Whatever this month means to you, keep hope alive. Hope allows bravery and changes everything.
Do you have someone you need to forgive? You already know I do if you have looked at my Forgiveness and Gratitude page at the top of my blog. And, what better day to forgive or at least to work on forgiving than Global Forgiveness Day?
Apparently, there are multiple dates set aside for forgiveness including International Forgiveness Day, the first Sunday of August. While doing research for this post, I found conflicting information about Global Forgiveness Day. An article at the Huffington Post stated Global Forgiveness Day was on July seventh; so forgive me if I have the wrong date.
The exact date is probably less important than actually forgiving. The problem is how do we truly forgive? I am not going to rehash my prior posts since you can read them from the link above if you choose.
Instead, I want you to read a post from my friend, Phil Dzialo, Moving from Apology to Forgiveness to Closure … It Can Happen! He and his family found some closure after their experience with their son’s near drowning while at a summer day camp. He mentions a book, On Apology, by Dr. Aaron Lazare in his post. It is a book I highly recommend as I have been reading it upon Phil’s suggestion. It has helped me to understand there are times when we need an apology to help us to continue healing.
However, there are also times when you can learn to forgive without actually receiving an apology as noted in my prior posts about Dr. Frederic Luskin’s book, Forgive for Good. This seems to work better when the offense is in the past. However, even then it does not always work. This is especially true if you keep hearing stories about how great the people who offended you are. Imagine hearing this when you know that they really have not changed.
This is when an apology becomes extremely important. Otherwise it is too easy to get lost in anger, and that is not a good thing. Anger consumes you rather than those with whom you remain angry.
The first definition of forgive in the 2004 version of The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is: to give up resentment of.
I am still learning and growing as I continue to pursue forgiveness. I realized that I still have much to learn when someone once again wounded my loved one. Therefore, I did more research and found a wonderful book, Forgive for Good by Dr. Frederic Luskin.
Introduction to Forgive for Good
I am still reading it; however, the first eleven chapters have had a profound effect on me. I hope by sharing what I am learning others will see the valve of using Dr. Luskin’s techniques too.
The introduction to Forgive for Good explains that forgiveness is about obtaining peace. It is not for the offender. Dr. Luskin notes, “forgiveness does not mean that we give up our right to be angry when we have been hurt or mistreated.” Several things Dr. Luskin states ring so true to me. One of my favorites is, “Forgiveness is the powerful assertion that bad things will not ruin your today even though they may have spoiled your past.”
Dr. Luskin divided his book into three sections with Part I focusing on how we all create grievances in response to not getting our needs met and in the process we “rent too much space in our thoughts to disappointment.” He is not saying anger is never appropriate, instead he explains that, “Anger can be a wonderful short-term solution to life’s difficulties, yet it is rarely a good long-term solution to painful events.”
I also love that he points out that holding others accountable for their actions is not the same as blaming them for how you feel. Therefore, you can hold someone legally accountable for an injury and still forgive so you can heal.
Part II explores our choice to forgive. He makes a point of explaining how we get stuck in being victims and that these stories, “unlike wine, do not improve with age.” He points out that forgiveness is about changing our story from victim to hero. We become heroes when we use our stories to heal, to help others or to avoid repeating mistakes. We then stop using our stories for revenge or to get sympathy.
He dedicates a chapter to the health benefits of letting go of the anger where he mentions four studies he conducted. The benefits include psychological and emotional well-being. Another study showed that people who are forgiving are less likely to have a wide range of illnesses.
He also shares stories of families affected by violence in Northern Ireland who took part in the Stanford Forgiveness Project and forgave those who murdered their loved ones. They should set an example for all of us. I imagine this is one of the hardest things anyone would ever forgive.
Part III gives techniques to help us with forgiveness which I will explore in a future post since I have five more chapters to read in this section.
I love fiction because you can write things the way you wish they were. You can create as much support as you wish were available for families struggling to understand a child’s differences. Fiction also allows the child with autism spectrum to be presented in a positive light. Too many times real life does not do this. People judge harshly when they do not understand, and somethings cannot be taken back. They can hopefully be forgiven, but forgiveness sometimes takes time.
Most people have trouble forgiving people who deeply wound them, but add the dimension of Asperger’s and multiply the time and effort it takes to forgive by ??? I really do not have an exact number, as like neurotypicals, every individual on the spectrum is unique. The wounds are certainly deeper, but then I think bullying deeply wounds any child. Yet, in my book, Delightfully Different, Mia forgives after a couple of years. I want to be clear; I love fiction!!!
I put most of the responsibility for forgiveness on Mia in the book. In reality, I know the child with Asperger’s has to see the parent forgive first. This is not easy for the parent either. When someone wounds your child how do you forgive? It certainly is difficult! That is why I really am grateful to Immaculee Ilibagiza for her example.
Time and infinite support help us to learn how to forgive. It is not something that comes quickly. It involves baby steps, three forward, five back, then three-step forward again for what seems like an impossible amount of time, if it happens at all. It also involves love and patience and acceptance of why the process is so difficult. Ideally, it involves the other person meeting them at least half way, if not three-quarters of the way repeatedly. When this does not happen the process can take longer. There is still hope, but it does take time.
A friend once told me that it is too bad that we cannot have a do over with our first child, the way we can with a piece of pottery when it crashes. I really do not want a do over, but I do wish I had done so many things differently. I love my children the way they are, so I would not do either of them over even if I could, but I would do it differently with the knowledge I have now.
Delightfully Different is a work of fiction, so Mia’s mother did things differently than I did. She also has two wonderful sisters, while I have none. The point I am making is do not assume the book is about my family, it really is not. There are similarities because I am the writer and we write what we know, but I can assure you none of the characters in my story exist in real life.
Therefore, this story is not like Look Me in the Eye or Running with Scissors. It isn’t like The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night either. Remember all three of these were about boys or men, not girls. The only meanness is from the mean girls. The only sadness is from “normal” life events and the frustration caused by misunderstandings.
The subtle traits Mia’s family and doctors miss are real traits of Asperger’s that are frequently missed especially in girls, the bullying Mia experiences really happens every day in our schools. The rest is just a story that I totally enjoyed writing, and I hope you will enjoy reading.
I welcome your comments and after you have read the story, I welcome your reviews on the bookstore sites, as well as here.