Sunday, January 15, 2012

Learning To Forgive Others

Day 15 of Your Year to Wellness
Just losing weight will not make you happy, but forgiveness can set you free
Yesterday, I wrote about forgiving yourself and the response was tremendous, Thank you. Most of you came to see that you were more adept at forgiving others than you were yourselves; it’s a work in progress. Something that struck many people was the notion that the failure to forgive yourself leads to behavior that requires more forgiving; so true. Like everything else about healing and wellness; time is required. Allow yourself to learn and heal.

While I promised tips for dinning out, I thought it best that on this eve of MLK day, we talk about forgiving others.

Several years ago, I wrote The Ties That Bind; A Memoire of  Race, Memory and Redemption. During the process of forgiving myself, I realized the baggage I had been holding  for others. I’ve often said that forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook, it’s about getting off the hook they tried to put you on.

When I first started on my wellness journey, I began to recall all of the harsh things that had been said and done to me. When I was young I was called Pig or Gip which is pig spelled backwards. When I got older people would mock me because of my large round behind  (Don’t worry I’m way over it.) As an adult, folks would point out that I was bright or talented ; that I was the most inspirational person they knew, but then they’d add something about my weight and how I seemed to be able to control everything but that.

I am a strong person, but I’d be lying to you if I said these things didn’t hurt or have an impact. I’d also be lying if I said that losing weight makes it all better. It does not. Wellness is not about your size; it is about your energy and light. If you want to be well, you must learn to forgive because the failure to do so will diminish your own joy.

Here’s what I’ve learned about forgiving others:

·         Forgiveness does not require that you allow others to continue to abuse you; it means that you have wiped the slate clean and are moving on. It may mean that you move on from the relationship or you may stay but on different terms. When you forgive someone of their wrong doing you are enabling them to start new, but you are also giving yourself the opportunity to be renewed.

·         Forgiveness is an important aspect of redemption. In all religions, we speak of forgiving others and turning the other cheek, rarely though do we live this practice. We are a culture of hoarders, holding on to generational hatred and prejudice with no true understanding of the impact it has on us and our children. We must evolve and move forward, therefore, we must forgive.

·         Re-learn to Laugh. I’ve laughed through many rough situations but my children have taught me that when I’m laughing, I can’t be mad. As we get older, we often lose the ease of laughter. Life, bills, and taxes are just not that funny, so over time we become more serious than the year before. Alice Walker once wrote, “There is a point at which grief becomes absurd, at that point, laughter gushes up to retrieve the sorrow.” On the day my mother died, many of my friends came to the house to “Lift her up,” the practice of sharing stories and wonderful moments from the person’s life so you “lift up” their spirit. In essence you are immediately telling the legacy of the person from the folks who loved and learned from them. Everyone had a story to tell as my mother had often given them life lessons but always made them laugh. People told of her dancing or singing and some single mothers shared how my mom would help them financially when they had no one else to turn to. I laughed to myself thinking of how she would ask me for the money but would not tell me what it was for. We laughed about how my mom had all of my friends make an extra key to their house and car and give them to her but she didn’t label them so when someone needed their key, they had to try them all. When they found their key, they labeled it for future use. I still have that box of keys. When the stories of my mother were told, no one told of how she beat us when we were young, no one talked about her drinking, and no one said anything about how harsh she could be. We laughed and shared only joy and as painful as the loss was, the laughter lifted me to a place of forgiveness and peace.

·         Don’t wait to forgive. The beauty of forgiving my mother when she was alive was that it enabled me to enjoy the wonderful person she became. People can change and move forward, but if the folks they have offended don’t forgive, then those folks are stuck; even the offender has been set free. You don’t need to go over what was done, you don’t even need to wait to be asked to forgive, do it for yourself. Create a ceremony of forgiveness and be free for you.

·         Shine your light. A few days ago, a friend remarked that no matter my size, I have always had a tremendously bright light. I am grateful to her, because while she may not see it herself, it takes one to know one. I think that this light; this energy, is the result of two things; the giving of yourself, and forgiving others. The more you practice giving and forgiving, the brighter your light will shine.

Forgiveness is not about letting someone else off of the hook, it’s about getting off the hook they put you on.

Be well, be you, SHINE YOUR LIGHT

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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