Upon arriving at Auschwitz, 10-year-old Eva Kor and her twin sister watched their family disappear – never to be seen again. Then Josef Mengele subjected them to horrifying medical experiments.
Intense trauma. The type that can easily haunt a person for the remainder of life.
Yet Eva grew tired of being bitter – as an adult. Eventually, forgiveness became the key to her healing.
My forgiveness … has nothing to do with the perpetrator, has nothing to do with any religion. It is my act of self-healing, self-liberation and self-empowerment.
I had no power over my life up to the time that I discovered that I could forgive.
When victims choose to forgive, they truly take power back from their oppressors.
Without question, forgiveness is their choice to make – not the other way around. That’s why forgiveness is powerful for many people. Families included – with parents modeling behavior for their children, especially those with a history of trauma.
Dr. Wayne Dyer offers 15 thoughtful steps to forgiving. Click here for complete list with detailed actions. I’m including six powerful ones – that might be particularly helpful for parents, caregivers and professionals who deal with challenging children every day. Over time they, too, can feel like the victim – sometimes suffering secondary trauma.
Don’t Go to Sleep Angry.
Switch the Focus from Blaming Others to Understanding Yourself.
Be Kind Instead of Right.
Stop Looking for Occasions to Be Offended
Learn to Let Go and Be Like Water.
Flow everywhere there’s an opening. Soften your hard edges by being more tolerant of contrary opinions. Interfere less. Substitute listening for directing and telling. When someone offers you their viewpoint, try responding. “I’ve never considered that before—thank you. I’ll give it some thought.”
With each step in the process, approval isn’t required from anyone. It starts within the person who’s made a conscious choice to forgive. Healing begins there – and like the pebble thrown in the creek, the ripple grows.
Likewise, Kori Ellis also talks about forgiveness – in very simple terms. Click here for more.
Negative is unhealthy.
Children need positive role models
Forgiveness builds character.
There are two sides to every story.
Life is short.
Yes, two sides. One person alone doesn’t create conflict.
My young adult daughter and I recently spent time talking about those two sides and their role in forgiveness. With her extensive trauma history, she brings a perspective different than my own.
Although my forgiveness came from the heart, I often pushed that same sense of forgiveness onto my children – expecting them to respond in like manner. On the surface that seemed to be a reasonable expectation.
But they couldn’t forgive at this moment in time – which frustrated me and then created another layer of shame for them. My daughter helped me better understand.
Forgiveness can be triggering to the person who is still wearing a mask of emotions. Steps of awareness are essential. Understanding what was done and what was taken helped me understand why forgiveness is important. But that process took years. It was something that someone could not force me to do – until I was emotionally ready.
Over time I shifted my thinking and learned to internalize my forgiveness – without the need for affirmation from anyone. My daughter agreed.
Saying I forgive you doesn’t mean forcing an apology or asking for one. The act of forgiving is just saying, “I’m not holding onto this.” And the approach is even better if the person really means to forgive.
Who cares what the other person thinks or feels? Forgiving is for me and me only. True healing comes from true awareness and forgiveness.
We also discussed anger – and its role is maintaining unhealthy relationships. The downward spiral isn’t a myth. The speed can easily accelerate.
A lot of parents initially forgive their children. Yet a lot of parents hold onto negative feelings about behaviors outside their children’s control. This creates mistrust on both ways.
Anger can become a personality. Hating someone can control a person’s well-being, thoughts and actions.
In other words, forgiving doesn’t have to be a two-way street to be personally effective. Moreover, forgiving enables a person to remain open and be approachable – which, in turn, build connections. They slowly foster the meaningful relationships that enable mutual forgiving.
Think parents and young adult children in the future.
And forgiveness is not synonymous with forgetting – but certainly related. By being human, I can’t completely forget the ride on the “emotional roller coaster.” But I can realize my role in not going there again. When forgiving today, I reflect upon ways to reduce or eliminate the same situation in the future.
Forgiveness that leads to reflection is a powerful combination.
Last week in Indianapolis, my son Andrew shared the stage with Eva Kor at a 500 Festival event – in which both shared stories of overcoming adversity. Eva offers this advice to people wanting to forgive.
Take a piece of paper and a pen and write a letter to someone who’s hurt you. But, please do not mail it to that person. It’s for you to know that you forgive. You now can go on with your life without the burden and pain…imposed on you.
Imposed on you. But not a permanent part of you.
Try it today. DCP
Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE
To follow Craig’s journey in raising his six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love
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