reader request : is forgiving a skill or a choice?

Forgiveness

 

Note: The following article is based on a request from a reader. If there's a topic you'd like me to write about, feel free to email me here, leave a message in the comments, or reach out to my via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram.

 

A few weeks back, I received a request from a reader asking me to write about whether I think forgiveness is a skill or a choice. It was perfect timing for me to receive this request because I happened to be struggling to wrap my head around the topic of forgiveness myself. Someone had hurt me quite unexpectedly, and the pain was making it difficult for me to let go of negative feelings and actually forgive. So, when I received this request in my in-box, I couldn't believe the timing. It was just the topic I needed to be thinking about, and the more I pondered the question, the more I realized: forgiveness is both a choice and a skill. 

In order to forgive, you have to actively choose it. (Which can be hard, I know!) And to become good a forgiveness you have to practice it, the way you would any other skill. If you're lucky, you won't have a lot of opportunities to practice, but most of us do encounter quite a few situations in which we can practice forgiving others. Whether it's forgiving someone who has cut you off in traffic or forgiving someone who has caused your heart to break, opportunities for choosing forgiveness are likely to crop up often. 

For some, forgiveness comes easily. They're all too happy to let go of the ways others have hurt them -- and this is a great skill to possess. For others (ahem, most of us), forgiveness is tricky. It's hard, sometimes, not to let being hurt or offended impact the way you think about and interact with others. It's hard not to let these pains (both big and small) influence your own mindset. But, as I've written about before, forgiveness is freedom. The more easily you forgive others, the more positive your life will be. (Keep in mind that forgiving others isn't the same as condoning their behavior. You can forgive while still believing the other person is wrong. You can forgive someone you never want to speak to again.) 

Though forgiveness is one of the surest paths to emotional freedom, it's often a difficult trek to make, which is why it requires both the act of choosing to forgive and the art of mastering forgiveness as a skill. Both of these can be challenging, the the skill part can be extra tricky. Saying you're going to choose to forgive is one thing -- actually putting it into practice is something else entirely. 

I believe there are four considerations when it comes to practicing forgiveness, and I'll outline them in a bit more detail below. Understanding and considering these four things can make practicing forgiveness a lot easier.  

 

  1. CONSIDER WHAT UPSET YOU. 

    First and foremost, it's important to consider what actually upset you. Focus on why exactly you're hurt. Try your best not to bring in anything else into this consideration. For example, if you're angry about something your partner did, focus only on that specific incident (not on all the times s/he has upset you). Don't bring in past grudges or your own personal baggage (e.g., the way that your last partner did the same anger-inducing thing). Narrowing in on exactly what has hurt you will allow you to assess why exactly you're hurting, if there's anything the other person can do to right the wrong, and will give you information you might need for avoiding similar situations in the future. 


  2. CONSIDER THE OTHER PERSON. 

    After considering the specifics of the situation, it's time to turn your focus to the person (or people) who has hurt you. Try, as best you can, to put yourself in his/her shoes. Is it possible that the pain caused was unintentional? Is it possible that the other person might believe he/she is doing the right thing or making the situation better in some way? Is there a chance that someone else might be trying to help you? Or that s/he might be dealing with his/her own pain? Sometimes the answers these questions will be no (and that's okay), but quite often we'll find that someone else isn't intentionally trying to hurt us, which can make it easier to forgive them. 


  3. CONSIDER YOUR OWN POSITION. 

    Once you've closely looked at the situation and the person who has hurt you, it's time to turn your gaze inward and consider where you're coming from. Why are you so hurt by this situation? Is it really about this or is something else impacting how you feel? (For example, let's say you're upset with your spouse for not following through but you're doubly irritated at him/her because you just had a really bad day at work.) This is not to say that someone else's actions are your fault, but it's merely an encouragement to look at where you're coming from. What's happened in the past that's impacting how you feel now? What's going on in the present that might be influencing the situation? These facts are not meant to condone another's behavior, but to help you see the bigger picture and how interconnected everything is. 


  4. CONSIDER THE FUTURE. 

    After taking the situation, others, and yourself into consideration, now it's time to consider what is going to make this situation better for you (and for others). Will holding on to anger and unhappiness make your world a better place? Will clinging to the past improve your present and future? The answer to these questions is definitely no. No matter what the situation, holding on to anger, disgust, or any other unpleasant feelings will not make your world a better place. It will only hurt your heart more and make it more difficult for you to live a positive, present life. Even if someone has treated you terribly, forgiving them will only help you. Choosing not to forgive will only continue to cause you pain in the future (and who wants that?!). 

 

These four considerations can really aid in the art of forgiveness. However, like developing any skill, mastering forgiveness takes time and effort. Don't give up on it, even when it's hard. Believe me, I know from experience that forgiving is always better than holding on to a grudge. It may seem nearly impossible to forgive, especially if someone has hurt you (or someone you love) deeply, but the more you practice forgiveness, the more freedom you'll experience. And remember: the act of forgiving is something that frees you, not the person who hurt you. You have everything to gain by forgiving and nothing to lose.  

 

Loving-Your-Self

Forgiving others (and yourself!) is an amazing act of self-love. Want to empower yourself with some more serious self-love and acceptance? Start loving yourself (or increase the love you already have for yourself!) with the inspiration and motivation found in Loving Your Self: An Empowering Workbook for Increasing Self-LoveFilled with uplifting encouragement, thought-provoking questions, and engaging exercises, Loving Your Self is an essential tool for mastering the art of self-love. Learn more about the workbook here and purchase your own copy here.


positively present picks : march 4, 2016

Chin-up-dani-dipirro

 

Quote-of-the-week

“There are some who can live without wild things, 
and some who cannot."

Aldo Leopold

 

Links-I-Love   

5 Steps for Spring Cleaning Your Emotional Closet : organize + optimize!

Orange Poem Art Print : this makes my heart happy 

Alice in Wonderland Pinobsessed with this (of course!)

3 Steps to Kicking Bad Habits : powerful advice here

How Unused Stuff Keeps Us Stuck : makes me wanna spring clean!

Unplug to Connect : why we all need to put our phones down

10 Reasons to Practice Self-Love : plus a free coloring page 

Without Gratitude, You'll Never Have Enough : so, so true

How to Be Alone : love this positive little video!

5 Things You Can Do to Sleep Better : you deserve some zzz's

Fighting for Your Joy : Danielle LaPorte is always so wise!

The Art of Letting Go : such an important skill to master

Hope Is Not a Planlove this article so much -- so inspiring!

How to Focus on the Present Moment : advice from experts :) 

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Already Gone" — Wild Rivers
"Something in the Way You Move" — Ellie Goulding
"Stone Cold" — Demi Lovato
"Vancouver Waves" — August and After
"Say More" — Kiiara
"Somebody Else"— The 1975
"Fast Car" (Cover) — Tobtok
"Touch" — Shura
"I Love You I Hate You" — Gnash
"Sit Still Look Pretty" — Daya

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Why Not Me?
Mindy Kaling

Tiny Little Thing
Beatriz Williams 

Brazen: The Courage to
Find the You That's Been Hiding

Leeana Tankersley

  

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present
Dani DiPirro


how to find the good in tough times

Find-the-Good-in-Bad

 

Today's post is part of Find the Good February, a month dedicated to finding the good in your life (and in yourself!). Each week features a unique theme, and this week's theme is TOUGH TIMES. 

 

Happy Leap Day! :) And happy last Monday of Find the Good February! I've so enjoyed focusing on striving to find the good all month long. It's been a tricky month for me (as February often is for some reason...), and having the goal of finding the good has really helped me stay focused on the positive aspects of life. 

I've saved the best (and hardest!) Find the Good February topic for last: finding the good in really bad situations. Obviously "tough times" or "bad situations" are very general statements and these tips and tricks might not all apply to whatever difficulty you're facing, but there are actually a lot of ways to find the good in bad situations, regardless of the situation. Here are some of the best ways I've found to conquer tough times...

 

STAY PRESENT

This might sound like the opposite of what you want to do when things are bad, but so much of our personal struggles come not from the actual negative experience itself but from worrying about it before it happens or reliving it over and over again once it's already happened. To avoid additional pain, focus on what's happening right in this moment. Pay close attention to your five senses in particular, taking note of what you can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. This will keep your mind from wandering into worry territory. 

 

MAKE A GOOD THINGS LIST

One of the best ways to stay optimistic when times are tough is to focus on what you have instead of what you lack. If, for example, you're going through a really difficult break-up, instead of focusing on the things you're going to miss about your ex, make a list of things you have in your life right now: good friends, a steady income, unique talents, a cute pet, etc. Gratitude is one of the best tools for overcoming any difficulty and it's particularly useful when things aren't going well.

 

CONSIDER THE BENEFITS

When you're in the midst of hard times, it's certainly a challenge to see the benefits of your situation, but there's almost always something good that could come from the bad. For example, if you just lost your job, maybe this means you're going to find a career path that's even more fulfilling for you. Or, to use the previous example, maybe the loss of a partner means an opening in your life for a new partner, new friendships, or a greater understanding of yourself. Almost every difficult situation has a silver lining, but most of them you won't be able to see unless you really look closely and focus your attention on finding it. 

 

NOTE YOUR MINDSET

Why is it when one bad thing happens, it starts to feel as if everything is going wrong? It's because, as the quote above says, we see things not as they are but as we are. Everything we experience is filtered through our own internal dialogue and perspective. When things are great, we tend to see the whole world through rose-tinted glasses. When times are tough, a darkness tends to tint everything. The wonderful news is: you have the power to control how you see the world. Take note of how you're viewing things and make the choice (even when it's hard!) to seek out the good rather than the bad. 

 

It's one thing to stay positive and present when things are going well, but it's really challenging when times get tough. If you're going through a tough time, I hope these tips help you and I hope you continue to remind yourself that things will get better. No matter how bad it seems now, life has a way of changing (both our circumstances and our minds) in ways we might never expect. If you're struggling, hang in there. If you're currently in a good place in your life (yay!), keep these tips in mind for tough times or bad days. And, whatever you situation, always remember that, though there are a great many things you can't control in life, the one thing you have power over is how you think about a situation and how you react to it. 

 
PPGTL-Get-the-Book
Want to explore how to have a more positive, present life? Pick up your very own copy of my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)


positively present picks : february 26, 2016

Stepaway
Amazing artwork via Caroline at Made Vibrant

 

Quote-of-the-week

“You will never do anything in this world without courage.
It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.”

Aristotle

 

Links-I-Love   

6 Ways to Beat the Winter Blues : spring can't come fast enough!

May You Feel Awesome Like This : another great Marc Johns piece

Unusual Habits of Mentally Strong People : excellent ideas here

My Personal Food Pyramid : this infographic made me laugh

Adorable Advice from French Bulldogs : this is so cute + wise

Want to Be Happy in 2016? Stop Doing These 13 Things

How to Move on From the Past : what it really means to let go

Positive Creatures : little bits of inspiration for your day! 

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.

"Gotta Have You" — Mackenzie Johnson
"Foreign Fields" — Doji
"Gold" — Kiiara
"Youth" — Parks, Squares, and Alleys
"Cruel Game" — Vokes
"Wanting You"— Plaza
"Don't Wait for Us" — Blow
"Dazzle" — Oh Wonder
"Cherry Wine" — Hozier
"Make You Miss Me" — Sam Hunt

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

Amsterdam: A Novel
Ian McEwan

Wellth: How I Learned to Build a Life, Not a Résumé
Jason Wachob

Reclaim Yourself:
Get Back Your Identity and Self-Confidence
When You've Lost Yourself in a Relationship
Bastiaan Blikman 

 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life
Dani DiPirro

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present
Dani DiPirro


how to find the good in others

Find-the-Good-in-Others

 

Today's post is part of Find the Good February, a month dedicated to finding the good in your life (and in yourself!). Each week features a unique theme, and this week's theme is RELATIONSHIPS. 

 

Finding the good in others is such an important part of living a positively present life, but it's often one of life's greatest challenges. Even when it comes to those we love and choose to have in our lives, finding the good in them can sometimes be difficult. (And it goes without saying that it's extremely challenging to find the good in those you don't like very much!) This is something we all struggle with from time to time so I thought it would be a perfect topic to write about for Find the Good February. Here are some of the best ways to find the good in others (both in those you love and those you could do without...): 

 

DON'T COMPARE

One of the quickest ways to find fault in others is to compare them to someone else (or to yourself). Everyone is unique and if you're looking for someone to be just like you or someone else, you're going to have a difficult time finding the good in that individual and appreciating who s/he is. This is especially important when it comes to significant others. If you're constantly comparing your current love to someone you've loved before, how are you ever going to truly find the good in your current relationship? (Hint: you won't.) The less you compare, the easier it is to find the good. 

 

FOCUS ON THE PRESENT

Dwelling on what someone has done in the past can make it difficult to focus on who they are now. This doesn't mean you should forget what someone has done, but if someone has made positive progress or atoned for any sins committed against you, it does no good for the relationship (or you!) to continue holding a grudge in the present. People change and one way to find the good in them is to pay attention to how they act right now, not to harp on how they've behaved in the past. 

 

DROP YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

When you make assumptions (particularly about someone you don't know), finding the good can be a challenge. The best way to stop making assumptions is to keep your mind and heart open to what people are actually doing and saying. Try your hardest not to label people into "good" or "bad" categories because, just because someone has behaved badly once doesn't mean they'll behave that way again. Also, if you label someone, it can be hard to mentally shake that label. For example, if you think, "Ugh, my coworker is so annoying," you're going to be looking for the ways she annoys you, which will make it really hard to see her good traits. 

 

CULTIVATE CURIOSITY

If you want to find the good in others, it helps to be interested in them. Keep your mind (and ears! and eyes!) open and you'll be surprised by what you might discover. This ties in with dropping your assumptions. Instead of guessing what someone else is thinking or how they feel about something, ask. One of the best ways to find goodness in others is to ask lots and lots of questions. The more you know about others (especially personal details, like the fact that your boss adores his cat or your dentist has two kids), the easier it is to connect with them and notice the positive aspects. 

 

EXPECT THE BEST INTENTIONS

Another great way to find the good in others is to imagine that every single person is looking out for your best interest. This is very hard to do when someone cuts you off in traffic or your partner says something that enrages you, but the more you focus on how people might be looking out for you, the easier it becomes to find the good in them. More often than not, people do have the best of intentions (even if it might not always seem that way) and, even if they aren't specifically looking out for you, they're not likely looking to hurt you. Keeping this in mind will help you when you're struggling to find the good in difficult people. 

 

APPRECIATE THE FLAWS

Each and every one of us is flawed in some way. We all have emotional baggage that we drag around with us. We've all been hurt by someone. We've all been born with unique personality traits that are sometimes less-than-ideal. Appreciating flaws might sound negative, but it's actually a very positive thing to do when it comes to finding the good in others. Keeping in mind that we all -- including you! -- have our stuff (emotions, personalities, etc.) makes it easier to be compassionate and empathetic when others aren't showing their best sides, allowing us to find the good even when things aren't great. 

 

We're all crazily unique beings and, to be honest, it's a wonder that any of us get along at all! I know how hard it can be to find the good in certain people. Some people are just difficult (and, hey, you might even be one of those people!) and some situations are downright challenging -- but if you strive to find the good in others, you'll not only improve your relationships with them, but you'll strengthen yourself emotionally as well. Plus, the more you focus on the good, the easier it becomes to enjoy time spent with others (even if they aren't people you particularly enjoy). Seeking out the good in others won't make every person seem wonderful, but it's definitely going to help you make the most of each and every one of your relationships. 

 
PPGTL-Get-the-Book
Want to explore how to have a more positive, present life? Pick up your very own copy of my book, The Positively Present Guide to Life. The book is all about how to stay positive and present in various areas of life including: at home, at work, in love, in relationships, and during change. I've turned back to it often this year as I've gone through major changes and it's been tremendously helpful. The book is filled with inspiring images that make it even easier to stay positive and present. You can learn more about the book and find out where to buy a copy here. (You can also get a sneak peek at the book, access a free download, and watch the book trailer!)