© 2012 Kebba Buckley Button. World Rights Reserved.
Dr. Eileen Borris can teach you what you need to know about finding forgiveness. She has been teaching forgiveness and reconciliation around the world for the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (Washington, DC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). The last time I saw her she had just returned from giving workshops in Kuwait. Shortly, she is off to Rwanda, for the Healing Wounds of History Conference. Wherever she goes, Dr. Borris transforms.
In her book, Finding Forgiveness, the Foreword is offered by none other than His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. His Holiness points out that: “When we become angry, we stop being compassionate, loving, generous, forgiving, tolerant, and patient altogether. We deprive ourselves of the very things that happiness consists of…it is possible to realize that the past is past, that continuing to feel anger and hatred serves no purpose.”
Dr. Borris’s core methodology involves 7 steps: becoming clear, telling your story, working with anger, working with guilt, reframing the situation, absorbing pain, and gaining inner peace. She does not ask you to deny the wrong that occurred. She does not ask you to forget it. She does not ask you to not-seek appropriate justice where a crime has occurred. What she does do is expose the complexities of forgiveness and invite you to work this process, ultimately setting yourself free.
Why do we need to forgive? The final purpose for the individual is empowerment. You are at choice at all times. When you forgive, you get back your power over whoever made you their victim. Dr. Borris makes the point that animals do not hate. Hatred requires conceptual thought. But humans are able to hold thoughts of hate and vengeance lifelong. How much energy does this steal from a person’s general lifestyle, joy, health, and productivity?
Try this for a moment: bring to mind some terrible personal injustice that was done to you, which you have had trouble forgetting. Perhaps someone attacked you. Perhaps a boss treated you badly or even fired you unfairly. Perhaps Mom always loved your sibling better. Perhaps someone badmouthed you, telling tales that were totally unfounded. Bring this injustice to mind and feel vividly the emotions that come with it. Did your heart hurt or your back tighten up between the shoulder blades? Did your shoulder tops tighten painfully? How about your neck, your head, or your stomach? Do these sensations feel like they are blessing or enhancing your beingness in any way? Of course not. So what has the toll on your mind, heart, body, and spirit been, in the months or years since the injustice occurred? Is that toll enriching your life in any way? Of course not.
If you would like to challenge yourself, try the following exercise. Get a pen and paper, and make notes of your thoughts and experiences as you do this. Imagine your life if the injustice had never occurred. What hours would you have spent enjoying life and your loved ones? Would your marriage be better? What friendships might you have developed, based on sharing happiness and companionship, that you did not because of the injustice? How well would you have slept? What excellent health would you have had all this time? How much better would your concentration have been, on the job or in fulfilling recreation or charity work? Would you have earned more money? So what if you could have forgiven this injustice early in the game, and not spent any of this time on distraction, negativity, complaining, and generally experiencing a burden? These may be tough questions for many of us.
Whatever your faith basis, does it make sense to hang onto any burden you do not need to hang onto? You are always at choice. What is your willingness to possibly hang up self-burdening beliefs about the importance of an injustice to you? If these questions are provocative for you, why not pursue them further? Your journey can be very freeing.
Now imagine living in a community where everyone is compassionate, everyone forgives and there is no impulse for revenge. Now imagine that in the World community. Countries would be waging peace, not war. Imagine.
Some resources for further reading and techniques include: Bruderhof Forgiveness Guide (www.foregivenessguide.org), A Course In Miracles (acim.org), Forgiveness Foundation (forgivenessfoundation.org), and the Forgiveness Project (forgivenessproject.com).
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