I sat on the curb at 2 a.m, in front of my grandparent’s home.
I had never spent the night on the streets of Singapore (or any country really) and having just arrived at midnight, I didn’t want to startle my sleeping grandparents –or have them ring the cops!
I hadn’t told anyone I’d be visiting.
I flung my luggage in front of the iron gates and made myself comfortable on the curb to wait for dawn. I did what anyone sitting on a dimly-lit street at 2 a.m. would do in Singapore: I pulled out my laptop and started reading my friend Galen Pearl’s ebook on forgiveness.
The journey to this curb had been one of the longest journeys of my life. And I’m not just talking about the 20-hour flight from California.
See, I hadn’t spoken to my parents for a little more than 2 years.
During one of the most difficult periods in my life – the most difficult, in fact – my Indian parents aggravated a painful experience by actively intruding in and opposing my separation from my ex-wife.
“What about our family name,” they pleaded. “What will others say about us?”
“You have no choice – you must stay together,” they commanded uniformly.
Being in a place of extreme vulnerability, pain and hurt, I couldn’t handle the added pressure and demands of my parents.
So, we stopped talking. I did, anyway. For 2 years so I could complete the divorce and move on with my life.
I resented them for being unsupportive and choosing to see me in pain rather than alleviate painful circumstances.
This trip back to Singapore was the first step on my journey to forgiveness. I hopped on a flight I didn’t want to take. Struggled to book my ticket, to hop on the plane and sit through a 20+ hour grueling journey. Survived transit lounges, immigration and customs to confront 2 people who had hurt me so much.
And here I was now contemplating how I’d forgive the two people that compounded the pain of my separation and later divorce. The parents who opted for self-interest and family name before their son’s interest.
As I sat on the curb and waited for dawn, I re-read the chapters on forgiveness in the book, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There).
I needed all the advice and inspiration I could get before I would have to confront my parents in the next couple of days and find a way to forgive them.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smeedes
I re-read the forgiveness chapters for the fourth time. Galen recognized forgiveness was a challenge to most, but provided a convincing argument in several chapters of why to forgive someone.
I needed every reason in the book to allow forgiveness into my heart.
Wanting to forgive was why I had gotten on the plane and why I was now sitting on the curb in the middle of a mildly humid Singaporean night.
“Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” Suzanne Somers
Here are 6 reasons that moved me to forgiveness during that trip, per Galen’s book, and why you should forgive the people you’re holding grudges against in your life.
1) When victims of tragedy and crimes can forgive, why can’t you? Galen gives an example of the most horrific crime committed on a community of people. For example, the Amish schoolhouse shooting by Charles Robert in 2006 which killed 5 young Amish schoolchildren.
When the community was willing to rely on their faith to forgive an unfathomable crime, are you not able to let go of small or large trespasses against you?
All major religious faiths and traditions encourage forgiveness, one of the most important principles after, ‘love your neighbor’. Religious traditions encourage forgiveness for the most horrific, painful and destructive acts by others.
Why aren’t you able to forgive the person who didn’t send you a ‘thank you’ card?
2) No matter what your reason for holding grudges, you’re poisoning yourself internally.
Are you holding back on forgiveness because you’re upset, angry or wanting to teach the perpetrator a lesson? You’ve probably realized that holding a grudge and not forgiving someone may be “secretly delicious”, as Galen says, but it ultimately hurts you the most.
When you don’t forgive, you’re filled with anger, bitterness and revenge.
Not forgiving will cost you your well-being – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
You think you’re hurting someone else or making them feel your wrath. But the gorilla of anger and bitterness envelopes you daily and your every interaction. Your life and view of the world are blinded by anger, hate and bitterness.
Every relationship and interaction is clouded by your inability to forgive.
* Here’s the big secret about forgiveness: you’re freeing and releasing yourself in the process. Forgiving others benefits you and releases YOU from pain. Your life improves dramatically when you let the grudge go.
3) Even if you’re not ready to forgive, set the intention to forgive. I wasn’t ready to forgive but got on a flight and made the journey back to Asia. I had set the intention to forgive even if I was finding physically and psychologically hard to do so. How do you forgive people who’ve caused you so much pain?
Although I didn’t know how I’d forgive, I forged ahead anyways. If you set the intention to forgive, you’ll start opening your heart to the possibility of forgiveness.
Galen writes that we need, “a willingness that opens the crack in our hardened heart shell just enough so we can breathe in the healing power of compassion and breathe out the toxic bar of bitterness.”
Explore the possibilities of forgiveness. Visualize what it’d be like. See what needs to happen in you to let go and stop the hurting person or their actions from continuing to plague you every day.
4) Forgive radically. Did the wronged act benefit you in some way?
Radical forgiveness is not your traditional way to excuse another but more dramatically to look at the incident as a gift.
While you may have no intention to pardon your ex who broke your heart to a million pieces, your parents who destroyed your self-esteem or your friend who betrayed you, could each one of them have brought forth revelations in your life, paths for growth or self-understanding?
You have to go to a pretty radical place to realize and change your perceptions on the wrong-doer and the pain they caused.
And forgive them while focusing on the many benefits and positive circumstances that came out of their wrong-doing.
Did my parents help teach me how to be there for others in their time of need?
Did they make me want to consider restraint before meddling in other people’s problems or relationships?
Were they trying to show me their love and trying to protect me from the heart-break and pain that came with divorce?
5) Forgiveness transforms pain into compassion. Once you’re able to exonerate someone, you’ve just showered the person and situation with compassion. You’re willing to acknowledge the pain and let go of it.
Forgiving allows you to build your ability to be compassionate to others. It allows for understanding others, excusing their wrongs and redeeming them. If you can extend this kindness to those who pain you, you’ll be better able to live with more compassion towards all those around you.
Compassion brings you happiness and allows you to celebrate the divine quality in others.
6) Forgive to open up paths to be forgiven.
You may want to be forgiven some day too, no?
Although this might be the one of the more selfish reasons to forgiven, I thought I’d add to reasons to forgive by suggesting using the Golden Rule to your advantage.
You’ve wronged others and hurt them. Sometimes, you don’t even know how much you’ve irritated, infuriated or wronged someone else. You may have hurt someone who means a lot to you and who you want to continue to have a strong relationship with.
How would you feel if you could NEVER be forgiven by someone you cared about? Now, do you want to be that person? A person filled with so much indignation and self-righteousness they couldn’t allow their ego to pardon a wrong?
Don’t be that person. Build up your arsenal of forgiveness karma.
There’s someone you need to forgive today. There may be more but there’s probably one person you were thinking of as you were reading this article.
Are you ready to forgive them? Have you forgiven someone and glad you did?
Please add to the conversation in the comments below – your thoughts give me more perspective on these issues.
* Photo credit nme421