One of the best ways to forgive others is to use forgiveness techniques from those who have forgiven people for atrocious behaviors against them, then gone on to live happy and fulfilling lives. If they can forgive shocking behavior, we can too.
Here are three of the most extraordinary real-life stories of forgiveness that I’ve heard.
Sandy McGregor forgives a murderer
Andrew Matthews wrote about his friend, Sandy McGregor, in Andrew’s book Follow Your Heart. In January 1987 a man with a shotgun walked into Sandy’s lounge room and murdered Sandy’s three teenage daughters. The tragedy filled him with pain and anger.
With time, and the help of friends, Sandy decided his only chance of a fulfilling life was to let go of the anger and forgive the offender. Sandy now spends his life helping others forgive and achieve peace of mind.
Sandy would tell you that he let go of his anger for his own benefit and his own survival. Andrew writes, ‘For those of us less challenged than Sandy, the choice is the same, “Do you want your life to work or don’t you?”’
Pete Peterson forgives his captors
Pete Peterson was appointed the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since the Vietnam War. Years before Pete had served six years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi Hilton prison camp, where he endured brutality, starvation and torture.
When asked how he could return to Vietnam as an ambassador, he said: “I left my anger and regret at the gates of that prison when I walked out in 1972. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.”
… To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. ”
A women forgives the murderer of her children
I was watching Oprah a few years ago when a segment came on about a lady whose ex husband shot all of their children and then turned the gun on himself. The woman said the man wanted to make her life miserable. She said he took away so much from her already, but she would not allow him to destroy her happiness as well. She was determined to live a happy life despite the immense loss and pain. In time she came to terms with her ex husband’s crimes and found happiness.
Why forgive others?
If someone hurts us, holding onto the bitterness and emotional pain forever by never forgiving them is, in a way, letting them control us. By thinking bitter thoughts about them we are not free of them.
For extra happiness, we want to be in control of our thoughts, not others. The offender might rarely think about us or they might be dead, so they aren’t the ones emotionally suffering, we are. By not forgiving we are hurting ourselves, not them.
… Without forgiveness life is governed by… an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation. ”
Why might people hurt us?
People can be nasty, thoughtless and cruel for many reasons. They might be selfish, lack empathy or have anger management problems. They might have had a cruel upbringing, associate with nasty people – so pick-up their values – or, possibly, be mentally disturbed to the point of hurting others without having a conscience.
What are some ways to forgive?
Detaching the action from the person is a good step to help us forgive. We can dislike the behavior without hating the person.
Boosting our empathy and compassion for the offenders can be key ingredients for forgiveness.
Regularly saying forgiveness affirmations can lodge positive beliefs in our subconscious mind, which can benefit us.
Doing forgiveness visualization exercises can also help.
Forgiving is often a conscious decision to let go of the pain, anger and bitterness arising from hurtful situations, then move on and live our lives the best we can despite the past. Forgiveness can take time and it can be difficult, but it’s essential for boosting happiness, mental and physical health.
… Forgiveness is a funny thing; it warms the heart and cools the sting.”
… Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
written by Nyomi Graef