According to Christine Carter, Kids in the House Sociologist and Happiness Expert, forgiveness is one of the most important factors in long-term, healthy relationships and individual happiness. "We don't often think of forgiveness as being a really big part of happiness, but it is," Carter says. "We need to teach kids, that in order to be happy, one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves, is the ability to forgive other people."
For many people forgiveness is easy to speak of, but more difficult to practice. This is why having a process is so helpful.
In the Hawaiian language the process of forgiveness is called Ho'oponopono. Though it is quite a mouthful to pronounce, it comes down to these four essential phrases: I'm sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. It is amazing how powerful these simple phrases become when used during a conflict or as part of an apology.
I'm Sorry - I feel badly for what I did. I regret my actions and would not repeat them. I have learned from my mistakes. I take responsibility and am remorseful.
Please Forgive Me - I am asking for your forgiveness and understand that it is within your power to give it. I respect your autonomy and do not take your forgiveness for granted - it is greatly valued and not automatically expected.
Thank you - Your forgiveness is a gift. Your relationship is a gift. You are a valued part of my life. There are so many things to be grateful for and this sentiment can expressed many ways.
I love you - I acknowledge and appreciate you. There is nothing as powerful as love. Say it as often as you can and mean it.
These words do not have to be repeated verbatim. In order for them to be effective it is only important that the meaning behind them be communicated.
As parents, we can help our children have happy, sound relationships with others by instilling in them the values of healthy conflict resolution. It all begins at home. "Our kids will model our emotional responses to things," Carter says. "If we respond with forgiveness, or kindness, or optimism; our kids are likely to respond with those emotions as well. Those emotions will lead them to be happier in life."
There is a beautiful parable in Hawaiian culture about forgiveness. Everyone is born with a bowl of pure light. This light represents the essence and power of our true selves. When the bowl is full, we are able to soar to our highest potential - the power of pure light is so strong we can literally fly. Every time we allow negativity to enter into our lives - either through thoughts, words or actions- stones are added to our bowl and they displace some of the light. When the bowl fills up with stones, we become weighed down and no longer able to fulfill our potential until, eventually, we turn into stone ourselves - metaphorically speaking.
It is incredibly sad to witness the burden that many people carry. Emotions can physically weigh people down until they are hunched over, with concave chests to protect their hearts. Luckily, there is hope. Hawaiians believe that all one has to do to get rid of the stones in their bowl is to turn it over and empty it - in other words to forgive. Easy right?
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