“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Lewis B Smedes
In “Forgiveness Part 2” we talked about the empathy gap that makes forgiveness harder on some than others. I mentioned that the absolute best tool we have at our disposal to decrease the gap (thereby increasing empathy) is meditation. I also mentioned that simply making a repeated and concerted effort to understand and express empathy will help over time as well.
What does it mean to practice empathy (or grace, or forgiveness, etc)? It means that when we’re confronted with an uncomfortable situation, particularly with another human being, we are given the opportunity to either
1) react according to our already established habits (denial, aggression, defensiveness, etc) or
2) choose to consciously try to see things from their point of view and change our response accordingly (here are some amazing examples of how life-changing that can be).
When we choose the second option we access the part(s) of our brain that can switch our view (specifically the medial pre-frontal cortex and the insula) and activate the electricity there that will, over time, become thicker and more responsive to an empathic response to others. If greater empathy and forgiveness is a truly a goal of ours then we begin to see those uncomfortable situations very differently overall. Yes, they’re uncomfortable but they become an opportunity to practice accessing the skill we want to hone so there’s a little bit of gratitude, as well.
Think of that…
…when people are rude to us they give us a gift in that they give us the opportunity to practice the empathy that fosters grace, compassion and forgiveness. What an entirely different viewpoint on jerks, right?! That person that cut you off in traffic gave you a the chance to practice what you said you wanted to practice!! How cool is that?
Now flip it one more time.
What happens when you’re the one who is tired, spent, distracted or simply thoughtless and it looks like rudeness to others? What if you’re just plain angry and really did mean to be injurious with your behavior? Yes, you wish you would’ve behaved differently but you have also given them a gift! The gift to practice empathy (grace, compassion, forgiveness). Whether or not they take it is on them but you’ve given them the chance to better themselves.
Forgiveness is not some external action.
Letting go of the judgement begins within us and is the building block of our own power to create for ourselves. We all have judgements against ourselves that discolor our view of others. Once we clear those up we create the space for understanding as it pertains to their part in our lives. When we accept that we too are only human therefore worthy of love and compassion, we transform our relationships and our lives because we cannot forgive others until we can truly forgive ourselves.
What comes up for you as you read this?
Does it make you angry? Grateful? Relieved? Defensive?
What does it feel like to “practice” forgiveness? How do you know you’re on the right track?
Did you know about the free monthly calls?
FREE Monthly Call!
3rd Friday of every month @ 9am Mountain Time
Join me for a peek into some of the most helpful tools and concepts around for improving our lives.
One topic for each month of each quarter:
Meditation (January, April, July and October)
Connection (February, May, August and November)
Peace of Mind (March, June, September and December)
Click here to signup and the dial-in information will be emailed to you within 24hours (excluding weekends).