For the past two weeks we have been talking about the gift of catharsis that forgiveness presents to us and yet during this period I have had several discussions with people who have called to tell me of their struggles in allowing themselves to forgive the transgressions of others.
I certainly lack the wisdom to be able to steer these folks towards the enlightenment they seek and I was feeling frustrated at my inability to do so when my new friend Greg called.
Greg’s story goes like this.
Some 25 years ago his mother fell victim to a drunk driver. She was killed when he blew through a red traffic light while driving at twice the legal limit and while having a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit.
Greg’s family was devastated by the suddenness and violence of the loss and he vowed to do everything in his power to see that this person received the maximum punishment permissible under the law.
He sat in the courtroom through each day of the trial, all the while staring with intense hatred at the man who killed his mother and experienced massive disappointment at the menial sentence handed out by the judge.
Greg spent the next fifteen years consumed with anger and hatred. After the man was released from prison Greg frequently found himself driving by his house – unsure of what he hoped to accomplish in the event he saw him – and when he learned where this person was working he harbored many thoughts of visiting his place of employment and informing his boss and co-workers that he was a murderer.
The impact of all of us took a huge toll on him. He changed from being a gregarious and happy soul to a morose and brooding one. Over time his friends gave up on him and moved on with their lives and his existence became a bare and solitary one.
Prior to his mother’s death he had been ambitious in his career pursuits and that ambition was replaced by simply doing the minimum necessary to keep his job without much hope of upward progression in his company.
After many years of trying, his father finally convinced him to seek help and he sought out a psychologist for counseling. At his first session she asked him a very poignant question; had he ever thought of forgiving this man.
He told me that when she first asked this question his initial thought was to respond with great anger but, instead, he held himself in check.
She went on to tell him that by hating this man he was allowing him to be more than the man who had taken away his mother. His hatred was a chain that was keeping him connected to a man he despised. He was sharing part of his life with this person he so hated. He was empowering this person to rob him of a meaningful and happy life and that by forgiving him he would be exacting ultimate revenge by banishing him forever.
Greg had gone home and thought long and hard about what she had said to him and had decided to give it a try.
He told me he didn’t even know how to forgive and called the psychologist to ask. She had told him that the act of forgiveness is simple. All he needed to do was to reach inside himself and say to this man “I forgive you.”
Greg had done as she suggested and told me that the effect was almost immediate. Right away he felt all the anger begin to flow out from his body. He felt in control for the first time in 15 years. He felt the power that comes from knowing that we are masters of our own fate and most importantly he felt free from being tethered to this man he had spent so many years despising.
That was more than 10 years ago and since then his life has been enriched by a loving marriage, blessed with two beautiful children, and fulfilled by a career that is constantly taking him to new heights.
Greg asked me to tell his story in this week’s blog and to end the blog with this paragraph:
“If you choose not to forgive, you are harming yourself and no-one else. Hatred is the donating of your soul to the very person who hurt you, forgiveness is the reclaiming of ownership of your soul.”
Wise words indeed, Greg. Thank you
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.P.S. I have a question for those of you who are reading this blog and for those of you who have accepted my “30 day challenge.”
Would you be interested in connecting over the Internet via a live webcast to your computer? This would enable us to have meaningful 2-way dialogue and to discuss far more than is permitted in the limited space of a blog.
If you are interested in participating in a live webcast, please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you with details very soon.
Also, please give some thought to being a guest blogger. If you, or someone you know, have a compelling story, please share your story with us. Stories inspire, and perhaps through your story, someone’s life will change in a way they never dreamed possible. Please email me at email@example.com with your story.