Practice Forgiveness, Heal Yourself, Save the Planet

When we forgive others, we let go of our anger, resentment and bitterness, and we free ourselves of a great emotional burden that keeps us stuck in the past, in a perpetual state of perceived victimhood long after having been victimized.
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The world is having a nervous breakdown. Despite incredible technological advances and mind-boggling innovations that make it easier for us to communicate and cooperate with each other, there is more miscommunication and divisiveness than ever before.

Why? Because we have not advanced emotionally or spiritually at the same pace as our technology. And because a great many people who are in positions of power are, sadly, deceitful and corrupt.

Athletes take illegal performance-enhancing drugs to give themselves an unfair advantage over their opponents. Businessmen ignore regulations designed to protect human life and the environment in order to advance their profits. Politicians say anything, regardless of whether it's true or not, in order to win elections. The take-home message is that it pays to cheat.

As cheaters succeed in exponential proportions, the fabric of our society unravels and its foundation erodes and decays.

What can we do about it? To change the collective mentality of our society from deceit and irresponsibility to truth and accountability, we must first heal ourselves. We must first get our own house in order.

Once we have done this, we can then role model our behaviors for our family, friends, peers and strangers alike, helping them to make the wiser and more humanistic choices that we have made.

It all starts with each one of us doing a rigorously-honest self-inventory. We look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we're proud of that person we see looking back at us. Are we honorable? Are we ethical? Are we honest? Are we generous? Are we charitable? Are we compassionate? Are we tolerant and accepting of others? Are we forgiving?

We acknowledge the imbalance in our lives. We recognize the choices we have made that have failed us and derailed us from a path of righteousness.

We look at our relationships, whether they be in our business, in our everyday dealings with others, or in our home with our loved ones. We ask ourselves, who have I hurt? What did I do that was wrong? What did I do that was judgmental and unloving? What did I do that was selfish and petty? Who have I abandoned or betrayed? Who am I still angry at? Who have I refused to forgive?

We make the decision to take responsibility for our words and our actions, to tell the truth no matter how inconvenient or unprofitable it might be, to admit when we are wrong and to apologize.

Admitting when we are wrong and apologizing does not come easy to many of us. We think it makes us look weak. We think it will cast us in a negative light and that people will devalue us. We perceive it to be shaming and humiliating.

The irony is that admitting when we are wrong and revealing our vulnerabilities is actually a reflection of great inner strength. It is one of the most courageous and self-empowering things we can do. When we admit our wrongs, apologize, and make amends, we are releasing our emotional baggage, cleansing ourselves of guilt, shame and self-loathing. It is incredibly liberating.

Consequently, when we have difficulty admitting our mistakes and apologizing, we remind ourselves that it's the right thing to do and that regardless of whether our self-disclosure increases the esteem others have for us or not, we are increasing the esteem we have for ourselves, and that this is what matters in the long run. Not what others think of us, but what we think of us.

It's not enough that we admit our wrongs and ask for forgiveness from others. We must also forgive others. When people come to us asking for forgiveness, we should do the best we can to be gracious and compassionate, to let go of our anger, resentments and judgments, and to forgive them, regardless of what they did to us and how badly they hurt us.

Why? Because, again, it's the right thing to do. It's the loving thing to do, it's the Godly thing to do. And, last but not least, because it's in our best interests to do so. It heals US when we forgive others. When we forgive others, we let go of our anger, resentment and bitterness, and we free ourselves of a great emotional burden that keeps us stuck in the past, in a perpetual state of perceived victimhood long after having been victimized. In other words, we forgive others for our own peace of mind.

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For more by Walter E. Jacobson, M.D., click here.

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