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Exploring the 8 Pillars of Joy - Forgiveness

In The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama discuss how to find inner joy during a week-long meeting in Dharamshala, India. They break down eight pillars of joy; four of the mind, and four of the heart. Mind--perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Heart--forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, generosity. Over the next eight blog posts, I will break down these pillars for you into something tangible. I want you to read along and really consider how you are applying these principles in your life so that you can feel greater inner joy.

Science is beginning to prove that forgiveness is good for humans---when we forgive, we are less prone to depression and anxiety, stroke and heart disease, and our blood pressure lowers. This is something religious people have known for hundreds of years, which is why forgiveness is a pillar of many of our world's religions. It is good for you.

It is in the Christian Lord's prayer that Jesus taught Christians to pray, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

There is a portion of a Buddhist forgiveness chant that translates to, "I forgive you, may you also forgive me."

In Judaism, forgiveness comes from God only when a wrong-doer asks for forgiveness but also changes their ways.

Forgiveness is one of the six cardinal virtues in the Hindu Dharma.

In Islam, followers are to recognize their wrongdoings and seek forgiveness from Allah, as well as offer forgiveness to someone who sincerely asks for it.

In Sikhism, one is supposed to reconcile their wrong-doings and seek forgiveness from God.

Together, these religious values illustrate that forgiveness is something we are called to do for others who have wronged us; that in order to be forgiven we must be genuine in our asking; that we must make an effort to not hurt someone again; and that forgiveness comes from a higher power.

It is important to remember that forgiveness is a process of the heart, and ultimately is more for the benefit of the forgiver than the forgiven. In order to really reap the forgiveness reward of inner peace, we must do the work to forgive--if we skip over processing emotions or telling the story, we are bypassing the work and will not be truly healed.

In my forgiveness workbook, The Little Book of Forgiveness, I list the steps of the pathway to forgiveness. They are:

Tell your story.

Name the painful parts.

Understand your emotions.

Offer self-compassion.

Foster empathy & change the story.

Accept that what happened, happened.

Offer compassion to the one who wronged you by acknowledging your shared humanity.

Make the choice to forgive.

Build a new relationship together or let it go.

These steps are broken down in the workbook with practical exercises to help you make your way through the work of forgiveness. I encourage you to download it and take a look.

You may notice that once you have worked through the steps on the pathway, you have a choice. That is what forgiveness ultimately is--a choice. You get to choose to live unburdened or to stay angry and hurt. Choosing to forgive does not mean that you think what the other person did was okay, and it does not mean that you will choose to also have a relationship with them again--you get to decide that after the work of forgiveness is complete.

Christian theologian Lewis Smedes said it well, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that the prisoner was me."

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