by Walter E. Jacobson · Filed Under: Inspiration · Motivation · Personal Development · Positive Psychology · Spirituality · Success · forgiveness · self-help
I am a junior in high school. I have been practicing a Chopin etude for a year. I got a first place in the Northern Indiana School Band, Orchestra, and Vocal Association competition. I am now at the state level where I have been watching and listening to the best piano students in Indiana. It’s my turn, and I know that the worst thing I could do is to have a memory lapse. I have just finished the first page, and I stop cold. I can’t remember anything to even get started again. The only thing I can do is start completely over, knowing that the best I can do now is get a 3rd or 4th place on a scale of 1st to 5th. What am I going to do?
My goal now is simple: make music. I did. I came back, and not only got a 1st with the best points possible, the judge’s comment card came back with a single word on it. The word Bravo was double underlined with an exclamation point!
The memories of this experience and others like it have sustained me through the worst times in my life. That judge taught me that errors can be not only be forgiven, but forgotten.
So, what is forgiveness? According to Wikipedia, “Most world religions include teachings on the nature of forgiveness, and many of these teachings provide an underlying basis for the varying modern day theories and practices of forgiveness.” Therefore, although I may not explicitly state the source, I will be making reference to some of these religious teachings.
To err is human. Nobody is perfect. Realizing this can be very freeing. We all make mistakes. Whether we are talking about mistakes in a piano recital, uncontrolled emotional outbursts in public, gross errors in judgment, or outright sins, everybody makes mistakes.
Concert pianist Pamela Resch once told me she actually looks forward to making the first mistake in a concert so that she doesn’t try for a “perfect” performance and can just “make music”. While I don’t take this to mean that she goes out of her way to make a mistake, just as I don’t advocate committing a sin just so that you can repent, I do believe that recognizing that we have limitations is very liberating.
We are all human. We all make mistakes. It is our response to those mistakes that determines how we move forward in life’s journey of becoming all we are meant to be.
Like the Amy Grant song says, “All I ever have to be is what God made me.”
There is a children’s song that really strikes a chord with me. It goes,
“He’s still workin’ on me
To make me what I ought to be…
How loving and patient He must be
He’s still workin’ on me!”
God is patient. Be patient with yourselves and with each other.
Forgiving is a process. From the Catholic confessional to the Buddhist meditative method for forgiving in steps, every process I was able to find on the internet when researching this topic generally included 3 parts: Forgive Yourself, Forgive Others, and Seek Forgiveness from God and Others you have hurt.
(1) Forgive Yourself. An article entitled, “Forgiveness Is Good for Your Health” says, “Hindu Dharma [meaning “teachings of virtue”] today implores us to let go of grudges, resentment and especially self-contempt. … as long as we hold self-contempt, we are unable to forgive others, because everyone else is a reflection of our self. We react to what we see in them that we are not ready to face up to in ourselves.” Forgive Yourself.
(2) Forgive Others. Have you ever been in a situation where you know someone — a parent, a girlfriend or boyfriend, or an employer — has been displeased with your actions in the past, and no matter what you do, you feel like you will never be able to make up for your mistakes? That they will always be held against you? How does that make you feel and behave?
In a previous speech on values and leadership, I mentioned an article in the Costco Connection in which Forgiveness was identified as one of the 4 most important values in a business organization. By creating an atmosphere in which the leadership forgives itself and others for errors, employees feel free to be creative and take risks, thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative solutions.
I’m sure you have all read the terrible reports of the Amish girls murdered in their school. One of the headlines for this heartbreaking news was, “Spirit of forgiveness rules the day in face of school shooting tragedy.” They forgave the gunman, attended his funeral, and helped set up a fund for the gunman’s family at a local bank. The widow of the gunman expressed gratitude for this much-needed forgiveness as she and her family struggled to come to grips with what happened. Hopefully, they will be able to move forward in their lives, having experienced this spirit of forgiveness. Please, let others know you forgive them.
(3) Seek Forgiveness. Jesus taught us to seek God’s forgiveness by praying, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”
When I hurt others, I hurt myself. I know I can be a bull in a china shop, sometimes hurting others without even realizing it because of my lack of tact and diplomacy. Believe me, I’m working on it! When I know I have hurt someone, it is so important for me to seek and receive forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness directly from someone I have hurt provides that person the opportunity to forgive me, and for me to be forgiven by them, both of which are key in restoring wholeness to each of us and rebuilding the relationship between us. I encourage you to seek forgiveness from those you have hurt.
In summary, to err is human. Be patient with yourself and others. Forgive yourself, forgive others, and seek forgiveness. Forgiving yourself and others for errors and knowing that it is even possible to erase errors allows you to have the resilience of a SuperBall. Just Do It. Forgive and Forget.
I will conclude with a couple of thoughts from the Hindu Mahabharata: “Forgiveness is the one supreme peace.” “…by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together.” Those are some pretty strong statements from a book 15 times the length of the Bible. Let me repeat them: “Forgiveness is the one supreme peace.” “…by forgiveness is it that the universe is held together.”
I believe we humans, yes, even those we hurt or who hurt us, are here on this earth to help guide each other in life’s journey. What if everyone were to let love guide their lives?
I want to leave you with an Arabian proverb:
“A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart,
chaff and grain together,
knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it,
keep what is worth keeping
and with a breath of kindness
blow the rest away.”
(Liz Bush is an advocate of Toastmasters as a nurturing environment to share our stories, our experiences, and ourselves.)