Sometimes I get messages about what I should write about and share with you. I was struck by a photo online which led me to discover an article today online describing an amazing act of forgiveness. An Iranian woman, at the gallows of her son’s murder forgave the man, seconds before his execution.
It was something she’d previously refused to do. At the last minute, the mother of a young man who’d been killed in a street fight in Iran, at the last minute, forgave her son’s killer, after giving a speech to the crowd and then slapping him in the face. Her husband helped remove the noose, the mother revealed later in a newspaper interview.
The woman told an Iranian news paper, Shargh in an interview that her son appeared to her in a dream and asked her to forgive his killer, and still she was reluctant. She said that in her speech at the gallows, she scolded the crowd for pressuring her to forgive, saying: “Do you know what I have gone through all these years and how my life became like poison.” She and her husband, who also have a daughter, lost another son who was killed in a car crash years earlier.
But after the killer pleaded to her – and she slapped him – “I felt at ease” and forgave him, she said. He will serve a prison sentence instead of being executed, according to the newspaper.
Then late last night, as if to confirm I needed to write about this topic, I watched Katie Couric show, and a segment where she interviewed Kathy Sanders, who lost her two young grandsons, in the Oklahoma City bombings, that occurred almost 20 years ago, discuss how she forgave Timothy McVay and Terry Nichols, with who she has developed and maintained a relationship.
Could you do the same? I’m not asking you to, only to consider. It’s certainly not an easy thing to do. And if you’re wondering if I’m speaking of forgiveness from a purely observational or clinical perspective, I’m not. In 2000, my beloved father was kidnapped after visiting his bank, forced to withdraw thousands of dollars from another branch and released. He was swindled out of more money, thinking the police were helping him to recoup the lost cash. When he finally told me what happened, I knew in that very moment that I had to forgive those who’d harmed him, as my anger, and resentment would prevent me from giving him the loving care that he needed. He died a few weeks later from the stress and pain that experience caused him. I know that for a fact.
A year later the perpetrators were arrested and convicted, without my involvement. As they had committed other similar acts against senior citizens.
The Healing Power of Forgiveness
While forgiveness may be a foundational aspect of all religions and spiritual practices, and the ancient scriptures implore us to forgive others, it is one of the hardest yet most rewarding of all human challenges. Forgiveness is truly one of the most taxing aspects of healing, but in order to achieve optimal health and well-being, we must forgive. Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Forgiveness and anger cannot occupy the same space. Type A personalities are usually characterized as competitive and driven and as having a higher risk of heart attacks. But researchers say that this risk is a result of their hostility and unresolved anger rather than their personality traits.
We tend to believe that forgiveness supports the transgression that has been committed against us. But forgiveness is not an endorsement of wrongdoing; rather, it’s an act of releasing the pain and hurt it caused through love, the root of forgiveness—and it is not love of the other but of the self. We must forgive ourselves as well as others in order to be whole and healed. Let me explain.
Forgiveness Changes Our Physiology
Forgiveness provides physiological relief from entangled and painful memories, releasing the ties that have bound us to the past and allowing us to move on. These old, unresolved wounds are the energetic, emotional dams that prevent the unobstructed flow of healing into our lives. We must forgive ourselves for our own transgressions. Forgiveness aids in the process of healing self-abuse and self-hatred. We must bring unhealed wounds out of the shadows. We cannot truly love ourselves without forgiveness. Once we begin to forgive ourselves, we can forgive others.
We can often be more forgiving of others than of ourselves. Still, how do we begin to forgive those who have caused us great pain? It isn’t easy, but it is imperative. When we open our hearts to the idea of forgiveness, the areas that we need to forgive the most are not usually the wrongdoings that first come to mind, but the deeper hidden transgressions. Because they are so severe, they tend to surface gradually.
Many of us have made our way through life avoiding and suppressing our pain rather than confronting it. Breakthroughs occur after months or years of therapy, when painful memories come to the surface. When those wounds are healed, forgiving transformations occur. We often feel less slighted, less inadequate, and more loving.
A Powerful Example of Self-Forgiveness
While it is often easier to forgive others, sometimes the most difficult act of forgiveness involves forgiving ourselves. John (not his real name), a young man in his early twenties, was prompted to see me because of a severe case of ulcers. His pain was minimally improved by medication, and he refused to have surgery. We approached his treatment from a mind, body, spirit perspective, and over the course of several months, some of his symptoms lessened, but there was no significant resolution of his condition.
He was extremely resistant to resolving his emotional issues and wanted to focus entirely on healing his physical symptoms—that is, until one session during meditation, when memories of severe abuse by his father in his early childhood flooded his mind. He had not been consciously aware of these incidents, although he knew he held a deep resentment and anger toward his father.
In the months that followed, John began to consciously confront and heal the old wounds and pain in concert with facing his father and attempting to repair their relationship. His father initially denied ever abusing him, but then he finally admitted it. John’s ulcer began to rapidly improve during this period of emotional healing. His symptoms disappeared, and he was able to discontinue his medication and treatment.
- Make a decision to practice forgiveness regularly
- Create a Forgiveness Journal-Journaling, i.e., writing about forgiveness, and your feelings may be an easy way to begin
ABC News: Iranian Woman Forgives Son’s Killer at the Gallows
Katie Couric Show: How One Grandmother Forgave The Unforgivable
Superhealing Chapter 9