every behaviour has self-worth beliefs at its core. Those self-worth beliefs were set up in childhood, long before you probably even met your abuser. Again, it was NOT about you.
It shouldn’t have happened, that is for sure, but it did because of everything that occurred in that person’s life that led him/her to the point where he/she believed he/she was worth-less and in order to feel worth-more they did what they did. That person was born as a baby that was 100% worthy, just like we were. Something happened. Something happened in that baby’s life through their childhood that changed the person they were to what they have now become. That person had influences and teachers in their life that taught them these beliefs that caused them to respond this way. Someone taught this person that they were worth-less and they now constantly live with that pain.
As difficult as it is to accept that this situation happened, in order to release yourself from the pain of this event, you have to come to terms with the reality of the situation and learn to forgive. It will release you from the pain, but he/she has not been released from their pain. He/she was and probably still is in pain, but you don’t have to be. No one can ever take away your power to be happy, only you do that by holding onto the thoughts that cause you to be powerless and in pain.
Consciously choose to accept the reality that this event occurred in your life, find the hidden good in that bad and then work on fixing up any residual damage it may have left you with. If you now struggle with being affectionate, then seek out a professional who can help you learn how to be affectionate. If you are having trouble bonding with your child, then seek out someone who is an expert in bonding. Whatever you are lacking in knowledge as a result of this event, seek out how to educate yourself on how to change that, just like you would with any other situation where you lacked knowledge.
Don’t hang on to the past, as it doesn’t exist anymore. Right now is your only moment and every moment is a chance to start the rest of your life. Treat this event as just one more learning experience in your life and let go of the behaviours of others. Your life is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Why? Because you are here and this is where you are at.
Sure your brain will remember this event sometimes when certain things in life trigger this memory. But that’s just what the brain does. We are always remembering different memories all the time. If you often recall this memory, then it is probably because you are still resisting that it occurred in your life and you need to upgrade your view on this situation. When you have done this and notice this memory recurring again, just know that this is just a normal part of what the brain does. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a memory. Keep upgrading with your new knowledge and perspective of the situation whenever your brain recalls the event. When you stop giving this memory the negative energy that you have been, then your brain will stop bringing it up as a recurring picture in your mind. You will find that the more you apply your different perspective the less you will recall it.
Forgiveness is about accepting what has passed, finding its value and moving forward with newfound knowledge and a quest to seek out more for your life than being defined by that moment in time. You are the only one that can release you from that.
Whenever there is any conflict in the past where you believe that life has gone wrong because of an event, that because it went that way you are now missing out and that someone else should have done something differently, you are stuck in conflict with the reality of how life is right now.
We are always getting the experiences that we need for our life’s development. The proof of this statement is because you are where you are at and have already had all those experiences. It has happened and now this experience forms part of your unique personal story, along with your good times and the other challenging moments too.
If somebody does something that you perceive as being ‘the wrong thing’, try to understand that, just like you, they have priorities that are guiding their behaviour. It’s not about condoning behaviour. It’s all about understanding it. Because understanding will free you from pain and that is what forgiveness and acceptance is all about.
None of us are perfect and we are all just operating the best way we know how with the information that we have. When we can see people as being like us in this respect, then we are better able to give compassion, rather than giving them the same anger, resentment, blame and/or criticism that they tried to give to us.
Here is a beautiful saying that I heard from Buddha:
‘If someone offers you a gift and you don’t accept it, to whom does that gift belong?’
To end this lesson, I wanted to share with you a little compassion exercise that you can use on someone who is doing something seemingly to hurt you. This exercise is not for them, it is for you, to remind you about the understanding of what drives human behaviour and how each person is just like you and I:
This is one of thirty exercises that can be found in ReSurfacing®:Techniques for Exploring Consciousness, by Harry Palmer. ©Copyright 1998.
Honesty with one’s self leads to compassion for others.
OBJECTIVE: To increase the amount of compassion in the world.
EXPECTED RESULT: A personal sense of peace.
INSTRUCTIONS: This exercise can be done anywhere that people congregate (airports, malls, parks, beaches, etc). It should be done on strangers, unobtrusively, from some distance. Try to do all five steps on the same person.
Step 1: With attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is seeking some happiness for his/her life”
Step 2: With attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is trying to avoid suffering in his/her life.”
Step 3: With attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person has known sadness, loneliness and despair.”
Step 4: With attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is seeking to fulfill his/her needs.”
Step 5: With attention on the person, repeat to yourself:
“Just like me, this person is learning about life.”
“Love is an expression of the willingness to create space in which something is allowed to change.”