"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." – Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve received many great, heartfelt questions recently about how to tell if it’s time to make a change in your current situation (work, relationships, and otherwise). I decided to write a new blog post that answers those questions here, and to talk about how the process of forgiveness is important in making ALL decisions.
Because forgiveness is key to everything you hope to have or be or achieve in life.
Really? C’mon, don’t we see dozens of angry grudge-holding, nasty finger-pointing, I’ll-get-you-first-before-you-get-me people out there who seem to have everything in life?
I suppose it depends on your definition of success, but I’d argue that the truly successful man or woman is one who has abundance in all areas of life. Not just in career but in relationships. Not just in achievement but in their spiritual life (however you define that). Not just in the monetary wealth they accumulate but in the contributions they make. And if you share that definition, like I said, forgiveness is key.
So here are some answers to the dozens of questions I received about forgiveness in the context of staying in or leaving your current situation.
Question: One woman asked if, by forgiving and staying with certain people, aren’t we just allowing them to repeat the same bad or hurtful behavior? If we forgive and stay, how will they ever learn to do something different? “Perhaps we need to give people more ‘negative reinforcements.’”
Answer: I agree that sometimes a too soft approach can get out of hand. Perhaps the learning for you in this scenario is: “I need to give negative reinforcement.” If that’s your learning, then good! Try it! Maybe that’s all it will take for that other person to change—and maybe not. Likewise, maybe leaving will change this person, and maybe not. Either way, their changing is up to them, not you.
My suggestion for you? Focus on yourself. Why not forgive this person and give some “negative reinforcement?” Negative reinforcement may just be another way of setting healthy boundaries. With forgiveness, you release the negative emotions, but not the learning and not your boundaries. Imagine how good it will feel to be calm and relaxed while being firm with those healthy boundaries. It’s only when you fully forgive, release your baggage, and establish your boundaries that you’ll be able to make a decision to stay with or leave this individual. This will help you to make a decision that’s aligned with what you really want.
As Bernard Meltzer puts it, "When you forgive, you in no way change the past—but you sure do change the future."
Question: Another reader mentioned that he was raised a Jew and was a practicing Buddhist. Though he was familiar with letting go of negative emotions, he was facing a difficult situation. A close friend had involved him in some criminal activities and then “rolled” on him, trading a reduced sentence for herself by getting evidence that would put him in prison.
“How can I possibly face this person and apologize to her. And while, I'd like to believe that I have let things go enough not to wish her harm, I cannot imagine taking things to the next level and giving her love.”
Answer: Betrayal. That’s always a big one.
First, it’s not necessary for you to face this person ever again in order to complete the forgiveness process. It’s equally powerful to do this process by yourself using the faculty of your imagination.
Second, if your unconscious mind decides that what you’re doing is an ongoing problem, you may not be able to forgive that person until something else shifts first.
For example, I had a client who was in an abusive relationship with her husband. While in the relationship, she could only partially forgive him. And that was a good thing! Her unconscious mind was attempting to protect her from a harmful situation. Only after she ended the relationship and was safe could she fully forgive him—and send him love.
When your unconscious mind knows there's a deeper learning, it sometimes won't allow you to forgive until you achieve that learning. I suggest that you stop focusing on her for a while. As I always say, focus on yourself. What can you learn from this event? What role did your thoughts, feelings and actions play in your results?
I invite you to view two webinars that I hosted recently. ‘NLP and Cause & Effect’ and ‘Perception is Projection: Creating Your World The Way You Want.’ Then work with the 4 steps of Ho’oponopono and notice how much easier it is to forgive both her and yourself. From there you can decide whether or not you ever want to see this person again!
Question: Another reader asked about old issues that pop up over and over. She was concerned that if we don’t forget when we forgive, we can end up making “lists” of infractions that grow and grow and finally destroy relationships. “How do you think that person feels when they come to realize that you will never forgive them for anything because you continue raising the issue for all eternity? Might the other person believe that you are unforgiving?”
Answer: The point is to forget the incident but retain the learning. To release the negative emotions but to learn and grow from the experience itself. That experience was a valuable gift (though it may not have seemed like it at the time!)—and you don’t want to waste it.
If you feel the urge to keep bringing the old infraction up, it’s probably because you (or the other person) haven’t absorbed or acknowledged the lesson. Take a moment to stop and think: “What is the great lesson from that incident?” The real lesson will sound something like: “I need to pay attention to red flags” or “I need to set boundaries” or “I need to stay true to myself.” The true lesson will not sound like: “All men are jerks” or “All bosses are out to use me” or “No one can be trusted!”
And if it’s someone else who is hanging on to a list of your “infractions?” You might try this approach: “I know that what I did was really hurtful to you. Here is what I’ve learned from it. (Tell them sincerely what you have learned.) I would really like you to forgive me and let this go. What can I do to help you do that?”
Thanks to all of you for your questions! Your questions will truly serve others as they transition through different stages in their lives, and so I applaud your willingness to pose them.
Until next time. . .