Why is it so hard to forgive? The bigger question is why is it so hard to forgive ourselves? Today, we look at the words within the word, forgive, and practice self-compassion. I’m drawing from the great work of Dr. Stan Luskin’s book, “Forgive for Good,” and from my newest book, “Overcoming Hurtful Words: Rewrite Your Own Story.”
Announcer: Words matter. They can change the course of your day. Just listen. You are brave. You are stronger than you think. You have value, worth, and dignity. Don’t you feel better already?
Announcer: Welcome to Speak Healing Words, the podcast. Join author and board certified life coach Janell Rardon as she opens a very important conversation about the power of our words.
Janell: Welcome to the Speak Healing Words podcast. I’m Janell, I’m your host for today’s episode three. It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’m so happy you’ve made your way here.
Janell: We are all about talking about the words within words, because words matter. The ancient proverb says that “death and life are in the power of our words.” It also tells us that “as a man thinks, so is he,” and our proverb, our guiding proverb is found in Proverbs [4:23]: “Above all else,” such intention and importance in those three words. “Above all else, guard your heart. Guard your affections, for they influence everything in your life.” As a board certified life coach, as an author, as a teacher, I have made my way to seeing that the heart is at the core of our mental and physical and spiritual health. That’s what we do here; we talk about words that will increase our heart’s capacity to live in the three-fold chord of emotional health and spiritual authenticity. We want to have a healthy sense of self, healthy behavior patterns, and healthy communication skills. When this three-fold chord is operating in our sphere, because we are guarding and taking care of our hearts, our hearts and our hearts alone, we then will have healthy sense of self behavior patterns and communication skills to utilize in our sphere of influence, and we truly will make a beautiful difference in life. I think at the end of the day, most of us want to know that we’re living a meaningful, rewarding, God-honoring life.
Janell: Today’s word, are you ready? It has come quite honestly; I had another word prepared for today, but so many of my clients over the past few weeks have been dealing with this word. It tends to be a huge boulder that impedes our movement forward. “Forgive.” Such a loaded word, isn’t it? Volumes and volumes have been written about this word “forgive,” yet it seems such a hard thing to do, especially when it comes to forgiving ourselves. We really want to make sure that we get to the bottom of what this word means to us, and how we can practice not only forgiving others but forgiving ourselves. Really hard to do.
Janell: In his book “Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness,” Dr. Fred Luskin gives us many, many powerful principles to practice, but we first want to look at the word “forgive.” It’s a verb, and “forgive” comes from the Latin root “remitto,” which generally means “to pass or transfer”; that is, “to send or to throw.” Let’s go one step deeper into the words within the word “forgive” and let’s understand what “remit” means. Also a verb, it means “to send, to relax as in intensity,” so “to make something less intense or violent in order to be able to pass or transfer into the next phase.” I love that the prefix “for” actually means “before.” So “for-give” would mean “before we can give to others or to ourselves, or to God, we have to be able to move or transfer any violent, tense, negative, unhealthy emotions that might be living inside of our heart.” Those emotions that sometimes need forgiveness to be practiced might be hatred.
Janell: I’m going to be really honest because you know I’m never anything but honest and vulnerable, so be kind: I can actually say that I, at one point in my life, hated my father. He was an alcoholic. He was not emotionally abusive in any way, physically abusive; he was a quiet alcoholic. He just wasn’t present in my life; he was emotionally absent. There, left within me, a little girl with a huge vacuum of wanting to belong and wanting to know who she was, and you can read all about that in both my books actually: “Rock Solid Families” and “Overcoming Hurtful Words,” I write a little bit about it. Once I became a follower of Jesus in my senior year of college, once I decided that I wanted to live my life by the principles and the practices of Jesus and his word, I couldn’t hate my father anymore because Jesus is all about love, about grace. He is all about love.
Janell: I remember wrestling with that and crying out in my prayer life with God and seeking wise mentors. I was in the Catholic church at that time, and then transitioned into a Protestant faith tradition, but I remember I had a small group of Catholic women who were just so passionate about God and His word. They were quite a bit older than me at the time, and I would just go to their house and sit and listen, and they prayed for me. They helped me see my father through God’s eyes as a man with a great big problem, alcoholism, and slowly but surely, the hatred melted away under the powerful practice of forgiveness, and began to emerge with this love that I just call “the highest form of love,” accepting my father for who he was. Not trying to make him something that he wasn’t, and also looking to my Heavenly Father as a model for a father. I am so happy to say that God gave me the privilege during that time to have complete and total restoration with my father.
Janell: Yes, he quit drinking probably the last two years of his life, but was then diagnosed with throat and neck cancer, and died shortly thereafter that diagnosis, but within that two-year frame, my father and I spent a great deal of time together; I had only one little child at that time, but I am so grateful, and then on his deathbed, my father actually had a conversation with God, and my sister and I were privileged to be in on that conversation. Right in the middle of that conversation, my father broke out in the deepest, bellowing laughter and joy. That was the type of joy only a real God and a real heaven could offer a man like my dad. After his conversation was over and after he calmed down in his hospital bed, I touched his shoulder and I leaned in close, and I said, “Dad. Hey, Dad.” He looked at me, and I said, “Do you know who I am?” He said, “Oh yeah, you’re Janell,” because I thought, “Oh, he’s hallucinating, he can’t be talking to God,” although I knew he was.
Janell: I said, “Dad, who were you talking to?” In his deep, Marine, gruff voice, he put his thumb up and he pointed to the ceiling, and he said, “Him.” I went, “Wow. All right.” I looked at my sister, and it was about midnight at that time, and I said, “I think it’s time for us to go. I think Dad’s in good hands,” because in his conversation with God, he would listen and then he would go, “Yes sir, yes sir” in his Marine Corps fashion, and then he would listen, and then he would say, “Yes sir, I’m ready to go. I am ready to go.” Then he said the strangest thing: he said, “Don’t forget about my son Michael. He’s a captain in the Navy and he’s in Philadelphia,” and that’s where my brother was at the time. Then he bellowed and he laughed and he had great joy, and he just said, “I’m ready to go.” Then he got quiet. I thought, “Holy wow.” Now when I look back on that situation, I wish I had said, “What did he look like? What did you see?”, but you know, it was such a sacred space and such a holy moment, one that only a real God and a real heaven can do.
Janell: It was a miracle that both my sister and I had that privilege of being able to be at my dad’s bedside and hear him talk to God, know my dad is in heaven, and I can only be jealous because the kind of joy that my father had was a joy I’ve never really known. I mean maybe once or twice in life I’ve had a deep, bellowing, joyful soul laugh like that, but that’s the power of forgiveness right there in action. I would never have been able to stop hating my father on my own; I needed a God in heaven, a real helper, who could bestow His grace down upon me and enable me to see my father through His eyes. Honestly, my dear friends, that’s what we’re supposed to do in life. We’re supposed to see other people through God’s eyes, not our own, because as I was just sharing in a session today with a dear woman who was just, she just couldn’t forgive herself.
Janell: I had my glasses on and I said, “You know, if I could take off my glasses and if I could put a pair of glasses on you that had a grace lens in it, not a shame lens, you would be able to forgive yourself, but because the way that you are looking at yourself is through a shame’s lens, shame is your frame of reference. There’s no way you’re going to be able to forgive yourself, because until you receive forgiveness from God through His grace by not doing anything to receive it, just by because He created you and He loves you so much, until you can put on the lens of grace and stop looking at everything in your life through the lens of shame, you won’t be able to receive that forgiveness because that comes through grace and love.” It’s a mystery; there’s really no way I can go, “Okay, if you do one, two, three, and four, you’re going to be able to forgive yourself, and then you’re going to be able to forgive everybody in your life who has harmed you or been hurtful to you or has abandoned you, or perhaps who has violated you.”
Janell: We cannot do that. We cannot for-give, transfer that hate. That’s what “for-give” means, remember, is to transfer or pass, to relax the intensity of that negative emotion into God’s hands. We can’t do that on our own. There’s no possible way I can do that on my own. I’m not sure where you are in your faith life, where you are in your belief system. I just know that I can’t. I lived 21 years somewhat, I definitely believed in God, I knew God was there, but until I became 21 and truly became an ardent follower and a reader and a listener and doing the best I could to make the ways of Jesus my own, I could not have transferred or passed that intense emotion of hate that I had for my father onto God so that He could give me His love. It’s a beautiful, divine exchange. That’s what I like to call it.
Janell: Right now, I just wonder, is there someone in your life right now, as we’re talking, is there a person? Is it a mother? Perhaps it’s your dad. Perhaps it’s a sister or a brother. Maybe it’s a bully in your school. Maybe it’s a bully in your youth group or in your church. Maybe it’s the church community as a whole. As I write in “Overcoming Hurtful Words,” I was deeply wounded by the hurtful words of someone in my church, in a community of faith where we have a standard, we think, and an expectation, as unrealistic as it might be because the churches are full of human beings too, that we shouldn’t talk that way to one another, but unfortunately, realistically, everyone’s a human and humans are going to let us down. They’re going to use their words in a harmful, hurtful way. I write all about it in “Overcoming Hurtful Words,” my newest book, and you know where to get that.
Janell: I just want you to keep that person in the forefront in your mind as I read a couple of things to you. Let me find in Dr. Luskin’s book. He writes of this beautiful science of forgiveness. He uses the words [inaudible [00:15:35], who was a beautiful intellectual scholar and Christ follower and deeply spiritual reformer. “Of the 7 Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun,” listen up, “to lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back. In many ways, it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” We have been told over and over again the only person we’re hurting by not forgiving is ourself, especially when we won’t let ourself off the hook for being human, for making mistakes, for having regrets.
Janell: In the work I do, in the Heartlift Method, in my practice and in my work, in my books, the Heartlift Method is all about reflecting, reframing, and re-authoring our story, about looking at our history of hurts, our regrets, our pain of conscience, our mistakes, our humanness, our hatred for others. Bringing that into the present where we can process it through the eyes of God and His word where we can make peace with our past in order to be able to move into the future freedom that God has for us, that freedom that Christ died on his cross to give us. We truly minimize His sacrifice when we don’t receive that gift.
Janell: Dr. Luskin writes, “Scientific research clearly shows that learning to forgive is good for one’s health and well-being, good for mental health, and according to recent data, good for physical health as well. A number of conclusive scientific studies attest to the healing power of forgiveness.” Here, in the Speak Healing Words community, we are all about forgiveness. “A handful of specific forgiveness studies show that becoming more and more forgiving enhances one’s health. Preliminary studies from research and allied fields, like psychology, medicine, and religion, show that feeling more positive emotion such as gratitude, faith, and caring have a positive impact, are you ready for this, on cardiovascular functioning.” That’s your heart. So science even proves to us that above all else, if you take care of your heart and the 34,000 emotions that live inside of your heart and soul, you are going to improve your life and actually increase your longevity, and I’m going to add you’re going to become a radiant presence in the sphere, your sphere, of influence.
Janell: “Both kinds of studies suggest positive results in one’s life as one learns how to forgive. Other studies show that people who evidence higher degrees of blame,” okay, here’s the other side of the coin, because you know we have to talk about it, “suffer more from a variety of illnesses. You will remember that blame is at the core of holding a grudge. Blaming others emerges as the result of an inability to manage anger and hurt. Medical and psychological studies have shown for years that anger and hostility are harmful to cardiovascular health.” So we see that speaking healing words and moving in the realm of grace instead of shame enables us to practice self-forgiveness and the forgiveness of others. The Bible talks about that in many respects, about keeping short accounts with people, knowing when to overlook an offense, knowing when to hold someone accountable. We’re never going to get to the bottom of this in a 20-minute podcast, but you can delve deeper into it through “Overcoming Hurtful Words,” my new book, and then “Forgive for Good,” Dr. Fred Luskin. I’ll put all of these on my site for you to be able to access these titles, so don’t worry about writing them down.
Janell: “These studies about blaming and shaming also show that people who have difficulty managing anger have higher rates of heart disease and they suffer more heart attacks.” Oh my gosh. That’s just amazing. So in another fabulous book called “Moving Forward: Six Steps to Forgiving Yourself and Breaking Free from the Past,” one of my absolute favorite counseling professors and writers Everett L. Worthington Junior, he offers a six-step program to learning to forgive yourself. “Step one: receive God’s forgiveness.” We’ve talked about that a little, and that comes by receiving God’s grace. Receiving His grace. Basking, just saying, “God, I can’t stop hating my father. I can’t do it on my own. Will you please, please help me transfer, pass this intense emotion?” That means “forgive.” “Help me pass and transfer this intensely negative emotion of hate onto your big shoulders, and instead will you bring me the capacity and the possibilities and the ability to love?” Oh, my friend, He will do this for you. He did it for me; He’s done it several times. Step two is “repair relationships.” We’ll talk about that later in another podcast.
Janell: “Step three: rethink ruminations.” A rumination is like a cow has five stomachs, and so all day long as they’re eating, they have five storehouses of grass and food, and they just upchuck it, throw it up into their mouth and chew it again. Then they bring it back down and they bring it back up, they bring it back down, they bring it back up. How many times do those unhealthy, negative, intense emotions of hate or grudges or fill-in-the-blank, selfishness, how many times a day do we bring that back up, especially if we hear a person’s name or we remember a bad memory? A big part of the Heartlift Method is to bring in that history of hurts into the present long enough, long enough to process and make peace. Once we do that, we put it to rest. We leave it in the past. We remember the essence because the essence is what we’re going to carry into the future, and that will remind us to move in compassion and empathy for other people. I know that’s a lot. I know it’s a lot, but we’ll keep talking about it. Don’t worry, this is just episode three. “Step four: reach emotional self-forgiveness.” Step five is “rebuild self-acceptance” and step six is “resolve to live victoriously.”
Janell: I want to close with this concept of shifting from shaming and blaming to gracing. In “Overcoming Hurtful Words,” in Practice Seven: “Embrace a Teachable Spirit,” I outline some very specific practices that will help you move, pass through, transfer from your blaming, shaming, grudging hatreds into God’s love and perspective that will help you look at other people through God’s eyes. Oh this is hard work; I am not telling you anything easy here, but the one thing we have to do is to forgive and not forget. Sounds contrary to what we’ve been told, but a long time ago, a wise man told me that, “Forgiveness doesn’t erase the pain; it releases us from the control of the one who hurt us and helps us remember the essence of the pain,” which I lovingly call an “emotional scar.” A tender place. It’s healed, yet it serves to remind us of the work done in our hearts. In remembering the essence, as I just said, we have an enlarged capacity to practice empathy with others, and we also now have a spiritual resilience that fortifies us.
Janell: Moving forward, we live out the Golden Rule with greater passion, loving others as we want to be loved. That’s the Golden Rule; we want to love others like we want to be loved, and I know I want to be loved and accepted and offered grace in my life when I make mistakes, because I will. I’m human, I’ll always make mistakes. Hopefully I will make fewer and fewer as I grow into my old age. I want everyone in my life, especially those closest to me, my family and close intimate friends, to offer me grace so I can live from that space, which is trustworthy, and just be able to be accepted as the human being that I am. No misplaced expectations that I’ll be anything other than just human, and also to hold me accountable.
Janell: What a beautiful, beautiful place for us to close out our session today, our time today. Knowing that the God of all grace breathed His life into us… and when He breathed that life into us, Genesis 2:7 records that beautiful moment where he said, “Ah. You are now my creation. Go ahead, move forward. Move into everything I have for you, my child. Move into a life filled with my love and my grace. Oh you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to have regrets. I know you will, but be quick to come to me, and you and I will talk about it, and I will offer you my forgiveness and you will offer that to yourself, and then you can move forward and move into the next day.” Let me offer you this prayer as we close:
Janell: Father, I pray for each and every listener today. My new friends, even though it’s via a podcast. I pray that they would make this shift in their life from living in blame, self-blame, blaming others, blaming you, God, living in a state of self-condemnation, self-loathing, beating themselves up with a big heavy stick of shame. Maybe they came by it honestly; maybe they were born into a family of shame like myself, a family that was shrouded with the shame of alcoholism, and piety even. Not authenticity, and I pray that they would be able to transfer, pass that intense emotion of shame, hatred, blaming, grudging, begrudging, self-loathing onto your very strong shoulders, and receive back the divine exchange of grace and love, self-love, self-compassion, kindness, because that is what you want us to life our life from. That’s a place of peace and deep contentment, so I thank you for our time together and I pray that we will all shift from blaming to gracing, from shaming to gracing ourselves and shift in all of the relationships in our sphere of influence.
Janell: I hope you’ve learned a lot today about that wonderful, deep, extensive word “forgive,” and do yourself a favor: forgive yourself. You’re going to feel so much better; your heart is going to thank you. Visit janellrardon.com for a whole lot more information about the Heartlift Method, and please be sure to connect with me on Instagram and in our private Facebook group Speaking Healing Words. All you have to do is put “@SpeakHealingWords” or “@JanellRardon” into your Google bar, and voila. Blessings, my friends. I’ll see you next time.
Intro: Thanks for listening today. It was great having you here. For even more great content and conversation, please join the Speak Healing Words community at janellrardon.com.