With Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays coming up, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the importance of forgiving family members.
The holidays can be difficult as people struggle with job losses, financial worries and in some cases, dealing with old emotional wounds that can come up when families gather. Refusing to forgive family members, friends and neighbors can derail your plans for a happy holiday. But learning to forgive can open the door for you to experience true joy, peace and gratitude.
Research and case studies have shown the healing power of forgiveness to help family members overcome anger and other issues. Al-Mabuk and Enright (1995) demonstrated the usefulness of a forgiveness process with a group of college students who had perceived a lack of love in their family relationships while growing up. The authors demonstrated that hopefulness and a willingness to forgive could be increased just by discussing and explaining the benefits of forgiveness. In a second study, the authors showed that forgiveness could be achieved by the same means.
These studies demonstrate the usefulness of one of the key components in ho‘oponopono, the Hawaiian approach to forgiveness. Discussing and explaining the importance of forgiveness is a critical component of ho‘oponopono. That's because we are more willing to forgive when we understand the benefits of forgiving and the potential health repercussions of not forgiving, such as stress and related health issues.
As we prepare to gather with family for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holidays, consider the following steps as essential as the food you plan to prepare and the gifts you give:
1. Recognize that you need to forgive. People often carry around grudges and don't even realize it until they encounter a person or situation that triggers the negative thoughts. But you can start the forgiveness process by thinking about the people you will spend time with before you gather for the holidays. Signs of needing to forgive include specific negative thoughts and feelings, thoughts about retribution and feeling a need for closure.
2. Rethink what it means to forgive. Ho‘oponopono recognizes that forgiveness is a two way process. The first step is to ask for forgiveness. The second is for the other to give forgiveness. To become truly pono (right) with someone, you first ask for and offer forgiveness for anything you may have done.
3. Ask for and offer forgiveness. Saying, "I forgive you; please forgive me, too" brings the other person into the picture and gets them actively involved as opposed to simply saying "I'm sorry." A two-way street of forgiveness is formed.
4. Allow the space for you and the other person to say everything that needs to be said. Express what needs to be expressed without hiding or holding back. When you have both shared your thoughts and feelings, you should experience a sense of "I have said it all, and I am done." Once again, give and ask for forgiveness from one another.
Once you are pono, ask yourself: what do I need to learn from this event that will allow me to continue to be pono? Remember, Ho‘oponopono is not a one-time process, but one that you must practice again and again. Doing so will help you change your behavior and thinking, make better decisions, and create the relationships you desire during the holidays and throughout the year.
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Aloha and Happy Holidays!
Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of Kona University and its training and seminar division The Empowerment Partnership, where he serves as a master trainer of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), a practical behavioral technology for helping people achieve their desired results in life. His new book, The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, details forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years. He carries on the lineage of one of the last practicing kahuna of mental health and wellbeing. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com.