This Christmas — Give the Gift of Forgiveness
Suddenly it was there in my inbox.
Subject: Never Forgive a Traitor!
“Who sent this to me?”
It was a forwarded message from my friend Dick.
Now Dick’s not an activist. He’s a helicopter engineer . . . and a cancer survivor.
What could have possibly irritated him that much?
The letter started like this:
“For those of you too young to remember, Hanoi Jane is a bad person who did some terrible things during the Vietnam war.
Things that can not be forgiven!”
It was a long message about Jane Fonda.
Before I could reply, there were more angry e-mails in my inbox.
“She didn’t do it” . . . “Well, she did most of it” . . . “She’s a bitch anyway!”
Forgiveness Is Not for the Person Who Did Wrong
Dick had forgotten . . . or perhaps never knew . . . who benefits from forgiveness.
I didn’t know until recently.
You see, forgiveness helps the one who gives it the most. It’s mostly for the giver, not for the receiver.
I sat down at my computer to write Dick.
Subject: Forgiveness is for you.
My Dear Friend Dick,
Assume for a minute that Hanoi Jane did all this and worse. Put that aside.
What happens to the stress chemicals in your body when you think about how bad she was?
Could anger give you a heart attack? Could resentment make your cancer come back?
Let them go.
I was surprised when I learned the truth about anger. You may be too.
“If you feel angry towards Jane Fonda . . . or someone like her . . . then you probably feel angry toward yourself too . . . just to a smaller degree.”
That’s why you need to forgive.
How to Forgive
When you start to forgive, don’t start by forgiving Jane Fonda . . . or someone else whom you know of and hate.
Don’t even start by forgiving someone nearby whom you love.
Start by forgiving yourself.
Think of every mistake you’ve ever made. Back when you made that mistake, you thought it was the right thing to do.
Forgive that first.
How to Give Forgiveness This Christmas
This Christmas, the economy needs you to buy. So please buy . . . and give as always.
But please use your Christmas buying and giving as reminders to learn . . . forgiving.
Here’s how to do that.
When you buy a gift, remember that everything you now call a mistake, you thought was right at the time you did it. Then forgive yourself.
Later, when you give your gift, remember that every mistake that person ever made, they thought was right at the time they did it. And forgive them.
If you don’t get to Jane Fonda this year . . . because you are busy forgiving closer to home . . . that’s OK.
Where Peace on Earth Begins
Peace on earth doesn’t start at a diplomatic conference table. It doesn’t start when one nation forgives another.
Also, it doesn’t start when you forgive the crazy neighbor who sued you, or your family member who wronged you.
It starts when you forgive yourself.
by Brent Van Arsdell
Brent is an engineer . . . and a world traveler. When he’s not traveling the world, he’s busy making programs to help people Learn Spanish and other languages.
His current project is developing software to help people learn Canadian French online.
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