When Stephana and I started The Path to Forgive online classes, we weren’t thinking of a specific type of forgiveness to focus on. However, most people who become interested in the course are needing to forgive a close family member or a [formerly] close friend.
I attended a workshop on forgiveness earlier this year, that was based on a book that related the experiences of people in Africa, after instances of genocide. The facilitator used information in the book and tried to apply it to different situations. People were asked to share with others, if they wished, their personal stories.
Some people talked about having quickly and easily forgiven strangers who had hurt them, and feeling compassion towards their aggressors. One person had been battered as a consequence of a mugging. Another one had survived a racially motivated shooting. A third one had her career ruined by an unethical boss. These people talked about how it didn’t make sense to focus on the bad, and how they were teaching their children to not hold any types of grudges.
In this workshop, the people who had the hardest time forgiving were the ones that felt that they had been hurt or betrayed by a family member, a former spouse or a once close friend.
Whereas someone had been able to forgive a stranger who caused an accident where they were hurt, requiring years of chiropractic care and physical therapy, another person could not forgive a cousin for revealing something they told them in confidence.
Whereas a man could forgive the teacher who unfairly made him fail a class in college, another could not forgive his father for divorcing his mother.
Granted, some of the participants had suffered greatly at the hands of people who had once been very close to them, but few had been hurt in way that was worse than what some of the people in the workshop had suffered at the hands of strangers — who they easily forgave.
Why is it so much easier to forgive a stranger, than it is to forgive a parent, a sibling, or a best friend?
Much of it has to do with the previous emotional involvement you had with a person close to you before they hurt you or betrayed you, but another large component of this is the fact that you cannot so easily decide to never see a relative or close friend again, the way you would, or could, with a stranger.
The woman who was beaten almost to death, knows that the stranger who hurt her is in a prison for life. She is free to go on with her life without fearing that this man will further hurt her. The man who survived a shooting, and whose attacker was never found, understands that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time — during a robbery at a store — and that it is very unlikely they will ever meet again.
When it was a father, a mother or a brother, that hurt you, you will probably have to see them, or hear from them, at the very least, during every major holiday.
My clients and students who struggle with forgiving family members have a hard time getting into a holiday mood. They cannot relate to the happiness that other people feel when thinking of family reunions.
I used to be one of those people who would want to run away or hide during the holidays.
Holidays stirred up so many unpleasant memories from my original family, that some of the fear, distrust and pain that I felt as a child came back to me in an emotional flood.
But I am not a child anymore, and now my happiness is up to me.
I have a wooden sign outside my kitchen that says, “Happy memories begin here.” It reminds me that we get two chances at family, and this is my time to create happiness in my family.
I have not gotten to this point just by deciding it would be so, I had a lot of help along the way, and in some instances I had to find my own way.
Unlike other approaches where people are told they should be thankful for everything that happened to them, including extremely abusive behavior, because “it made them stronger,” we recognize that this is one of the most hurtful things you could say to a person who has suffered.
Our approach is different: we believe you need to heal as you forgive, they come together. You cannot be thankful for the trauma, because that would mean condoning what happened, and that is not healthy. But you can be thankful for the support, the love and the help that come your way after experiencing trauma, and for the strength to take the necessary steps to get better.
What Stephana and I have discovered is that by bypassing the conscious mind and going right into the deeper mind, with Feng Shui cures based on Taoist healing, and shamanic practices from Native American traditions, we created a unique blend that helps students make amazing breakthroughs in their path to forgive, with very little work or effort.
Students of the Path to Forgive say things like:
“When I signed up for this course I was hoping I would stop feeling angry at my mother. I never expected I would start feeling tenderness towards her again. She has not changed, probably never will, but I have become more able to sift the love from the anger. Who knew this could happen by just re-arranging a few family pictures!”