B4Peace ~ Love Thy Enemy

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A belated post for November’s Bloggers for Peace Challenge, courtesy of Kozo ūüôā¬† Go check out the other posts, ’tis the season of Peace and Goodwill.

Peace at Home: Monthly Peace Challenge

 

forpeace6June’s bloggers for peace challenge asks us to consider peace in relationships or peace in the home. I’m running late with this post simply because there’s so much that could be said and distilling it into a few paragraphs needed some thought.

Friedrich Schiller said “Peace is rarely denied to the peaceful.”¬† This, I think, is true.

As humans we have a vast array of behaviours and attitudes that enable us to cause chaos in the home, in the community or even on a global scale.   These behaviours and attitudes result in pain and distress for all involved, they drive fear, hatred and cause unnecessary destruction. Fortunately we also have the ability to be tolerant, compassionate and patient and these human traits help bring balance to our world.

Being at peace with someone else Рpartner, sister, neighbour, colleague Рcan only happen when we have inner peace. So our quest for peace in relationships must begin by making peace with ourselves. Here are some thoughts on achieving inner peace so that we have space to fully appreciate the lives of others and in doing so build enduring, engaging relationships:

1. Acceptance. To achieve inner peace we have to accept ourselves for who we are; tall, short, portly, slim, serious, fun-loving, diligent or self-critical we are the sum of all our experiences to date and we’ll continue to be shaped by the things that are yet to happen. Acceptance puts us at ease with our physical presence, our personal characteristics and our abilities. Acceptance also gives us room to develop at our own pace instead of chastising ourselves for the absence of things we have yet to master.

2. Kindness. If you cannot be kind to yourself, how can you possibly be kind to someone else? Practice being kind to yourself, to offer praise instead of criticism. We all have an inner voice or self-talk, what’s yours saying? Encourage it to be kind, to accept who you are and be glad of this life. We’re all worthwhile, we all have value and we’re all loveable so stop doubting, be kind and keep that inner voice positive.

3. Forgiveness. Being human means making mistakes. We are learning creatures and we learn by getting things wrong. In order to let others learn we have to forgive their mistakes… The same is true for ourselves. Practice the art of forgiveness by forgiving yourself for your mistakes, learning from them and moving on. Dwelling on the past doesn’t change it but learning from it makes for a better future.

4. Thinking. Take time to think, reflect and consider. Modern society rarely offers the opportunity to stop doing. We are in perpetual motion and often have no idea why. Stop doing and take some time out to think, reflect and consider. If the things you’re doing aren’t bringing peace, happiness and fulfilment stop doing them. Change is always possible and life is too short to live every day in misery.

When we have inner peace we’re comfortable in our own skins, we accept who we are and acknowledge our achievements. We give ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn by doing so. We’re aware consciously and sub-consciously that what we’re doing makes us feel happy and fulfilled. The ¬†principles for inner peace are also the basis of ¬†strong effective relationships – acceptance, kindness, forgiveness and thoughtfulness.

Why try to change your partner, ¬†accept who they are and they’re more likely to accept you.

Why be unkind when we can give encouragement and offer praise just as easily.

Why hold grudges when they anchor us in the past? Forgive and move forward.

Why keep absent-mindedly doing when thinking and thoughtfulness are the true path to contentment?

Peace in relationships is dependent on inner peace, work for that and bringing peace to any relationship will be seamless and meaningful.

 

PS. Acceptance, kindness, forgives and thoughtfulness = love ūüôā

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

B4Peace: Forgiveness is a four letter word

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness (Photo credit: hang_in_there)

This months peace challenge is about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a four letter word. I want to say that word is¬†love. I want to encourage everyone who reads this to believe that to forgive is to love and in loving each other we somehow make all the Bad Things that have ever happened to us magically disappear. I am an optimist at heart but I struggle with this one because there are some situations that are very difficult to forgive. I’m not talking about the trivial things, the ones that aren’t worth getting upset about in the first place. ¬†I am talking about events that lead us to feel deep despair, burning anger or heartbrokenly hurt. ¬†Turning those emotions into love is almost as challenging as splitting the atom – it’s feasible but it takes the right environment, a lot of energy and specialist skills to make it happen. For most of us leaving the atom whole is much, much easier.

At this point you might be thinking ‘ah, she’s saying forgiveness has parameters – if its small don’t fret about it, if it’s huge you’re saddled with it and anything in between might be worth a shot.’

So many of the things that offend, upset or annoy us are intrinsically linked to our personal values. A situation that might cause me to be deeply unhappy may not even register for someone else. Parameters don’t really work because they’re as individual as we are and our boundaries for good/bad/acceptable/unacceptable behaviour start and end in different places. Promises and lies are good examples. I don’t care if someone I barely know breaks a minor promise or tells me a few half-truths because it’s unlikely to have a life-changing impact on me. ¬†It’s a different story if a key person in my life breaks a major promise or tells a half-truth that will have a significant adverse impact on me or my loved ones. The chances are I will be deeply unhappy about it. It’s not just about the adverse impact ¬†– I’m upset for three reasons – the person responsible caused a Bad Thing to happen and it’s impact is significant, I’ve invested in a relationship with that person and didn’t expect them to abuse my trust, trust is one of my core values and once broken its difficult to reestablish. ¬†I’m not much fun to be around when this kind of thing happens!

In spite of all this I still see forgiveness as a four letter word. Not the one that’s an anagram of a popular fashion label though sometimes it might feel easier to say FCUK, FCUK off or for FCUKs sake. Tempting as they may be, forgiveness is none of these things. Saying them out loud a few times can help relieve tension but has nothing at all to do with absolution and I’ve realised over the years that in order to move forward with our lives we have to leave the past behind. Playing it over and over on a loop is a path to despair, resentment or partial insanity. A life filled with bitterness and loathing is no life at all and retaining a state of unforgiveness over an extended period of time is a good way to end up permanently bitter and enraged.

It is difficult to forgive people who cause Bad Things to happen in our lives. It’s hard to let go of all that anger, hurt and disbelief. ¬†It’s not impossible though and there are alternative ways of viewing situations that call for our forgiveness. For me the¬†four letter word that sums up forgiveness is GIFT. ¬†I admit it’s not an entirely altruistic gift because it hasn’t slipped my attention that there’s something in it for me when I bestow forgiveness and draw a line through whatever Bad Thing happened. Separating the Bad Thing from the person who invoked it is where the gift begins.

If you stay mad, hurt, upset or disillusioned by the way someone else has treated you, the only person who really suffers is you. You suffer because of what happened and you add to that suffering with your own special mix of negative emotions. Why punish yourself in that way? Why waste your energy when you could be using it to get out of the situation you’ve just been landed in?

Forgiving someone is a gift, not just for them but for you too. ¬†Even if you struggle giving this gift, it’s important to realise that by doing so you give yourself the gift of liberty: freedom to take positive actions to resolve the situation, freedom to move forward and freedom from grudges, bitterness and resentment.

Last year someone in a very influential told me something I believed to be true and acted on in good faith. A few months later that person changed their stance. Their shift in position had serious adverse consequences for me while I was undergoing cancer treatment. As you might imagine, I was upset, staggered and astonished. By Christmas 2012 I was approaching my wits end but it dawned on me I was the only person in turmoil – the other person wasn’t really bothered. The only way for me to move forward was to forgive that person’s behaviour and focus on sorting out the bad situation I’d been left in. Was it easy? No. Did it take me more than one attempt? Yes (a bit like splitting the atom – it didn’t happen straight away). Did I feel better when I was free to solve the problem instead of focusing on why it happened? Yes. Has my relationship with that person changed? Yes. Was that detrimental to either of us? No. Have I been able to let go of the negative emotions associated with the Bad Thing? Yes. Do I feel better without them? Definitely!

Forgiving is a four letter word – gift. It’s a gift to forgive someone else’s detrimental behaviour. It’s a bigger gift to free yourself from resentment, upset or loathing to move on with your life. It would be nicer, in my view, if we could live our lives and behave in such a way that we never have ¬†cause to say sorry or forgive one another. Until that day comes keep giving the gift.