Mary Wood attended her first conference for people who stutter in Ottawa in 1993 presenting a workshop on self-esteem. Since then, she has attended and presented at conferences in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. She was ordained as a Unity minister in 2005, a lesson that taught her you never know what’s around the next corner.
FORGIVING YOU – FORGIVING ME
(This paper is based on Jerry Jampolsky’s book: “Forgiveness: The greatest healer of all.”)
Forgiveness has played a large part in my life as a person who stutters. The journey of words that has allowed me to be resilient and bounce back began with the words that, first of all I said to myself: “I forgive you for laughing at me when I stutter.” I could then bounce back from the anger and fear that was initially there in the moment. Then, after much time, that led to “I forgive myself for the expectation that I should speak perfectly.” And that began a journey of forgiveness that still continues today.
Forgiveness can end the suffering we cause ourselves and others through our judgments – good or bad, right or wrong, should, shouldn’t, etc……. I’m realizing that we judge others, ourselves, experiences just about 99% of the time. When we make judgements, it’s usually a projection of our own guilt and our own judgements of ourselves. This is particularly true when we judge ourselves as a person who stutters.
It really has nothing to do with the other person. It’s the space we’re in – not where they are. It’s really how we feel about ourselves. What we need to forgive in others may be something in ourselves that we don’t know is there. Usually what I judge someone else for is really what I am judging myself for.
When we don’t forgive, this keeps us attached to incidents, people, experiences that have happened in the past. For example, people who have laughed at us when we stutter. This may have happened many years ago, but we still focus on it, remember the shame that we felt.
Forgiveness stops our inner battles with ourselves. It allows us to stop recycling anger and blame. Very often, we spend 95% of the day thinking the same things that we thought about yesterday. Forgiveness can change how we see ourselves and others.
I used to think that if I forgave someone that they had won. What I was really scared about was that if I forgave them this time, I thought there was a good chance they would hurt me again. Forgiveness is not for the other person – it is for us. It is about us.
To not forgive is a decision to suffer. We believe our happiness lies out here, in people, in what is said to us, and what is done to us. We search outside to find our happiness. This relationship will make me happy, this car will make me happy, this job will make me happy. Searching outside frequently ends up with us feeling frustrated, angry, unhappy and hopeless.
Forgiveness is letting go of all hopes for a better past.
We will have more peaceful relationships when we stop telling others how to live – I do believe this is wanting to be in control, wanting to be in charge.
The key word in learning to forgive is the willingness to forgive. I believe there are only two emotions – love and fear – makes it simple for me. I can ask myself: “Am I coming from a place of love or fear?” FEAR. Fantasized Experience Appearing Real.
And our biggest block to forgiveness is having a belief system that’s based on fear rather than love. If we can realize this is also true for the other person, this can actually stop the judging because we know we also go to that place. Forgiveness also means giving up the idea we always have to be right.
We need to overcome the belief that the past will inevitably repeat itself in the future. How do we do that? And we can do that by letting go of our guilt and our shame. A big part of forgiveness for me is forgiving myself for all the things I think I should have been. All the things someone else told me I should be, should do, accepting their thoughts and ideas for me.
It becomes easier to forgive when we choose to no longer believe we are victims. When we know we have a choice, then we can know that we are victims no more. We always have a choice as to what we think, what we say, how we feel. Forgiveness is a continuous process, not something we do just once or twice. It doesn’t have to be done in a day, a week or a year. It might take a lifetime.
We often hide our anger. That hidden anger becomes what makes it so difficult to forgive. When we start to become aware and acknowledge what we are angry about in the past, we can change that when we become aware of it.
I can remember taking part in a meditation retreat and hearing the words “sit up straight” and then the words “stay strong” came into my mind. I went into my inner child – Little Mary – who was angry because she felt she had to stay strong when people laughed at her. No matter how old we are, there are still experiences to heal from and learn from, if we so desire.
Some things we might want to look at:
Forgiving people who have laughed at us
Forgiving loved ones who have died
Forgiving family members who have not lived up to our expectations – our partners, our mothers, our fathers, our children
Forgiving people that we work with
And most of all…..Forgiving ourselves.
Some stepping stones to forgiveness.
- Be open to the possibility of changing your beliefs about forgiveness.
- Find no value in self-pity – know you’re not a victim.
- Choose to be happy rather than right – give up control because you don’t have it anyway.
- Look at everyone you meet as your teacher. – even stuttering. Some of the people I’ve forgiven have been my greatest teachers.
- The purpose of forgiveness is not to change the other person, but to change the negative thoughts in our mind ‘cause it’s us who suffer.
The key word is willingness. I am willing to forgive myself and others so I can be happy, healthy and whole.
When you forgive someone, you are not agreeing with or condoning their behavior. It doesn’t mean we have to let all people out of jail, we don’t have to work for the boss we didn’t get along with or go back to the marriage you left behind.
Words from Jerry on his way to Bosnia in 1998.
“It is never too early to forgive
It is never too late to forgive.
How long does it take to forgive? It depends on your belief system.
If you believe it will never happen, it will never happen.
If you believe it will take 6 months, it will take 6 months.
If you believe it will take a second, that’s all it will take.
I believe with all my heart that peace will come to the world when each of us takes the responsibility of forgiving everyone, including ourselves, completely.”
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