How to Forgive
Photo: Cam Sanders/All Saints Church Pasadena
Are you struggling to let go of the past? Is anger holding you back from living your life the way you've always imagined? Maybe it's time to try a little forgiveness. The Rev. Ed Bacon has some ideas on how to start.I have begun the year and the new decade with the power of forgiveness demanding my attention and energy. It is as if forgiveness as a life force is saying, "I urgently need your attention!" Through these reflections, I ask you to let forgiveness claim your attention and energy as it is trying to guarantee you have the best year and decade of your life.
In studying the great spiritual teachers over the years, it has been clear to me that forgiveness is essential to a healthy life. Jesus harps on forgiveness repeatedly. The great psychotherapist Dr. Carl Simonton claimed that the first characteristic in people who are especially vulnerable to disease is a strong tendency to hold resentment and marked inability to forgive.
While these lessons have come to me largely as academic, theoretical understandings rather than through my everyday experience, it now seems everywhere I turn God, or the spirit of the cosmos, or however you refer to the greater power is saying, "It is time now for you to be an agent of the power of forgiveness." In many ways, I see this happening as a movement in the world touching all of us. Everywhere I turn, I'm existentially learning what power the instrument of forgiveness is in your life
Last year, I interviewed author Connie Domino about her book The Law of Forgiveness on Oprah's Soul Series radio show. The ripple effects of that interview in addition to reading and sharing her book with listeners, friends and members of my beloved community, All Saints, have literally rocked my life's foundations.
After reading and following the advice of The Law of Forgiveness, a friend said he made a list of those who had offended him over the years and then forgave them. He wrote me, "I woke up the next morning feeling 100 pounds lighter!
Another friend was simply present for a meeting in which I was describing the process of forgiving. She silently began working the process of forgiveness with a specific person in mind—in the middle of a business meeting. The next day, she received a Facebook message from this person inviting her to a significant event. She wrote me, "I believe in forgiveness!"
Another friend who is gay worked the forgiveness experience on the entire religious right for the abuse he had felt in condemnation and exclusion for religious reasons. The very next day, he was approached by a religiously conservative friend asking to help him understand the impact of hate speech on the gay community.
How to forgive