Do yourself a favor: Practice forgiveness.
That was the prescription Sunday from Dr. Ned Hallowell, a psychiatrist and best-selling author who addressed a packed house at Charlottes Christ Episcopal Church. Those who dont forgive, he said, only hurt themselves by carrying around poisonous anger, resentment and hate.
And that goes for Americas polarized political system, too, said the author of Dare to Forgive: The Power of Letting Go and Moving on, who has appeared on 60 Minutes, 20/20, and other national TV shows.
If he could get President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Americas other political leaders together in a room? Id say, Shut up and listen.
Politicians and voters need to take a deep breath, he said in an interview: If we could stop getting attached to anger and instead tried to see the other point of view long enough to understand it, we could make progress.
On Sunday, Hallowell a former Harvard Medical School professor who attends another Christ Episcopal Church, in Cambridge, Mass., offered his listeners tips to understanding and acting on forgiveness.
Here are 10:
1. What makes it hard (to forgive) is that we are hard-wired (not to) I think we have a rage reflex. And when youre hurt, its almost like a gag reflex you want to hurt back. It takes tremendous effort, skill, to redirect that very deep, primitive, powerful reflex.
2. Its also so difficult because you have to give up your hope that the past will be different that (the deed) never happened.
3. Some people elevate (their lack of forgiving) into a virtue. Most people, when they say, I demand justice, what theyre really saying is I demand revenge. And they dress it up to look pretty and noble and virtuous and call it justice.
4. Forgiveness is fundamentally a gift you give to yourself. Because youre clearing your system of a poison anger and resentment. Its like the old saying: Seeking revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Youre the one whos suffering.
5. Forgiveness is not a moment. Its a process that has to be renewed over and over again.
6. When you forgive Youll be a healthier person. Youll be richer, youll be more productive all the self-serving reasons you can think of. Youll be a better husband, father, wife, mother, what-have-you if youre not walking around with this poison inside.
7. Theres a big difference between forgiving and condoning the deed. Forgiving doesnt mean you dont expect the person to go to jail or dont expect them to face the consequences.
8. When you are reminded of (the deed), you get that anger, you get that sadness its like something that triggers trauma when you hear echoes of it. It comes back. Its a flashback. And thats totally normal. It doesnt mean you havent forgiven, at all. You just have to go through the process again of washing it out.
9. All this happens so much better in dialogue. Its very hard to do this stuff alone. Thats why church is so good. Its why conversation is so good, with a spouse, with a friend. We really take strength so much more easily in connection rather than in isolation.
10. There is a time when, as much as you renounce anger and resentment, you should get out of it whether its a relationship or a job. You should not continue to offer yourself up for mistreatment.
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