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Sun, June 1, 2014
Finding Forgiveness - The Blame Game… Does It Work?
Have you ever noticed how many times in your life you felt hurt by someone?  When I first began to look at that in my life, I was astonished.  What I discovered is, at one time or another, almost everyone I have ever known has hurt me!  What I also noticed, is each time I was hurt it was ‘their’ fault.  So I rightfully, I thought, blamed them for hurting me.
 
In that moment of discovery, the most extraordinary realization awoke within me.  I still, all these years later carried some form of that blame around with me, and the self-righteous indignation that accompanied it.  It became a part of that person’s identity in my mind. Each time I even thought about that person, I relived that hurt and my justification for blaming them, again and again in my mind. I was carrying the pain. Even though I had not seen or spoken to that person in decades, even though that person was dead - I was still carrying that pain in my head and in my heart as the unwillingness to forgive.
 
Now, I consider myself a reasonable person and one who does their best to be spiritual.  That said, when I noticed the huge pile of un-forgiveness I had accumulated in my life, I began to see that I was talking the spiritual talk, but not truly walking that walk. I began to look deeper and what I found was, what the saints and sages of all traditions speak of.  To hold a grudge, to be hateful or hurtful, hurts - me.  To let go and forgive frees - me.
 
I reasoned with myself that I had forgiven all those hurts of the distant past.  When I closely examined it, I realized I had only accepted that I was hurt, I had not truly made peace with those hurts or those people.  That is why I still carried all this un-forgiveness around. That is why I was still hurting me.
 
I recalled a passage from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.” Wow…not only did my thinking make what they did or said an ‘offense’ to me, my clinging onto it made a prison of suffering in which I had locked myself away, condemning me to languish in this fortress of un-forgiveness.
 
It was then the truth dawned in me.  They hurt me…why would I forgive them?  Because forgiving them was ‘for-giving-me’ freedom.  Yes – my freedom! Freedom from the tyranny of the mind that is trained to blame, judge and punish – even if under the pretense of them, it is me! I made a commitment to myself that day to do whatever I could to free myself from carrying this ancient burden of suffering any longer.
 
As I turned my focus to this massive issue of forgiveness, I became aware of how many real benefits there could be for me in forgiveness.  Health experts were saying that forgiving lowers blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol and strengthens the immune system. One study showed forgiveness is associated with improved sleep quality. And it doesn’t stop there.  Forgiveness has been linked to reducing levels of depression, anxiety, and anger.  It was also reported that people who forgive tend to have better relationships, feel happier, more optimistic, and enjoy a better psychological well-being and live more vibrant fulfilling lives. 
 
When I realized just how much I had fooled myself into believing I had forgiven and ‘moved on’, I slowed way down and really looked at the un-forgiveness I actually had been carrying.  It seemed a daunting job to forgive it all.  I decided to begin with one of the less stressful situations in my life. I dove into the depths of radical inquiry in a truly open and honest way.
 
One of the remarkable aspects of authentic inquiry for me was noticing that, for what my mind was always ready to condemn in the other person, it was in many cases, simply their confusion and mine.  As I began to see that surfacing over and over again, I noticed it was the critical judge that lived in my head that was truly guilty of causing me pain.
 
Enquiring in this way did not change what happened…it changed the meaning I put on what happened.  That opened my eyes to possibilities I had missed all along. My judgmental mind always ready to jump in with its holier than thou perspective, shut out any other possibility.  Until I myself was ready to look at what really happened, I could not see what was plainly there, had I been willing to look. As I did, I noticed with my judgmental mind at rest, the world instantly became a friendlier more peaceful place.
 
Even after all this realignment around the truth in those situations, that allowed me to forgive the other person from a deep, heartfelt place…there was still a piece that seemed to be missing.
 
I discovered, until I forgave myself in that situation, forgiveness was not, could not, be complete.  I began to realize how much of my blaming of others was to avoid looking at my responsibility in that situation…even if all I was guilty of was the unwillingness to look at my part. With that, the floodgates of forgiveness opened and I could feel the years of un-forgiveness peeling back, layer by layer, by encrusted layer. What was revealed in its place was the peace, the joy, the calm of a mind no longer fixed on blaming – a mind no longer at war with life. 
 
As we cling to un-forgiveness we are stuck in the past of that perceived offense.  Whatever happened or didn’t, whatever was said or wasn’t, all of that is in the past and so are we when we refuse to let it go. It seems a terrible price to pay to hold onto what is nothing more than a memory of pain.  
 
Life is full of unintentional and unconscious slips, faux pas, blunders, gaffes, indiscretions, improprieties, boo-boos and bloopers. What I notice working with thousands of clients over many years is we are all innocent at the core.  It is only our confusion that is responsible for both blaming and what we blame each other for.  It is only our unwillingness to forgive that compounds that confusion and keeps the door to our suffering open…the door to our freedom shut.   
 
If you find yourself trapped by holding onto old pain and un-forgiveness, here are some tips to consider:
 
Make a List – of the times and situations in which you have blamed others.  Do not ‘think’ about it or edit it.  Just make a list and write it down.
 
Choose One – of those situations on your list that is not highly charged.
 
Ask for Help – from the other person in that situation if they would be willing to share their perspective honestly with you of what happened as they experienced it.
 
Listen – without comment, defense, or justification.  Simply hear their perspective.
 
Meditate – on the new information you now have from them and see if, with your mind open, how their perspective could be as true or truer than the one you have been holding.
 
Let Go – forgive yourself for causing you pain and let go of any victim story that has been keeping you trapped.
 
Seek Guidance – from a skilled professional who can facilitate you through the more difficult situations in your life to the freedom you deserve.
 
As Mark Twain said, "Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one's head." When we realize that we see the world not as it is but as we are, the possibility to forgive everyone for everything shows up in the forgiving of our self.
 
If you have any unwillingness to forgive in your life, it is that un-forgiveness you are living instead of your life.  Forgiveness is for giving you freedom and you can claim that freedom now.  It’s as near as the authentic forgiveness you are willing to give and to receive. 

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