Forgiving You, Forgiving Me – Mary Wood

About the Author:

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
Forgiving institutions 

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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Comments

Forgiving You, Forgiving Me – Mary Wood — 44 Comments

  1. I love this quote: “It becomes easier to forgive when we choose to no longer believe we are victims.”

    That is so important to get out of this victim mentality so we can forgive these people who hold us back and move forward with our lives focusing on the present and what we can control TODAY

    • Thanks for the great essay Mary!
      I agree that it’s so incredibly important not to think of ourselves as victims. There are few things that hold a human being back more in life than feeling sorry for ourself.

      • Just wanted to say thanks for reading my paper. And I totally agree with your statement that feeling sorry for ourselves holds us back in all of life. Wishing you well on your journey, wherever that takes you. Take care.

    • thanks for your feedback Kunal. Yes, I agree with you, that it’s so important to focus on the present moment and today. Much success in wherever your life takes you.

  2. Thank you for this article Mary. Brought back lovely memories of Manchester. I still watch the tape of your talk occasionally.
    You’re looking well.

    • John, so good to hear from you. Wow – that was a few years ago – and also many wonderful memories for me. Hope you’re doing well. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Who knows – maybe one day we’ll meet up again. Take care.

      • Thanks Mary, I’ve cared for my wife for many year and have a few problems myself but that’s old age for you. You take care too x

  3. The quote “forgiveness is not for the other person- it is for us” really opened my eyes to the true meaning of forgiveness. It is not that we are rightening the actions of those who betray us but instead allowing ourselves to move on.

    • Hi Calllie! Thanks for reading my submission. I like your understanding “instead allowing ourselves to move on.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that this life is really one day at a time. Wishing you well wherever this journey leads you. Take care. Mary

  4. Hi Mary,
    Your paper that you submitted was inspiring to read. Many people do not think of those to forgive those who made fun of us resulting in hurt. The quote, “When we don’t forgive, this keeps us attached to incidents, people, experiences that have happened in the past,” really made me think of those who I was hurt by many years ago and yet to forgive them resulting in their words hurting and still sticking with me till this day.

    • Thanks so much for reading my paper and sharing your thoughts. The journey of forgiveness begins, I believe, when we come to realize that we are still hanging on to thoughts and words that hurt us. So, it sounds like your journey of forgiveness has begun with that realization. Forgiveness is a life-long experience that can ease our pain. Blessings on your journey….. take care.

  5. Mary,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts a great deal! Your point about forgiving ourselves is crucial in every aspect of life. That’s something that our Western culture is slowly warming up to, and you bring it to life so beautifully here. “Forgiveness is not for the other person – it is for us. It is about us” is such a powerful statement. Has forgiveness been the foundation of your self-esteem workshops you’ve been running since 1993?

    • Robert, thanks for your comments and ideas. I agree with your statement “that’s something our Western culture is slowly warming up to” – it’s so important for healthy relationships. Forgiveness has been a part of my self-esteem workshops with the main focus being on the awareness that the fear of rejection plays in our lives. Accepting and loving myself as a person who stutters has, I think, been the major focus in my life, and so is a large part of my workshops. Take care. Thanks again. Any further comments appreciated….

  6. This paper is amazing!! I need to read this daily. Is there any way you can send me a copy?

    • thanks for reading my paper…. and I’m glad that there were thoughts and ideas in it that you can relate to. I’ll be happy to send you a copy. Just send me your email address….. not sure if you can send me yours, but here’s mine: dmarywood@yahoo.com. Take care. Mary

  7. Overcoming the past is without a doubt a big step for people who stutter. Fear of the possible repetition of distraught times in the past can hold back a person from beginning their future. Is letting go of the past a big foundation in your self-esteem workshops?

  8. Hi kirkms: Thanks for getting in touch. Nobody has ever asked your question before…. I think as we begin to accept ourselves for who we are, instead of trying to live up to others expectations, then we begin to let go of the past. Hanging on to the past is a way of not having to more forward. I don’t think I’ve specifically focused on letting go of the past, but that many other aspects of self-esteem lead us to this place. Take care.

  9. Hi Mary! I really enjoyed your article and perspective on forgiveness. I am in school to be a speech language pathologist! I was wondering if you had any advice about how we can counsel or encourage our students to forgive others and let go of their anger?

    • Thanks for your interest in forgiveness and reading the paper. Whether we stutter or not, not forgiving others and ourselves keeps us hanging on to old stories of pain and anger. It keeps us in the past instead of enjoying the present moment. Recycling this pain and anger can lead to health issues, broken relationships, and much more. It also keeps our fear alive. When I came to know I was the one who was suffering and not the person I was angry with, then forgiveness made so much sense t o me. Hope this helps in some way. Take care and good luck in your studies.

  10. Mary, I have listened to you speak at CSA conferences and I can honestly say that you are the embodiment of what resilient stutterer is.
    I admire your story and your perspective as much now as when I first heard you speak.
    Thank you, Mary, and keep doing what you do.

    • Hi Ryan! Thank you for your kind words. It’s good to meet you again….. and I hope I’ll see you at the virtual CSA conference in November. Take care. Be Well.

  11. Dear Mary,

    Thank you so much for this paper, and thank you so much for teaching me. I am still trying to implement your teachings. It is going to take me a little more time, but with your help I will get there.

    Thank you
    Hanan

  12. Dear Mary, Thank you so much for writing this paper can I please ask a question.it may sound a bit jumbled but I really needed to ask as your wise thoughts seemed so relative to an area I struggle in. where i am at the moment.I have tried to forgive and have noticed recently what i write is becoming more positive with less mention of the teasing in the past.But i keep wanting those close to me to be happy in there lives and for example i will often ask my husband and my grown up children are they ok, when i can see they are ok. I put this down to ”over thinking” but I was wonderign is there anything else or a stratergy I can use.”Thanks for writing the paper I will go back and reread it it i am sure. Phyllis.

    • Hi Phyllis! Thanks so much for reading the paper and your insights that followed. For me, wanting those close to me to be happy in their lives comes from a couple of places. One is their confirming to me that they are okay means that then I can feel OK. I am counting on them to make me feel happy instead of knowing that my happiness really comes from within me. I can’t remember if it’s in the paper I shared, but one of my major insights was that the whole fear thing in my life comes from the fear of rejection – you might not like me if I stutter… or am not a good mother or wife. I’ve read lots of books on self-esteem…. I don’t know if you’re a reader or not. “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers comes to mind. If you want to continue to keep in touch, you can reach me at dmarywood@yahoo.com. Take care.

  13. Hello Mary,

    Your submission taught me new lessons and reminded me of past experiences. I believe everyone has experienced being laughed at some point of time during their life. Your paper taught me that when forgiving someone it is important to understand exactly what you are forgiving that person for. As you are not the victim, it is usually not personal but a battle within. I can only imagine the experiences you faced and have had to forgive others for their actions. Thank you for sharing your experiences and steps into forgiving someone. Your paper can be applied to a variety of experiences people have faced throughout their lifetime.

    • Thanks for your insights and understandings that you shared in your reply. Someone else’s insights always allow me to take a deeper look at my own experiences. For me, it really is a journey that never ends. I keep thinking I’ve learned how to respond to a particular situation, then I get to look at it again. I’m very grateful for a sense of humour!! Take care. Be well.

  14. Hi Mary,
    Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences! I really enjoyed reading your article, and I agree with you that the power of forgiveness can be life-changing in so many ways. Your discussion about how forgiveness is not for the other person, but rather is for and about us, is powerful and true. I am currently a graduate student studying to become a speech-language pathologist, and I feel that your message is so important to share, both with individuals who stutter as well as those who are experiencing other challenges. Understanding why forgiveness is important, what our motivations are, and how this can affect us throughout our lives is something that is applicable to so many people and situations. Thank you again for sharing!

    • Rose, thanks for your comments and insights. It warms my heart to see that you are a graduate student and reading information on forgiveness. Many moons ago when I went for speech therapy the only thing they focused on was the stutter, and not the many feelings, patterns and experiences that were behind this. Take care.

  15. Hi Mary,
    Thank you so much for sharing your incredible outlook and reaction to your life experiences. You wisdom is not only helpful for individuals who stutter, but for every individual. The fact that you have chosen happiness, you have chosen peace when the world has not always been so kind is so inspiring. You have shown that the only person who truly struggles with pent up anger and resentment is the person keeping it within. Unfortunately, individuals who stutter often face adversity from the world, but your post helps give people the courage they need to realize that they can overcome that and find happiness.

    • Hi! Thanks for your feedback. I always learn from the words that are shared. Yours about peace and happiness are a good reminder for me…… because no matter how much I think I’ve learned about myself, it’s always good to read the words again. Take care.

  16. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I really enjoyed the part where you said “Forgiveness can end the suffering we cause ourselves and others through our judgments”. I feel like this paper could help me a lot! I do have a question, if you had to think about it, do you feel that you became a happier person once you started to change the way you felt about forgiveness?

  17. Thanks for reading the paper and getting in touch….. I do feel I’m happier now that I understand how forgiveness for myself and others really affects all of my relationships – the one I have with myself and the one I have with others. I don’t spend as much time angry at a person or situation that I have no control over. I believe it’s a life-time practice because there are still situations in my life that are a reminder I’ve still got work to do!! I’m thinking of a song we sing with these words, “I Love Myself the Way I Am.” A good affirmation for every day! Take care.

  18. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge. I really needed this. You are such a strong person. Forgiveness is a large part of life and changes how you see things. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that that person “wins” and I often experience myself thinking that. I feel so stubborn and protective of my own heart that I keep myself in the past. I know I need to change my beliefs about forgiveness and not have value in self pity like you said. By forgiving others I can let go of the past and be happier.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences around forgiveness. And I also believe it is a life-long journey and practice. We sing a song at our church entitled “I Love Myself the Way I Am” and that’s a good affirmation/statement that we can say to ourselves over and over. I wish you well on your journey to accepting yourself just as you are….. and I’m smiling as I’m writing that that’s another life-long journey, for me anyway. Take care.

  19. Hi Mary,

    I absolutely loved this article. It was truly inspiring. This gave a great insight on forgiveness and how if you don’t forgive, it can potentially keep you attached to various things. I am currently in graduate school studying speech-language pathology. As a future speech-language pathologist, I intend to incorporate the encouragement of forgiveness when providing counseling to my future clients. Thank you for sharing!

    • Hi Kaleigh! Thanks for your feedback…. and it just makes my heart sing when you say that you are going to incorporate the encouragement of forgiveness when providing counselling to your future clients. When I took speech therapy many moons ago, it was all focused on the speech, and I’m so glad that therapy is now focusing on so much more. Best of luck on your journey….. Take care.

  20. Forgiveness is the first step towards growth. I like the perspective of forgiving yourself as being the utmost important aspect of growth. It takes more strength to forgive yourself over anyone else. This is looking inward and understanding that you are wonderfully and beautifully made, which includes your speech. Thank you for sharing. This can be applied in all areas of life, and I find it admirable for you to speak of this topic and share with the world. Learning to forgive is difficult but if we do, inner peace is achievable.

  21. Thanks so much for your insightful reply. And you are correct when you say it takes more strength to forgive yourself over anyone else. I can still remember the day I began my self-forgiveness journey. Take care. Be well.

  22. Mary,

    I really enjoyed your post! Forgiveness is not an easy task to do. It takes a lot of courage and strength to forgive someone that has hurt us, because like you said, it raises the possibility that they might hurt us again. However, overcoming that fear is what allows an individual to truly move on and forgive themselves. I really like your statement “Forgiveness can end the suffering we cause ourselves and others through our judgments”. That quote speaks volumes about how we can carry burdens if we choose not to forgive.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Good morning! And thank you for sharing your thoughts. For me, forgiveness is a life-long journey, and I’m thinking from reading your words that the same is true for you. Whether we stutter or not, it’s an important part of our wholeness. Take care.

  23. This was truly a beautiful post. I feel as if I have received a gift. I read your post because the title had the word “forgive” in it. I have sought forgiveness out; I’ve watched sermons and read books about forgiveness. This is a difficult area for me. I was thinking as I read, that forgiveness is a process. Then, your words echoed my thoughts. It is an active process. It is a conscious decision. I struggle with forgiveness because I have not completely let go of the anger that is associated with the problem. Reading this post was a reminder for me that I should never try to stop forgiving.

  24. Forgiveness is such a simple word and yet so hard to do. Especially forgiving ourselves. And we so often feel the need to ask for forgivness, where there’s nothing to forgive. “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.” Amen to that. Your words are always like a warm blanket. I love you paper and will reread it many times.

    Stay safe and lots of hugs

    Anita Blom

  25. Good morning! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I believe forgiveness is a daily life-long process. I’m also aware of forgiveness when I’m thinking I “should” be better. That intimidating word “should” sure holds us back from accepting and loving ourselves and others just the way we are….. sounds like I’m on another track, but I believe it all ties together. Take care. Thanks again.

  26. Thank you so much to everyone who shared their comments and beliefs with me. It is such a blessing to be part of this supportive and caring community. Reading your words made me realize, once again, that we are never alone in this journey. I keep you in my heart….

    Love, Mary