“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
This past week was my “Super Bowl.” I launched a book I didn’t think I’d ever write. Too much work. Too much reliving of the past. But the Universe gave me a very direct order. It pushed. It was unrelenting. It infused me with gusts of energy and bursts of inspiration when I wanted to give up. And I achieved what I thought I could not.
I’m offering my blog readers a little taste of the book for my June post. I’ve chosen the chapter ‘Forgive.’ Forgiveness is a massive challenge on planet Earth. Right now in a world gone mad, it’s a pertinent little piece.
When we visit a doctor for a serious illness, the topic of forgiveness is never discussed. But it should be. I have studied volumes on the healing power of forgiveness and about the dramatic destruction that stems from the lack of forgiveness.
When the subject of forgiveness comes up, oftentimes people brush off the idea; they believe they have nobody and nothing to forgive. I implore you to genuinely consider where a lack of forgiveness may linger in your life. Become conscious of anything you have stuffed away in your unconscious, maybe from many years ago.
There is a high cost to hatred. Dr. Alex Lloyd, author and founder of The Healing Codes, says that in all of the years he has lectured and counseled people, he has never seen a significant health problem where a lack of forgiveness was not an issue. He met Dr. Ben Johnson, a doctor who lectures all over the world about cancer and Dr. Johnson concurred that he has found a correlation between cancer and a lack of forgiveness.
In The Dynamic Laws of Healing, Catherine Ponder states: “It is an immutable mental and spiritual law that when there is a health problem, there is a forgiveness problem. You must forgive if you want to be permanently healed.” That is one powerful and sweeping statement, yet I have repeatedly read similar declarations in my studies. This concept is an opinion—one you can consider or disregard—but if it angers you, ask yourself why?
Anxiety, hatred, and resentment facilitate disease by flat-lining the immune system. Adrenaline and cortisol, the chemicals of survival, race through our system, seeking the enemy and shutting down natural killer cells which fight disease. The enemy is all in our minds—our repetitive thoughts and our capricious emotions.
Too often, we wallow in the past. We relive the wrongs that were done to us, or we foster our hurts. We take things personally. We harbor grudges and vendettas over a single sentence someone once said. We are too proud to make peace by extending the “olive branch.”
My ex used the phrase, “I don’t get mad; I get even.” Revenge never, ever works out in your best interest. A lack of forgiveness is poisonous and vengefulness is like adding fuel to an already caustic fire within. As poet, artist, and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran, said, “An eye for an eye, and the whole world would be blind.”
One thing we need to keep in mind about human nature is that if people know better, they usually do better. Someone may have wronged us due to a difficult period in his or her secret life or for some reason that we know nothing about. Oftentimes it is not personal. (Hanlon’s razor is an aphorism expressed in various ways including “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” —Wikipedia.) We all make bad choices at one time or another that are not specifically out of maliciousness.
I cannot forgive him/her; I just can’t do it, is a common avowal. Forgiving someone does not mean you continue to remain in an abusive situation. You do not have to reconnect to forgive. And it does not indicate that you condone the poor behavior of another. It signifies the clearing of your heart and mind from the malaise of resentment. It means that you forgive for your own wellbeing. Forgiveness releases you from an internal prison—you do it for you. You can walk away from someone because they are no longer a constructive influence, but you can do so with forgiveness. Holding onto self-righteousness equals pain. Remember, we are all imperfect.
Bad memories reemerge so that you can embrace the opportunity to heal them. By applying forgiveness to past transgressors, you return yourself to the power of the present moment rather than living in the past.
I still do not understand why it is so difficult to forgive oneself, but for me, this has been my Mount Everest. I believe others are forgivable, yet I still must consciously work to relinquish harsh judgments about my perceived failures. We cannot always retract the foolish things we have done or undo poor choices, but we can forgive ourselves for them.
Huge guilt issues and self-recrimination may crop up with cancer patients if one has smoked, used recreational drugs, or participated in other harmful activities. Self-acceptance and forgiveness for our personal lapses is essential. With cancer it is critical that we forgive ourselves. And yes, you, dear one, (and I) deserve forgiveness.
An effective way to open your heart and heal is to systematically think of everyone who remains a source of un-forgiveness in your life, then apply proclamations of forgiveness. You can list everyone who you feel has hurt you back from childhood onward: every family member, every boss, every teacher, every coworker, every friend, every boyfriend/girlfriend—everyone, including yourself. Even God.
It may sound like a daunting task, but in a relaxed state, your mind will supply you with recollections. Give yourself permission to heal the past. You can work through this with a qualified therapist, pastor, or some type of healing professional.
A forgiveness ceremony can be powerful. Write down everyone you are ready to forgive and burn the paper, drown it in water, tear it up, or send it off in a bottle. You may have held a lack of forgiveness for many years and, if so, it would behoove you to make a declaration of forgiveness each night until you feel it is resolved.
A friend of mine took her mother, who had cancer, to a mountain chalet for a weeklong getaway. She asked her mother to write a letter each day. Firstly, to her own mother and father about any and all of her grudges, hurts, betrayals, or resentments and then seal it in an envelope and set it by the fireplace. The next day, she wrote a letter to her siblings. The next day, her children. The following day, her friends and extended family. Then, her husband. The sixth day, old loves. The last day, any colleagues or random people she felt had hurt her. On the final day, they burned all of the sealed envelopes in the fire. It was an extremely cathartic process for her mum.
EFT tapping, as outlined in chapter 28, is also a wonderful technique to use in letting go of grievances and forgiving others. You can go over your list to tap out the resentments and tap in the forgiveness. EFT practitioners are available to help personalize a program and lead you to clemency.
Years ago I learned of another simple method that can be modified as a forgiveness exercise from the book The Heartmath Solution. It is surprisingly powerful and takes only 5 minutes a day to do (until you feel that you are clear from resentments). HeartMath teaches how to regulate emotional states and take responsibility for how we feel and behave. We regain our personal power and come to understand that another cannot hurt us unless we allow them to.
Get into a relaxed position in a quiet place. Drop into your heart by thinking of something or someone you love or appreciate dearly. Place your attention on your heart. You may feel it flutter or become warm. Imagine breathing through your heart and stay steady in your focus on the heart center. Then send intentions of love, blessings, appreciation, goodwill, and most importantly, forgiveness to the transgressor.
When you feel someone has done something horrible to you this can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around. Why should I bless a boss who stole a big commission from me? You want me to send appreciation to my jerk of an ex? Why would I send love to the landlord who is rude and never repairs anything?
Why? Because amazing things happen as a consequence of this practice. At first it can be challenging, but soon you feel yourself soften. Your fury dissipates. You start seeing the person in a new light; you remind yourself that they may be hurt or broken, and could be suffering too. You will discover that thinking of their trespasses no longer holds the negative charge that it did before. I have experienced amazing breakthroughs in relationships using this technique. But more importantly, I have been set free from resentments, hurt, and anger. And there is nothing like the feeling of a mind free of internal disputes.
In a Master Class, Oprah spoke about one of her infamous AH-HA moments that occurred during an old show. One of her guests explained that forgiveness meant giving up the hope that the past could be any different than it was and accepting that an event happened as it did. She called it a “transcendent” moment that changed her and she said that she no longer holds grudges.
A lack of forgiveness is one of the most venomous toxins on the planet. All we need do is turn on the news to see just how brutally destructive it is. When you forgive, you grant yourself a massive opportunity to heal. It is an act of self-compassion that is more monumental in altering your life to the good than you may have ever considered. You will lighten your mind, your body, and your life by dropping a heavy backpack that you did not even know you were carrying.
Forgiveness is the ultimate act of grace and can be a game changer that can heal things you would not have thought possible. It does not change the past, but it does change the future.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all forgave each other.
This fusion guidebook-memoir helps navigate prevention as much as it is for the those diagnosed with disease; it is a resource for living life to the fullest. St. Hilaire presents simple-to-digest material and wisdom woven with insightful anecdotes. She provides an invaluable amalgamation of research in a context not always accessible at your cancer centre.
“What a remarkable mixture of facts, data, research, warmth, humour, compassion, inspiration, vulnerability and courage!”
-Dianne Quinton, Coach