While this video is satire and I really hope you aren’t offended by it, there is something that struck me as I watched it the other day. He talks about taking all those negative feelings and using them as a catalyst for your offendedness. He says that it feels like you are pushing them out but you are really just pushing them down which makes it easier the next time you are offended.
I couldn’t get that concept, that cycle, out of my head – negative emotions compiling on negative emotions. I had moments in my life when I was stuck in that cycle. I see people I love and people I don’t even know (and people in between) stuck in that cycle. It’s a terrible way to live.
I get that many believe you can’t make changes if you aren’t offended because being offended will propel you to make changes. But they are wrong. While it might make some change it’s not good change. It doesn’t create tolerance or happiness.
Many, many years ago, I was going through a spiritual upheaval. I don’t remember all the details but I was exploring Buddhism and Feng Shui. Somewhere I read that the first step you should take to happiness is forgiveness. At that moment, you should forgive your past. Forgive your parents because they are only human. Forgive mistakes you have made and others have made against you.
So I did. I took a quiet afternoon and found a nice cozy place with minimal distractions and I forgave. I forgave my parents for the mistakes they made as I grew up. I forgave myself for making mistakes. I promised myself that I would strive to continue to forgive because we are all human and we make mistakes. I forgave with all of my heart. And the most amazing thing happened – I felt all that pain and grief and heartache just slide away. Suddenly, I could see my parents for the people they were. Bad things had happened but they no longer seemed bad. They were just storms I had weathered.
I would love to say that I suddenly became saintly and I never struggled again but that would be a huge lie and I would have to ask for your forgiveness. I struggled – a lot. But it was new struggles. You can’t just dump all your baggage in one little session so things did creep up now and again but they were often based on new mistakes.
Life throws you curve balls. Over the last few years, I’ve been back to working really hard on forgiveness. I’ve been striving to be more Christ-like by loving my neighbor. I mention this because I want to bring religion into this conversation. Many people see forgiveness as a Christianity thing. It’s almost a mantra that has little power behind it – well you should just forgive. But do people really forgive?
Christ said there were two great commandments – Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Forgiveness is a powerful tool for love.
Before you focus on the Christianity aspect, remember I started all of this because I was researching Buddhism. Buddhism believes strongly that we create our own “heaven” and “hell” by our actions. If we do good, good will come into our lives. That doesn’t mean if we are kind, we win the lottery. It means if we are kind, we fill our heart with love which invites joy.
The same philosophy is seen in Wiccanism – what you do comes back to you. If you put out good, good will come to you. Again, it’s not about winning the lottery or getting everything you dreamed of. It’s internal for the most part.
You see, after I decided to seek love and forgiveness, I became a happier person. I’m not a perfect person because I still have a hard time not yelling at other drivers on the road or complaining about people who make me crazy. But I don’t hold on to that. While I yell at drivers on the road (in my car, not actually at them), I force myself to realize their humanity and forgive them. It’s not formal – I don’t say I forgive you for not using your turn signal and almost causing me to hit your bumper. I say, I have gotten distracted (or lost) before and forgotten my turn signal. I remind myself that I did it just the other day because it happens. Then the moment is over. I don’t think of it again.
I don’t hold to those negative emotions. If I can’t just “get over it”, I write it down. If that seems to not completely work then I give it to God. I have a jar where I write down all the things I want to stop ruminating on and seal them in the jar. Then if they pop up, I remind myself that I gave it to God and it seems to go away.
I share this because it leaves me happy. Because I am happy, it’s easier to love others. When I love others, I smile at them. I strive to do nice things for them (friends and strangers). I don’t have to be offended or angry to make positive change. It won’t get me on television but I make a more direct impact. I attend events to show my support. I talk to people. I pick up trash because I want to live in a beautiful world. I shop more carefully. I make small changes in my life because I know they will have lasting impact (such as using a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water). I get to do it all because I’m not wearing myself out being angry.
Does that mean I’m not political? Politics is huge. Yes I am political. I write my representatives. I subscribe to their newsletters so I know what they are doing. I subscribe to megavote so I know what is being voted on and how my representatives voted. I send them emails and messages that are clear and concise because I am calm. I tell them why these issues are important and I strive to send them the message that they are important for more than just me.
When it comes to civil rights, I choose kindness. I choose to treat people with respect and love because that is what a decent human being does. I do not condemn them or I try very very hard not to condemn them (I have a really hard time not having negative feelings towards negative people). Because I choose love, I choose freedom. I believe everyone has the freedom to choose their path but it really shouldn’t cause harm to others. I don’t support bombing buildings or random murders. I’m not going to waste my energy worrying about who is marrying who (unless they are under 18 because you really should be able to support yourself if you are going to get married) or who is in the toilet stall next to me. I believe in taking care of those who can’t or won’t care for themselves because it’s my place to help, not my place to determine the worth of the person receiving that help.
I think I have strayed. My point is this – why would you want to live your life with a constant ball of negative emotions sitting in your core? Forgiveness is less about the person you are forgiving than it is about you. Most of the time, the person you refuse to forgive is just off living their life while you are stewing in all those emotions. The person being harmed is you. Not forgiving is destroying your happiness. Not loving others hurts you.
I truly believe it is because of this lack of forgiving that we have a lack of tolerance. No one really wants to tolerate the other side because they are all so angry. Anger is like a virus. Forgiveness is the cure. And you will never know real happiness until you learn the power of forgiveness.