Forgiveness is the science of the heart; a discipline of discovering all the ways of being that will extend your love to the world and discarding all the ways that will not. This is a book about growing up, becoming whole, connecting to others, and becoming comfortable in one's own skin. It is inspirational, healing, and programmatic.
Miller explores the facts of forgiveness, including forgiving others, forgiving oneself, and the results of following the path of forgiveness.
Also included is a section on forgiveness exercises (including journaling, making amends, and practicing patience). This is a broadly based spiritual and self-help book. Rooted in the philosophy of A Course in Miracles and drawing from other spiritual teachings (including Christianity, Sufism, Buddhism, the I Ching, and Jungian psychology), The Forgiveness Book is for those interested in spirituality, wholeness, and living a better and more fulfilling life.
|Publisher:||Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
D. Patrick Miller is an author and publisher living in Northern California. You can contact him at www.fearlessbooks.com.
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The Forgiveness Book
healing the hurts we don't deserve
By Patrick Miller
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2017 D. Patrick Miller
All rights reserved.
SEVEN STEPS OF FORGIVING
Select a bitter sorrow, a serious grievance against someone, or a punishing charge against yourself, and review it in complete detail.
Hold in your mind the image of whatever is to be forgiven — yourself, another person, a past event — and say, "I release you from the grip of my sadness, disapproval, or condemnation." Concentrate quietly on this intention.
Imagine for a while what your life will be like without the sorrow or grievance that has been haunting you.
Make amends with someone you've hurt or someone who has hurt you; tell a friend about your self-forgiveness; or otherwise bring your inner work to your relationships.
Ask for God's help to overcome fear or resistance at any step. If you do not believe in God, ask for help from nature, humanity, and the mysteries of your own mind. These are the channels through which aid is sent — and aid is always sent.
Have patience. Forgiveness induces healing which follows its own order and timing. Whether you think you have accomplished anything thus far is less important than the fact that you have attempted a radical act that will call forth change likely to exceed your expectations. Go about your daily business, but stay alert to unexpected shifts in your thinking, feelings, and relationships.
Repeat steps 1 through 6 as often as necessary, for life.
(See the end of this book for additional suggestions on following the Seven Steps.)CHAPTER 2
It might seem a lot easier to forgive someone if only he or she would show signs of changing.
The paradox is that we are unlikely to see signs of change in others until we have forgiven them. This is true for two reasons. First, resentment is blinding. It limits our perception of what is real now — and what may be changing right in front of us — and shuts down our capacity to envision a happier future. Second, a subtle but crucial function of forgiveness is that it tacitly gives others "permission" to change. We are not nearly so separate from each other as we generally experience ourselves to be. We think that we grow and change only within ourselves, but we also grow and change partly within others, and they within us. Some people may find very little space within themselves to change, and need others to let them into a psychic territory of forgiveness, where they can feel free to try a new way of living.
Soon after I had begun forgiving my parents for all the wrongs I thought they had done to me — without saying anything to them about it — they seemed to become more open and frank about their personal history, everything that had influenced them to become who they were. At certain moments the extent of their revelations was stunning, and I wasn't sure of exactly what was happening. Had I heard these things before without paying attention, because of my resentments at the time? Or did my parents feel permitted to tell me more about themselves because I was showing them signs of greater acceptance than I ever had before?
We all change together if we change at all.
Now I believe that both kinds of change were occurring, and this evolution continued. I'm no longer concerned about which change was theirs, and which was mine. We all change together if we change at all. This overlapping of each other is easiest to experience in a couple, family, or other close relationship, but I think it's true of the family of humanity as well.
That's what makes forgiveness so powerful. Anyone can initiate the changes we all need by opening up new territories within his or her mind — our one mind, really — where others can find the room to take a deep breath, start telling the truth, and shake off the cloak of guilt they have so long mistaken for their own skin.
Begin not with the idea that you are doing a favor to someone who hurt you, but that you are being merciful to yourself. To carry anger against anyone is to poison your own heart, administering more toxin every time you replay in your mind the injury done to you. If you decline to repeat someone's offense inwardly, your outward anger will dissipate. Then it becomes much easier to tell the one who hurt you how things must change between you.
"Forgive and forget" is a popular distortion of the work of surrendering grievances. The real process is "Remember fully and forgive." If it were actually possible to forget everything you forgave, you could teach very little to others seeking freedom from their resentments.
It's true that we eventually forget some things we've truly forgiven. But that kind of forgetting takes care of itself; it's not something you can tell yourself or anyone else to do. Trying to forget is just a form of denial — and whatever is denied is not forgiven.
Remembering fully helps us take note of what we do not want to see repeated, so that forgiveness doesn't inadvertently give anyone permission to commit the same mistakes again.
Begin not with the idea that you are doing a favor to someone who hurt you, but that you are being merciful to yourself.
* * *
When you are trying to decide whether someone deserves your forgiveness, you are asking the wrong question. Ask instead whether you deserve to become someone who consistently forgives.
Examine carefully the temptation to catalog, classify, and frequently update the file of "Wrongs Done to Me." The only case you will build is one against yourself, as you increasingly believe in secret that you deserve what you're getting, even as you complain about injustice.
Living in forgiveness means yielding your grip on misery. Many people feel that it is this grip that makes them authentic and serious; such is the melodrama of the adolescent soul. The mature soul empathizes with misery only to connect with those in suffering, and lead them to forgiveness. When I was young I spent a lot of time with friends commiserating about the state of the world, the problems with people we knew, and everything else that added up to the general difficulty of being human. Forgiveness taught me to notice when I was drifting into pessimistic bull sessions, and to seek a more useful direction for conversation. I don't want to be insufferably optimistic, doing a hard sell of happiness while losing my connection with anyone who may still subscribe to suffering. I have to keep one foot planted there, at the ground level of another's discontent. But with the other foot I try to step up or out in a new direction. I guess I might be a better exemplar of hope if I were more confident of where I'm going. But it might also be that people are moved more by another's tentative willingness to see things differently than they would be by a dramatic declaration of a better way. Perhaps watching someone learn to change makes a more lasting impression than having someone try to save you.
Forgiveness may be stern or soft, reassuring or discomforting, eloquent or clumsy. The first expression may be incomplete and need restatement or elaboration to be understood by others, and made clear and strong in one's own heart. Perfection is not a prerequisite for attempting to forgive.
"Sweet revenge" is junk food for the soul. The brief rush that revenge provides will always be followed by the degradation of one's character. There is a real joy to be found in setting things right, but that always involves changing oneself for the better first.
To find your missing creativity, release a little of your attachment to the worst injury ever done to you. Grieve the deadness that you are letting go of, and that you have so long regarded as a trophy wound. Then celebrate the opening of a door through which your childlike nature can come back to you, laughing, asking the simplest questions, clearing your vision.
In a time when the recollection and classifying of abuses has become a virtual industry, we have to be careful about proclaiming the specialness of our wounds. The end point of remembering exactly how we have been damaged is to realize that we all share the deep common wound of humanity: being born into vulnerable bodies in a mysterious and dangerous world. Our particular wounds have a lot to do with who we are, and that history is important to understand. But learning to forgive all our wounds, regardless of their severity, is what will speed us toward our potential. An unimagined creativity blossoms in every space within the heart from which pain has been released.
Forgiveness is the first breeze of early spring, carrying an unexpected warmth.
Forgiveness is the first breeze of early spring, carrying an unexpected warmth.
Don't be alarmed when resentment returns after you think you have thoroughly released someone from blame. Our attachment to fear runs deep, and the thought of holding no grudges whatsoever loosens fear's grip. Then it whispers in our ear that forgiveness might steal away our old familiar world of isolation and suspicion. Whenever you find a good reason to reinforce an old grievance, ask yourself what fear has actually done for you lately.
In the forgiving relationship, the struggle over power is replaced by the mutual impetus to serve. Jealousy dissolves into playfulness, suspicion into helpfulness, and possession into shared freedom.
Forgiveness will not save every relationship, but it will allow an inner healing to proceed even when a rift is inevitable. We are always relating to the whole of humanity, and to Creation itself, through the specific channels of our relationships. To forgive is to remember that we cannot separate ourselves from the whole.
Relationships that seem to fail represent the reeducation of your expectations. Forgiving others for hurting or disappointing you begins with understanding how you have chosen your teachers.
The most efficient expression of forgiveness answers attack as it happens, neither by condoning nor by opposing it, but by staunchly offering correction of its senselessness.
The martial art of aikido teaches that an attacker is always off balance, and that the goal of defending oneself is really to return the attacker to a peaceful state — laid out on the floor, if necessary. If we can learn to see all attackers as aspects of our selfsame humanity that are not yet in balance with the whole, then we can instinctively respond to attacks with acts of compassion that are as firm as they need to be, without violating others or ourselves.
* * *
A robber steals because he thinks something has been stolen from him. If we hope to rehabilitate him rather than reinforce his violent habit, the message of our rehabilitation efforts must be:
Things are not as they seem; you have everything you need within you.
Anyone trapped in illusion is healed by seeing through it, not by being schooled in a harsher illusion. All criminals need a better metaphysics, a wiser foundation for their thinking.
How to forgive a murderer? First, by differentiating his sufferings from his exploitation of death to ease them. For his sufferings — greed, jealousy, frustration — he will need reeducation, support, and compassion. For our outrage about murder, we need to examine deeply our faith in death. As long as we collectively believe that death has power over life, we will spawn deluded, self-appointed little gods who want that power.
Time heals some wounds, but major wounds can permanently change our sense of self. It may seem that we have little influence on what a crime or catastrophe does to us, but we do have the choice of responding with bitterness or wisdom. That choice is seldom clear at first, because the first step toward wisdom may include accepting our bitterness for a while.
Time heals some wounds, but major wounds can permanently change our sense of self.
You are perfectly entitled to remain angry and resentful for as long as you like. You are perfectly entitled to believe you've been cheated or denied, that everything is ruined, and that you will always be under the thumb of misery until other people miraculously change (which they won't do, of course). Best of all, you are perfectly entitled to get so tired of believing all this that you decide to change miraculously on your own.
If you want to be merciless, be merciless against the temptation to blame. Question the usefulness of blaming at every opportunity. Ask yourself, "If I had committed a crime, would I respond better to condemnation or caring?" If you find within yourself a secret desire to be condemned, ask yourself what needs to die within you. Chronic self-blame is always a means of putting off the work of change.
Make no mistake: anyone or anything that seems to have control over you is experienced as a momentary stand-in for God. Every grievance, regardless of degree, is an argument with divine creation, the fundamental power that made things the way they are. In other words:
When you are mad at anyone, you are mad at God.
When you are mad at God, it is crucially important to admit it. This saves many potential victims from your anger, redirecting it toward Someone who can transform it and heal you.
It is difficult to stay mad at God, because most of the time our experience of God is nothing more than an idea. Yet our consciousness itself is nothing more than an endless rush of ideas about reality. In this view, forgiving God means exchanging many useless ideas for one idea that works.
The grudge against God — or in nonreligious terms, the grudge against reality — is the keystone grudge for all of one's unhappiness. I've learned that I can save a lot of time by following the connections of all my petty, middling, and major grudges back to the keystone grudge, and then asking myself the question, "Is it more likely that God was wrong to make the world this way, or that I am somehow wrong in the way I'm looking at it?" If I decide that God was wrong — or that there is no God and I am merely the victim of an uncaring, mechanical universe — then there isn't much I can do. But when I realize that I can always clarify my perceptions of the world, I can start learning and contributing again. That seems to be the way to both humility and power.CHAPTER 3
I have experienced two fundamental ways of being in the world.
Until I became ill in my early thirties, I lived the normal life of ego: looking out for No. 1, trying to preserve my habits and defend my fixed world-view, and making bargains with my fears in order to squeeze some enjoyment out of life.
The bridge from my old life to the new was forgiveness
In this consciousness everything felt risky and there were few people I trusted. But I could always compare myself to someone less fortunate and feel like I was making out all right. After a seven-year health crisis that devastated my former sense of self, I found myself on a spiritual path. This meant I couldn't focus on looking out for No. 1, because I wasn't sure of who or what I was anymore (or even if an "I" exists at all!). It meant entering a never-ending discipline of surrendering my habits and enlarging my world-view in the light of new information and insights.
Finally, it meant regarding fear as a common illusion — something to be honestly acknowledged, but never allowed to dictate terms. In this consciousness, I increasingly feel cared for by an ineffable, pervasive intelligence that I sometimes call God, but often don't need to name at all. And I trust everyone to be doing the best they can to find that same kind of security, even if some are seriously misguided or tragically deluded in their pursuit of it. In a day-to-day sense, I don't know if my spiritual way of life is any easier than my old ego-driven way. Sometimes it's more demanding.
What has made the shift worthwhile is that my life makes sense to me now, and I feel consistently guided toward growth and service. In the old life I deeply doubted my worth and purpose, and secretly thought that I had too many unsolvable problems to be of real help to anyone. The bridge from my old life to the new was forgiveness: the complete release of my pained idea of who I was. This is the most important work I have ever done on my own behalf. In retrospect, I marvel at the victory I was earning during the time that I seemed to be suffering a total, grinding defeat.
Begin with the dull ache of a long-held shame. Don't try to argue away its justification; you've lost that argument many times already. Accept that your shame has helped make you who you are. Then compare your present sense of self to your sense of who you could be, who you've always wished to be, who you were born to be before you collided with the inevitable limitations and contradictions of this world. Between your shame and your ideal vision of yourself lies a great longing. Shift your attention to that longing — and then look back on your unforgiven shame. This is the first step out of pain and stagnation.
* * *
Forgiving your flaws and failures does not mean looking away from them or lying about them.
Forgiving your flaws and failures does not mean looking away from them or lying about them. Look at them as a string of pitiful or menacing hitchhikers whom you can't afford not to pick up on your journey to a changed life. Each of them has a piece of the map you need, hidden in its shabby clothing. You must listen attentively to all their stories and win the friendship of each one to put your map together. Where you are going — into a forgiven life of wholeness, passion, and commitment — you will need all the denizens of your dark side working diligently on your behalf.
Excerpted from The Forgiveness Book by Patrick Miller. Copyright © 2017 D. Patrick Miller. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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Table of Contents
Foreword Frederic Luskin, PhD vii
Seven Steps of Forgiving 1
Forgiving Others 5
Forgiving Yourself 29
Where Forgiveness Leads 65
The Seven Steps Expanded 89