Forgiveness
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Forgiveness Forgiveness Presentation Transcript

  • Forgiveness Forgiveness as a healing gift to oneself, and as radical acceptance of the human condition. © Gary Powell, 2008. April 2008 Not for commercial use.
  • Acknowledgments • I am indebted to the following people for the position I have reached, both in my thinking and in my personal development, with regard to the transformational power of forgiveness, and this presentation is profoundly informed by their work: • Dr Robert D. Enright, Dept of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; • Dr Steven Hayes, Dept of Psychology, University of Nevada, Reno; and • Dr Joram Graf Haber, Dept of Philosophy and Religion, Bergen Community College, 1989-2002. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The definition of forgiveness • Forgiveness is a non-verbal concept that cannot be adequately captured in words. • We can best know what forgiveness is when we experience forgiving. • Words can help to point in the right direction, though, and in particular clarify what forgiveness is not. Metaphors can also have a helpful function in providing understanding where words fail. • It involves a process of dissolving feelings of anger, resentment and/or hatred towards an individual who is perceived to have selfishly or maliciously done one deliberate harm, by means of the cultivation of some degree of compassion towards the offender, and/or the acceptance of such positive feelings should they happen to evolve naturally in the victim’s experience. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use. View slide
  • The experience of ‘unforgiveness’ • Imagine you have (or someone else has) suffered an injustice. It is something that violates your/their rights and dignity. • As a result, you feel angry and resentful toward the offender(s). • Anger, resentment and hatred are painful emotions. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use. View slide
  • Suffering anger and resentment • The more serious the injustice and hurt, the more intense and protracted the anger and resentment may be. • You may feel anger and resentment for years and years. • The person you feel angry towards may not know or care how you feel, or may be dead. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • A metaphor • The psychologist Steven Hayes suggests a helpful metaphor. • If you are in unforgiveness, then you are in a sense on a giant metaphorical hook. • Next to you, on the hook, is the person who has hurt you. They got ‘hooked’ after you, and are closest to the barb. • The hook is very painful. Wherever you go, the hook goes, and so does the offender. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • A metaphor • The only way you can get off the hook is if you allow the offender to get off the hook first. • The cost of not allowing the offender off the hook is perhaps a lifetime of misery for the person in unforgiveness. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiving ourselves • The person you won’t let off the hook may be another human being. • However, it may also be yourself. • This is even more painful, as the anger and resentment may be replaced/compounded by feelings of GUILT. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The effects of unforgiveness • Recent years have seen a developing psychotherapeutic interest in the power of forgiveness as a means to healing. • The psychologist Robert Enright has devised a therapeutic technique that focuses on leading people through a process of forgiveness. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The effects of unforgiveness • He finds that people who feel incapable of or unwilling to forgive past hurts experience greater levels of anxiety and depression. • They are also at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The value of anger as a response to offence • The process of forgiveness is a complex and subtle business. • It may not be a good thing to forgive too soon: • There is perhaps much to be said for anger as an appropriate initial response to violations of one’s own, or another’s, rights and dignity. • It carries two valuable messages: © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Anger says: I am worth more than that. • The first message is that the victim of the injustice has had their rights violated. They deserve to have been treated better. • That anger honours the serious moral infraction that has taken place. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Acceptance of anger • Anger is a painful emotion, and blocks the opportunity to have more pleasant experiences. • In our culture, we are encouraged to learn that we must avoid our painful feelings. • Trying to forgive prematurely as an attempt to avoid the pain of anger is unfruitful. The feeling of anger as an initial response to injustice can be evaluated as perfectly appropriate and healthy. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How can anger be good? • It carries a message that is good for our self-esteem. It says ‘I deserve/the victim deserves to be treated better than that.’ • It also carries a message that says the perpetrator has acted in a way that is beneath their dignity as a moral and human agent. It is therefore an affirmation of the worth of the offender. You expected better from them; what they did is beneath their value as a human being. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Hooking ourselves up. • If you are unwilling to forgive other people, you are probably going to be unwilling to forgive yourself. • The rule: ‘I must never forgo contempt and resentment towards people who commit Behaviour X’ is problematic ... • ... because YOU are a person as well. • People who are unforgiving towards others tend to give themselves a hard time as well. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Summary of the value of forgiveness ... • Forgiveness can liberate a person from intense and protracted suffering, (i.e. anger, resentment, hatred). The person can let go of the hurt and move on. • It enables a person to transcend their perspective and find a secure and more optimistic place from which to view their personal history and the human condition. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Summary of the value of forgiveness ... • Forgiving others enables people to forgive themselves more easily, leading to a life less snarled up by negative and self- attacking thoughts and futile struggle with a past that cannot be changed. • Self-forgiveness, as well as forgiveness of others, promotes higher self-esteem, physical health, vitality and a happier life. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... forgetting? • Forgiveness is not forgetting. It is possible to forget hurts in the course of time, whether or not they have been forgiven. Forgiving involves a deep transcendental transformation of the person doing the forgiving. • It is possible to forgive and not to forget. There is no need to forget an injustice. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... excusing? • Forgiveness is not excusing. Excusing involves letting the person off the hook because there are circumstances that remove the moral offence, e.g. feeling resentment and anger because a friend has not bothered turning up for an important arrangement ... only to discover later that they were in an accident and taken to hospital. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... saying ‘what you did was o.k.’? • Forgiveness does not involve telling yourself or the offender that what they did really was not that bad, and that it was o.k. for them to behave as they did. • If you forgive someone, it must be with a clear consciousness that what they did was NOT o.k. Your forgiveness does not ever, and should not ever, remove the fact that they behaved badly. • If you decide their behaviour was not morally wrong after all, then you are excusing them, not forgiving them – as there is no moral offence to forgive. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... pardoning? • Forgiving another person does not have to include pardoning them. Sometimes it probably should not. Pardoning involves sparing the offender the appropriate negative consequences of their actions. • Forgiving involves a wish to replace hatred and resentment with more generous feelings of benevolence. • If the moral offence they have committed is grievous, then realistically any feelings of benevolence you can expect to cultivate might be difficult to nurture, and remain fairly slight at first. But what you eventually cultivate might be enough to release you from the intense pain of chronic hatred. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... pardoning? • Imagine you are mugged in the street. • If the perpetrator is arrested and sentenced by the courts, you might feel it is appropriate for them to receive their punishment, whilst being prepared eventually to forgive them, (i.e. perhaps to wish them well in their journey through life and feel compassion towards them for their own human suffering, and hope they will in the course of time develop enough compassion and insight to set them on a different path.) © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... reconciliation? • Forgiveness of others need not involve reconciliation – a restoration of the relationship to how it was before the injury happened. • In some cases, (e.g. where domestic violence has occurred,) if you agree to a reconciliation, you might just be giving the offender a chance to offend again. • The offender might have died, anyway. If forgiveness had to involve reconciliation, practical circumstances such as this would prevent forgiveness in many cases. So forgiveness does not necessarily entail reconciliation. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... waiting for an apology? • Forgiveness cannot be dependent on whether the offender shows remorse for their actions. The victim of the hurt could be forever on the hook if this were the case. • It is certainly easier to forgive if the offender expresses remorse. • However, it is possible, and often necessary, to forgive REGARDLESS OF whether the offender shows remorse or apologises. Forgiveness is a commitment to engage in the tricky and sometimes long-term project of letting go of resentment and/or hatred towards someone. • This is a difficult process, but it is also empowering for the forgiver: the power for enabling forgiveness to happen is thus taken away from the offender. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... telling the offender ‘I forgive you’? • Forgiveness does not have to involve telling the offender, ‘I forgive you’. You may never meet the person who has injured you, or see them again – or they may have died. They do not need to know you forgive them. Forgiveness is your own private experience: you do not need to share it with or express it to the offender, unless you want to. • Telling someone ‘I forgive you’ is often used by people as a means of hurting them – by shoving the perception of moral superiority in the face of the offender. Doing this can be a symptom of unforgiveness. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... reconciliation with oneself? • Forgiving oneself, however, MUST include pardoning oneself and reconciliation with oneself. Perhaps the pardon can be attached to making amends. You can’t separate yourself from yourself in the same way as you can separate yourself from another person. • Forgiving oneself involves a radical but critical acceptance of one’s behaviour in the past, a commitment to be a better person in the future and to learn from moral mistakes, and a commitment to treat oneself with love and kindness. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... radical acceptance of the human condition? • Forgiveness involves a willingness to ACCEPT the injustice one has suffered as a fact. • It involves giving the world permission to be as it is, because that is what the world is like, and struggling to deny that reality will just increase suffering. • This does not mean WANTING the world to be as it is: a compassionate being will always strive to make it better. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... recognising our own need for forgiveness? • We have all violated the moral rights and dignity of other people, and all continue to do so, perhaps largely by the good to others that we fail to do in a very needy world. • The world religions, for all their serious flaws, all reflect the wisdom of this insight. They all, too, recognise the great value of forgiveness. • Committing to forgiveness to others reflects the paradigm by which we may ourselves wish to be treated for the wrongs we commit against others. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How to forgive .... repressing our anger and resentment? Struggling directly against painful emotions in order to remove them is unsuccessful. • It is likely to result in secondary suffering caused by the futile struggle against the primary pain. • PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN + UNWILLINGNESS TO EXPERIENCE PAIN = ORIGINAL PAIN + EXTRA SUFFERING • Struggle also tends to make the pain stay around longer, locking it in place. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How can we forgive if we can’t control our resentment? • We can’t just switch our resentment and anger off like a light. • Forgiveness is an action, but a tricky one. • It is an action of loving kindness towards the deepest, spiritual, transcendent part of the person who has harmed us. • It is a gift to the offender, freely given, that they do not deserve. • The gift has a wonderful bidirectional quality, and turns into a gift to ourselves, where we are released from the chronic pain of resentment, anger and hatred. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness – the tricky stuff ... • Forgiving too soon, especially where the offence is major and the offender shows no remorse, is inappropriate. • Anger carries valuable messages: it is a flag saying both that the victim has suffered injustice, and that the perpetrator has acted in a way that is far beneath the moral demands of their own humanity. Things go well when we are willing to experience anger, if the alternative is getting rid of it imprudently. We don’t have to act on anger (and often probably shouldn’t act in the way our impulses prompt us to). © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness – the tricky stuff ... • If we are willing to experience our anger, without defence, we will not do anything rash to get rid of it that could have disastrous consequences for us and others. • Sometimes, our anger can motivate us to carry out actions that are useful in the service of justice ... But a willingness to experience anger allows us to choose whether an action is appropriate or not, and refrain from damaging actions. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness – the tricky stuff ... • When the time seems to be right, you may be able to take a different perspective. • The person who hurt you might deeply regret it in a few years, or sooner. They may well have changed. • All human beings suffer – a lot. This is a fact that is often overlooked in our ‘feel-good,’ media-dominated culture. The offender is also vulnerable to suffering. They may one day experience a similar injustice to the one they have committed, which may transform their understanding of it. People can change. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • Releasing oneself from unforgiveness, with its chronic resentment, anger or even hatred, can be a difficult business. We get very attached to these feelings in response to a perceived moral hurt, and can feel very reluctant to let the perpetrator ‘off the hook’ by letting go of these feelings. • Anger can have a positive function initially; it can be a marker than a moral wrong has taken place, and an affirmation of human and moral dignity. There seems to be something inappropriate with not getting angry about violations of moral rights. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • Anger can also motivate people to bring about positive changes that will call perpetrators to account, bring an end to unjust situations, or discourage people from acting unjustly in the future. • Harnessed properly, it can be a highly constructive energy. • Yet the chronic anger and resentment of unforgiveness are generally likely to cause more suffering to the victims of injustice themselves, than to the perpetrators. • They perpetrators may not know or care that people are angry with them: and if they do know, they might be delighted that they have caused the pain of chronic anger and frustration. They might even be dead. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • In the process of forgiving, it might help to try first to make some space for the possibility that a certain element – perhaps a large one – of the perpetrator’s behaviour, requires excusing rather than forgiveness. • Given their parenting, the culture in which they have grown up, all their other life experiences, their genetic inheritance, and even a big dollop of self-deception, they may have such a narrow perspective that they see their behaviour as appropriate. • The person who has caused harm may even be suffering from a psychological illness that has played a large part in their actions. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • Is it possible that, had you been born in the place of that individual, you too would have been inclined, as a result of your experiences and genes, to behave in the same way as they did? • Is it possible that some people are less developed in moral and spiritual wisdom, perhaps in part as a result of their life circumstances? That they have not yet had the kind of experiences that would enable them to develop a higher degree of moral wisdom – or have had life experiences that have hampered their normal ethical development? © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • In many cases, we will know nothing, or very little, about the genes or life history of the person who behaves unjustly towards us. • Maybe it is helpful, though, to consider whether that person might have ended up with a different moral conscience under different existential circumstances. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • If this is the case, perhaps we can separate out the deepest self of this person – the transcendental self that would be the same regardless of the time or place they were born, their genes, their parents and experiences – from the negative actions of this person. • Perhaps there are no bad people, (i.e. transcendental selves,) – only bad actions, which arise largely from moral and spiritual ignorance, which in turn are largely caused by negative existential circumstances… © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • By creating a bit of flexibility, a bit of ‘wiggle-room,’ in our thinking about the person who has hurt us, it might help us to reframe our understanding of the injustice in a helpful way. • This flexibility is a space of uncertainty, where we leave some room for the possibility that the individual acted to some degree in moral ignorance, because life has not yet taught them enough moral wisdom. This doubt-space is also supported by the thought that they might not have done it if they had had our own genes and life history, and that, similarly, we might have behaved like them if we had had their experiences …. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • It might, of course, be the case, that the individual acted selfishly or maliciously, whilst knowing and feeling they were doing wrong. This is the element of their action that perhaps deserves the attention of forgiveness, rather than excusing. Without being psychic, we cannot know how big this element is. We can still be willing to preserve our doubt-space, though, and be willing for the truly immoral element of their action to be as big or as little as it happens to be. • Even so far as this element of true moral infraction is concerned … is it still not possible to have the worrying thought that we too might have behaved the same way if we had had their life history instead of ours? © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • Releasing oneself from unforgiveness, with its chronic resentment, anger or even hatred, can be a difficult business. We get very attached to these feelings in response to a perceived moral hurt, and can feel very reluctant to let the perpetrator ‘off the hook’ by letting go of these feelings. • Forgiveness is a moral gift to the other, but despite the New Testament injunction to forgive unconditionally, it could be argued that the giver of forgiveness is not morally obliged to give it. However, the benefits of forgiveness can include a deep sense of relief and liberation from suffering for the person doing the forgiving. In practical terms, it can have a very positive outcome. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Willingness to let go of anger … • It is notoriously difficult to remove or alter the form of painful feelings by acting on them directly. If you try to get rid of your painful feelings of anger by trying to suppress them, or trying to replace them directly with feelings of benevolence, you may well find that this strategy entangles you in a futile struggle that makes things even worse. • A different strategy might work, involving a different type of action. Robert Enright suggests that giving the person who has caused you hurt a gift is a helpful stage on the road to forgiveness. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness and hypothetical universes … • In order to forgive, I think it is useful to hold onto this idea of giving the perpetrator a moral gift. Offering a real gift that they know about and can reject or disparage, such as sending a birthday card, might make the giver too vulnerable to the possibility of rejection and add insult to injury. • One important moral gift I would suggest is to wish that they will make progress in their journey through life, growing in wisdom, including moral wisdom, and in compassion for themselves and for their fellow human beings. We can try to work towards wishing that their journey will eventually end in fulfilment and happiness for them. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness and hypothetical universes … • In practical terms, this can be achieved by using the model of a hypothetical universe, together with an adaptation of the Buddhist metta bhavana (cultivation of loving kindness) meditation . • In this meditation, we direct good will towards the transcendental part of the offender’s identity – that part of them that is their deepest self, and that would have been ‘them’ wherever, whenever, and to whomsoever they were born, and that remains unchanged despite their experiences. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness and hypothetical universes … • Whatever character, beliefs, or urges the offender now has, are impermanent. These can change, and are not a part of their intrinsic identity. With increasing moral enlightenment, they themselves can kill off selfish, malicious and morally ignorant aspects of their character, and emerge with something new. • So any warmth we want to develop towards them focuses on their deep self and potential for change, rather than on their current character. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness and hypothetical universes … • We all know that some people never seem to improve their behaviour towards others, despite having a whole lifetime to do so. • Maybe we only have one lifetime in this universe to make our mark. But imagine a hypothetical universe, where we are reincarnated: reborn to new parents every time we die, and have a new life history. That core, transcendental ‘self’ we have is the same every time, but because of new experiences, there is always the possibility of turning out differently. • Imagine also that, each time we die, we also somehow transfer the moral wisdom we have accumulated so far into our next existence. • So in this possible and hypothetical universe, people live a sequence of different lives, continually adding deposits to their moral wisdom account. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Forgiveness and hypothetical universes … • Remember though that you do not need to believe in reincarnation for this meditation to be useful. We are only considering a hypothetical universe. • The Buddhist metta bhavana meditation aims at the development of compassion by wishing people well … • First yourself ... then a good friend ... then an acquaintance ... then a difficult person or enemy .... then the whole of humanity … • Each party is wished well in their journey through life. The meditator wishes that they have good health, that they be happy, that they be free from suffering, that they grow in wisdom and compassion … © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • How can I wish the person who has harmed me well, when I hate them? • It’s not easy. But the alternative is to stay stuck right next to them on that hook. That’s not easy either. • Forgiveness is a difficult process – but a great opportunity for personal growth. • We might consider that perhaps there are no bad people – only bad actions. The transcendental self of the person who has harmed you has the potential to act differently if and when they develop moral wisdom and compassion. • Let’s put that person into our hypothetical, repeated-existence universe .... © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • In this hypothetical universe, the person is continually reborn, whilst developing in moral wisdom and compassion. • As this universe is hypothetical, we can make anything in it happen that we want to happen. • So in our hypothetical universe, let’s make it the case that, whatever the individual needs to learn in order to develop compassion and moral wisdom, comes to pass. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • This might well include the experience of the offender being a victim of injustice and suffering, just as they have inflicted injustice on others in the past. They might be able to develop a deeper understanding of injustice as a result of this, and deeper identification with the suffering of others. Their own experience of suffering and injustice might lead to the development of moral wisdom. • The offender might need the love and compassion form others that has always been lacking in their life, in order to make progress as a moral and human being. Perhaps you can wish them whatever they need in order to become a much better person – including both experiences of suffering and injustice, and experiences of being loved. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • In our hypothetical universe, as a result of suffering, and of experiencing injustice, and even of experiencing love and compassion from others, they might, perhaps, in the course of one existence, or many existences, come to understand the terrible effects of cruel and selfish actions, and learn to treat others with consideration and compassion. • They might also experience great remorse about the wrong they have done to other people. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • In your hypothetical universe, the person becomes compassionate and develops moral wisdom, as a result of their experiences. They may deeply regret their past wrongdoings, and work to make amends. Would you be willing to wish this person happiness at this point in their development, in view of the lessons they have learned through suffering, and from experiencing compassion? • Are you willing to meditate on a hypothetical universe of this kind, where you wish the person who has hurt you to develop compassion and achieve happiness, as a result of their own experiences of suffering, injustice and being treated with compassion – of them getting whatever they need in order to kill off the kind of character and mindset they had that caused you so much pain? © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • During your meditation, can you frame the thought of this future hypothetical universe, and say ‘If the person who hurt me were to have these formative experiences in it, and learn compassion and remorse from them, then I wish them happiness.’? • Perhaps it is even possible for the person who hurt you to achieve such a level of development in the real existence of one lifetime – and the hypothetical universe you wish for is a hypothetical future in this life. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Putting the offender into a hypothetical universe ... • If you are able to do this, then you are on your way to forgiving them. If you are able to wish them well in a possible future universe where they have learnt some difficult lessons, and had some more nurturing experiences, then you have given them a gift. • This does not necessarily entail pardoning them. The forgiveness meditation makes it a condition of their happiness that they learn through experiences, including difficult ones where they are on the receiving end of injustice, the negative effects of their historical behaviour on others. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Giving the offender a gift ... • You are not going to be able to get rid of the pain of unforgiveness by struggling against anger and resentment. • Forgiveness is a CHOICE and an ACTION, but not an action of futile struggle. • It is a willingness to acknowledge the possibility of redemption in the other, and to allow them not to be defined for eternity by their morally bad actions. It acknowledges that the transcendental self of the person who has hurt you can act very differently in the future. In your hypothetical universe, they could even at some future point be your best friend, or a relative who loves you deeply …. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Giving the offender a gift ... • You may find that it takes a very long time to forgive. That is hardly surprising, given the scale of injustice and suffering some people have experienced as a result of others’ wrongdoing. • However, forgiveness, as a choice, involves a COMMITMENT to keep working at letting go of anger, and developing some compassion. • There may be days when you feel particularly angry: but this does not undermine your commitment, which is a choice to continue where you left off in the process of forgiveness when you lose some ground. • You might be willing to practise this metta bhavana meditation regularly. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Giving the offender a gift ... • If you wish the person who hurt you progress and happiness in a hypothetical universe during your metta bhavana mediation, this will be a gift you give them, and of course one that they need not know about. Your wishing them positive development and happiness would have to be something you are sincere about; it must contain the thought that, if this hypothetical universe were to come into being somehow, you would really wish the person eventually to achieve happiness as a result of their developmental experiences. • There are other gifts you could make to them in order to aid your process of forgiveness. For instance, you might decide to suppress a disparaging remark about them that you are bursting to make during a conversation where they are not present. That feels like a safe gift to give. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Radical acceptance of the world ... • The universe we are in of course contains immense injustice and suffering. • We are not going to be able to remove suffering and injustice from the world by saying to ourselves ‘ I MUST NOT BE THE VICTIM OF INJUSTICE’. • Being a victim of injustice is often something outside our control. • Even if we were able somehow to avoid being a victim of injustice in this world, it would not remove the terrible suffering that has already happened in human history. • Why should the injustice experienced by other people, either alive or dead, be less important than the injustice we ourselves experience as individuals? © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • Radical acceptance of the world ... • Trying to live by the rule ‘I MUST NOT BE THE VICTIM OF INJUSTICE’ has no future. • It merely draws a person into a futile struggle against something they simply can’t avoid/change: the human condition. • This futile struggle compounds their suffering immeasurably. • Radical acceptance involves being able to say, ‘I am willing to fully experience suffering and injustice if that is what life brings me.’ • This recognises the unavoidable nature of suffering and injustice in our universe. • It is also rational, in that a refusal to be willing will draw one into a futile struggle that will compound one’s suffering. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • • Being willing to experience suffering and injustice does not mean wanting to experience them, or resigning oneself to them. Neither does it mean we should not take steps to avoid or remove them. However, willingness does mean being prepared to fully take in the painful experience, and not try to remove it by futile means that will only increase our suffering, or compromise our values. • It is not ‘resignation,’ though: it is an active taking in of the experience, including all the thoughts and emotions associated with it. • Radical acceptance means permitting the world to be as it is, rather than demanding without compromise that it MUST be how you want it to be. Radical acceptance of the world ... © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • • Radical acceptance does not mean fatalistically giving up on trying to make the world a better place. • However, it does mean recognising and accepting one’s limitations in achieving this end, in the service of avoiding unnecessary suffering. Radical acceptance of the world ... © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The power of forgiveness .... • It is a gift given to the offender that they do not deserve. • The offender need not know it has been given. It is a private, spiritual experience of letting go of anger and resentment and offering loving kindness to the transcendental, unchanging part of the offender’s being. • It is given freely by the person who is doing the forgiving. Forgiveness means making a commitment to ending the feelings of anger, resentment or hatred that are harboured towards that individual. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The power of forgiveness .... • Forgiveness does not necessarily entail excusing or pardoning, though pardoning can be a very positive action at times, (though not always). • If there is a complete excuse for the offender’s behaviour, then he has done no moral wrong, and therefore nothing requiring forgiveness. • Forgiveness does not depend on the offender being sorry, though the process is helped if he is. The forgiver may choose to pardon as well as forgive, which might mean sparing them a sanction, or reconciling in a relationship. It may however be inappropriate to pardon an individual, but it is still possible to forgive. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The power of forgiveness .... • By letting the offender off the ‘anger’ hook, you can get off it yourself, and live a happier life. You are no longer attached to the offender by a hook, and can let them go. • It is achieved by giving a gift of compassion to the offender, and seeing their actions as bad, but the person the offender has the potential to be as good. • The process of forgiveness can perhaps be helped by a form of metta bhavana meditation where you wish the person who has hurt you transformational experiences in a hypothetical universe, where they learn through difficult experiences the negative effects of their behaviour, and where, by means of both negative and positive experiences, they learn compassion. • It involves a radical acceptance, on some level, of the world as it is, with all its serious imperfections. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.
  • The power of forgiveness .... • The gift of forgiveness transforms itself into a gift to oneself. The psychological benefits to the forgiver can be immense. © Gary Powell, 2008. Not for commercial use.