by Lawrence Wilson, MD
© November 2011, The Center For Development, Inc.
Forgiving is one of the most important mental processes imaginable. It is so important that Jesus of Nazareth said we must forgive seventy times seven times. This is a reference to the number seven as being somewhat holy and special. For example, we have seven days in the week, the body has seven major glands, and it also has seven major energy centers that are discussed in other articles on this website.
Forgiving is a very special process in which a person literally lets go completely of any ill feelings toward another, toward oneself, or toward an entity or situation. This is a simple definition of forgiveness.
This is not an easy thing to achieve. In fact, it is quite difficult, although this must not stop us from trying and it does not stop many, many people from achieving it. However, it is not as easy as just saying “I forgive you”. It is a mental processing technique that involves emptying the mind of hateful and vengeful and angry thoughts, and this is not something that usually happens spontaneously or quickly.
WHY IS FORGIVING SO IMPORTANT?
The quick answer is that any trauma that is not wholly forgiven tends to fester inside, like an open wound. It literally weakens a person and tears him or her apart, little by little. As one ages, this tendency becomes worse until when one is older, one’s traumas and unforgiven incidents often occupy more and more, or even most of one’s mental activity.
Unless one forgives, most people spend their entire lives compensating or otherwise adapting to mental and emotional upsets, traumas, fixations and other insults that occurred earlier in life. The sum total of this are called neuroses in psychology.
In fact, it is even worse. If you don’t forgive thoroughly, completely, and as soon as possible – even in the moment if you can – traumas and insults to the mind, body, emotions and spirit often can develop into psychoses. This is worse than neuroses. Psychoses are actual breaks with reality, while neuroses are simply alterations or warps in your understanding, perception and lifestyle.
Unforgiven incidents and situations also often give rise to what are called breakthrough problems. These are things like post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, anxiety attacks, panic attacks and nightmares. Another type of breakthrough disorder may be called regressing, in which a person under some circumstances changes back to a 10-year-old or a 2-year-old child and acts immature, scared, usually, and maybe violent. Other odd breakthrough occurrences may be suddenly hearing strange voices or sounds, or seeing strange apparitions. These are often considered aspects of schizophrenia, however, a type of psychosis.
Lack of forgiveness is also an important, if not the most important cause for adrenal burnout, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, cancer, heart disease and many other serious ailments.
Lack of forgiveness regularly ruins families, marriages, work situations, and practically any other type of social, political, moral and even religious life and joy that one can imagine. This is how important it is to forgive everyone and everything, all of the time.
SPIRITUAL ASPECTS OF FORGIVENESS
I believe that forgiving is one of the most important lessons human beings are here to learn. This may be called a spiritual aspect of forgiving. All of forgiving, however, is to a degree a spiritual process, which is why it is discussed so much in the Old and the New Testaments of the bible, and in many other holy books.
Forgiving slowly clears the mind and makes a human being able to receive messages from angels, according to the bible and other sources. In other words, forgiving releases the mind from its bonds and its problems, and frees it to work in new and exciting ways. It unburdens the mind and the body, relaxes the nervous system and the muscles, and makes way for an entire new life. This is how important the process is at this level.
ELEMENTS OF FORGIVING
I maintain that forgiving has about six major elements, at least. Here they are:
1. I remove all traces of hate (a negative attitude) for you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
2. I remove all traces of fear of you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
3. I remove all traces of doubt about you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
4. I remove all traces of anger (a negative emotion) toward you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
5. I remove all traces of longing and desire for you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
6. I remove all traces of need for you, or for the object that one needs to forgive.
BLOCKS TO FORGIVING
Here are just a few blocks and confusions that arise around the subject of forgiveness.
1. Must I never speak to the person again, or must I be friends with this person forever? The answer is it depends. If it is a parent, for example, it may be necessary to stay in touch with the person for the rest of his or her or your life. On the other hand, if it is a stranger who raped you or robbed you, or murdered a family member, you certainly need not stay in touch ever again, and you may want to move far away to prevent another incident. In some cases, it is a husband or wife, and you may need to not only stay in touch, but be in intimate contact with the person. So the answer to this dilemma is that it depends on the situation.
2. Must I never speak of the incident ever again? It is definitely okay to speak of the person or the incident at any appropriate time. Forgiveness is about an internal letting go process. Speech is an outward expression of the truth, hopefully. A person who speaks about another, or about an incident, may have forgiven totally, or may not have even begun the process.
3. Must I feel sorry for the person, or for myself, to do I need to let that go also? Yes, you must not feel sorry for the person who wronged you, or whom you think wronged you. Forgiveness means letting go of the person or incident or situation completely, so there is no room to feel sorry for the person, for example.
In fact, if you indulge in feeling sorry for the person or situation, you will likely be drawn back into it. This means that you never really forgave perfectly in the first place.
Many people say, “I forgave the person or situation, but then I slipped back into anger or fear.” In reality, I believe this means the person never forgave fully, for it he or she did, it is not possible to slip back into anger, fear or any other emotion or thought about the situation. It is done and gone and in the past, and not worthy or interesting to think about, feel things about, or anything else.
However, I suppose it is possible that if you are still in contact with the person you forgave, he or she could re-injure you, but this would be an entirely new situation or incident, so it is the same.
DOES A PERSON HAVE TO FORGIVE IF HE OR SHE DOES NOT JUDGE?
This is a very good question. The answer is no. Forgiving is only needed if you form a judgment about a person or situation. If you are raped, for example, and you simply view it as “an experience”, like walking down the street or watching television at home, then presumably you will not have any lasting feelings, thoughts, emotions or upset from it. This, by the way, is a great secret for handling trauma.
Once again, the bible warns us not to judge. “Judge not, lest you be judged” is a famous quote for this reason. When you judge, and most people do this all the time, you set up aversions, likes dislikes, longings, fears and so on. This is what prevents true forgiveness at the deepest level.
This takes us to a deep level of how the mind functions. If incidents and situations can simply occur and pass out of the mind and body, then no resentments build up and no forgiveness is needed.
What if one judges? Does one automatically then have to forgive? Yes. As explained in the paragraphs above, if you judge someone, you then must forgive, which is the process of undoing the judgment, essentially. So if a judgment is made, then forgiveness must follow to undo the judgment.
What if one does not judge, but holds an opinion, and what is the difference? Judging is a very special process, like forgiveness. Only judging is the opposite. It is drawing a conclusion or making a final decision about someone or something. You can judge someone or something as good, bad, ugly, horrible, painful, pleasurable, or hundreds of other things. These are colorings to a situation or event. They are like putting on a pair of glasses when you talk about something.
Judgments also have emotions attached, usually. Pleasure and joy about a situation causes elation and relaxation. Judging harshly carries with it sadness, anger, fear, rage, etc. Judgments are a type of hardening of the mind when forming an opinion.
Holding an opinion, in contrast, does not involve emotions at all. Instead, these are temporary conclusions, not final ones, and are “softer” and more malleable. When you hold an opinion, you also have to forgive if you wrong, but it is easier.
Discernment is even softer and more malleable and “in the moment”. It is like a ship plying the water, in which in every instant the ship may turn right or turn left, and it is not fixed at all. It shifts its opinion, as it were, depending upon the environment or circumstances in each moment. If one discerns at all times, one does not need to forgive, as there is no fixed motion or movement in any direction. This is important to understand the difference between these actions of the mind, body and emotions.
What if one judges not, but others judge the situation. must one still forgive? This is answered above, as well. As long as you do not judge, no forgiveness is required. It matters little what others do or think. They will need to forgive if they judge, but it does not matter to you at the deepest level. The only way it matters is if they convince you that you, too, must judge the situation as they have. If you listen to this nonsense, then you will have to forgive as well.
Do we have a right to be angry and judgmental when something negative or horrible happens to us? This is a good question. The real answer depends on what you mean by a right. If you mean that a right implies or means a special privilege given by the Lord, or by the government, then there is no right. If, by a right, you simply mean permission, then yes, you may be as judgmental as you wish.
What if one does not judge, but others judge harshly and a legal solution is sought. Must one still forgive? As before, if you do not judge, you need not forgive. If others judge harshly, they may need to forgive to clear themselves, but not you. It does not even matter if the outcome to the legal battle is that a person is put to death wrongly. As long as you do not judge, you need not forgive. If a person is wrongly put to death, those who perpetrated this crime will need forgiveness for it, but if you do not judge the person in any way, no forgiveness is required or needed.
IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FORGIVING OTHERS AND FORGIVING ONESELF?
Yes, and it is a very close relationship. Usually, those who truly forgive others are able to forgive themselves, and vice versa. Conversely, if you are unable to forgive others, usually you will not fully forgive yourself, and vice versa.
This occurs because forgiving is forgiving. It is an attitude, not just a process. If you have the attitude toward others, you are much more likely to have it toward yourself, and vice versa. For this reason, if you are unable to forgive yourself for something, let us say, beware that this usually means you cannot forgive others very well, either.
THE BIBLE SAYS “JUDGE NOT, LEST YE BE JUDGED”. DOES THIS MEAN THAT IF YOU JUDGE OTHERS, THEY WILL JUDGE YOU?
It might mean this. However, it probably means that if you judge others, you automatically judge yourself, meaning you are judged by yourself.
This is a complex subject, in fact. It implies that we are all one and if we judge others, we automatically judge ourselves as well. In other words, judgment is a mental process, like forgiveness, and if one engages in it in any way, it comes back upon oneself.
In other words, you cannot do it to others without doing it to yourself as well. This is a fascinating concept in the bible, and one that ought to be explored more in churches, for example. If the statement were examined more carefully, I believe it would help many religious people relax more and be happier.
DOES FOLLOWING RULES FORCE US TO JUDGE OURSELVES AND OTHERS?
For example, if I was taught not to lie, and I lie anyway, must I not be judged and perhaps punished for it? This is a good question that every parent encounters in one form or another. When a child disobeys the rules, must the parent judge the child and take action. Otherwise, will the child not just grow up to be a spoiled brat?
The answer is that one can punish without judging. One can simply say that a rule was broken (without saying that the behavior was “bad”) and therefore punishment is warranted. This is punishment without judging.
However, if one must judge, then the parent’s action is not right and the parent must forgive later for having held the judgment about the child’s activity.
IS THERE SOMETHING SO TERRIBLE OR HORRENDOUS THAT IT CANNOT BE FORGIVEN?
The answer must be no. This is a hard idea to swallow for many people. When they see small children starving on television, when they hear of violent rapes and murders, when they hear of war crimes, or even financial hanky panky, it is tempting to say that this is unforgivable. This is always wrong and will block forgiveness forever if you hold on to this idea.
Oddly, some people find even small indiscretions unforgivable. Just their spouse looking at another man or woman, or a child stealing a small toy from the store, sometimes causes this attitude to pop into the mind that this cannot or must not be forgiven.
This is not the same as saying that something must not be forgotten. For example, many people say the holocaust of World War II in which about 12 million Jewish, Catholic and others were murdered in gas chambers by the Nazis must not be forgotten. However, we must forgive those who acted this way. Otherwise, it destroys us. Not forgiving does not affect them, as they are long dead. However, it continues to fester inside the living if they do not learn to let it go, meaning do not judge it and hold anger, fear, resentment or other attitudes or feelings about it.
IS HOLDING ON TO REVULSION ABOUT A CRIME OR INCIDENT DIFFERENT FROM BEING RESENTFUL, AFRAID OR ANGRY?
Yes. It is perfectly okay to dislike or even revile certain behaviors, actions or even a person’s way of being. However, this should not cause an emotional and a glandular reaction in the body. Resentment, anger and fear cause physiological and glandular reactions that damage the body and the mind, and cause traumas and worsening health. One may still have an attitude of horror toward something or someone, but it must not translate into bodily response.
WHAT DOES THE LAW OF CAUSE AN EFFECT HAVE TO DO WITH FORGIVENESS?
It has plenty to do with it. However, it is a large subject discussed in the article entitled The Law Of Cause And Effect.
TO BE CONTINUED