My weekly readers realize that I believe one’s daily optimism is directly correlated to the level of one’s success in life. Anything that negatively impacts your optimistic attitude must be removed or corrected if you want to achieve your true potential.
I promised to expand on today’s topic back in early October. The topic is a tricky one, hard to put in succinct words — but I believe it is an important consideration as you continue to work on your personal Black Belt in Optimism.
Take a few moments and think of a person that you feel seriously wronged you. It might be someone from recent memory or from far in the past, maybe even someone who is now passed. Please don’t continue reading until you have that name and face in your mind’s eye.
One area inside one’s own mind that is really tough to conquer is genuine forgiveness, especially in our current society. Media has an outsized impact on our society’s “values” and Hollywood continues to pump out films that send the wrong messages. One area where they have it so very wrong is the “revenge is cool / forgiveness is not” theme. Hollywood has released at least one major movie every year for several decades using this money-making mold — Payback with Mel Gibson and Taken with Liam Neeson come to mind, but there are many.
The inability to truly forgive starts with the fact that most people have never been taught by their parents or by schools to forgive while they are growing up — most parents unfortunately don’t forgive other people and therefore set a poor example for their kids. It has become a normal state of affairs, even though lack of forgiveness is a cancer that eats away at a person’s soul. Hollywood’s great misdeed is that they, more than anyone else, are teaching the world to rejoice in revenge.
Yet forgiveness is a cornerstone to achieving a life marked by peace, tranquility of soul, optimism, and happiness. As with nearly everything in our lives, forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling, a skill that can be learned, practiced, and mastered.
You must train yourself and choose to forgive for a number of reasons. Here are three good ones:
- It is the right thing to do. There is true right and wrong, and being on the side of right, matters. When you know you are doing the right thing, you are at peace.
- Only through forgiveness can we proactively help ourselves. Forgiveness is the bedrock for peace and a positive attitude in one’s life. Without it, it becomes impossible to live a wildly successful life because lack of forgiveness weakens your mental state. If you choose not to forgive someone that has harmed you, the sad result is that you enable that person’s past actions to continue to hurt you in the present. The past is the past, yet a person that chooses to hold on to a grudge thinks about the past and wastes the present. Your weakness, your inability to forgive hurts your life, not the person that offended you. That person has moved on.
- There is mounting evidence that harboring ill feelings actually impacts your physical health. It shows up as damaging stress, which leads to a host of health problems such as hypertension, reduced immunity, and high blood pressure. Nothing will crush your chances of success more completely than failing health.
So how do you learn to forgive? There are seven steps:
- You must figure out exactly what happened and why, without personal bias, and learn to articulate the situation accurately. It helps to tell a couple of trusted optimistic friends or far-off-to-the-side advisors about the situation.
- Make a commitment to yourself that you will do what it takes to feel better and put the past behind you. This commitment invariably leads to forgiveness as the answer.
- Realize that that your lingering angst is all about hurt feelings, not current events. You are the one choosing to make your feelings an issue in the present. It has transformed from being about the actual event to emotions alone. When you see it for what it is, and the damage it does, it becomes easier to understand that all this pent up worry is not worth it.
- Realize that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. You can forgive someone without going back for more. Those are two separate choices.
- Say a prayer to God and ask for His help. God can help with all things, especially with cleansing away feelings that are inspired by the dark side.
- Remember that all choices are your own. When you choose to forgive, you choose to live an extraordinary life. It is never too late to decide to forgive for even if it took you too much time, the day you do is the day you succeed, the day you set yourself free.
- Learn a lesson from the situation. As with every test in life, learning from setbacks and hurdles is the only way not to waste them. Learn so that you can handle yourself smarter the next time something similar happens.
So far, we have talked about forgiving others but in fact, we are all human, which means we all make mistakes from time to time. Some people don’t forgive themselves. It is incredibly important that we forgive ourselves, learn from mistakes, put yesterday in the past, get back up and try again with all the hope and passion that we can muster.
The trick is to forgive yourself, to adapt and overcome, to learn, and to maintain peace and tranquility in your soul and a blazing fire of hope in your heart through it all. Becoming an optimism master requires forgiveness of all others and of self.
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold happiness and peace.”
Today is the day to forgive that person you thought of at the beginning of this article, once and for all. Take a deep breath and decide to truly and permanently forgive him or her, right now. The next time this topic comes up, that person will no longer come to mind.
In summary, only the strong can forgive—the weak cannot. Lack of forgiveness imprisons one’s own life. Be strong. Be confident. Forgive quickly. Forgive others and forgive yourself, and you will take a major step toward stronger optimism and a life of true success. Lastly, teach your kids to forgive. It will help their lives immeasurably.
I.M. Optimism Man