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Phil Rizzo: Give a gift of forgiveness this holiday

Full Speed to Port!

Posted: November 30, 2010 8:57 p.m.
Updated: December 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Christmas — the season of giving. And so we dutifully rush to the malls, credit cards waving in hand, with earnest hope of procuring happiness and joy. Yet, so often forgotten in the rush, it seems, are more personal, intimate gifts. Among the greatest, most priceless and often most difficult to give — forgiveness.

What is forgiveness?

I believe that it is continuing to love yourself or others, regardless of what negative expression, action or thought is aimed at you. The word is analogous to love.

Perhaps the most lingering concern with applying forgiveness is that forgiving is not always easy. The natural thing to do is to hold a grudge or want revenge. But if you want to abide by your soul and to take note of what is going on inside of you in that central intimate place that harbors your truth, give the gift of forgiveness.

To not forgive suggests that we may not be awake to our innermost self, that part of us that knows intuitively what is right from wrong. Rarely talked about, forgiveness has become marginal to our vocabulary.

In this world, few things are more important than forgiveness, which is tangible proof of the practice of love. Yet some of us would be embarrassed and possibly feel ostracized if we selected forgiveness to discuss as conversation during lunch.
Forgiveness has two components. One is realizing that we are harboring a hurt; the other is doing something about it.

When we search ourselves, we realize that we may be holding many grudges. Maintaining hurt is more damaging to the person who is holding on to the hurt than the person that may be the object of the bad feeling. Sometimes, it may be ourselves.

Many believe the damage manifests in a myriad of ways. A few that come to mind are physical, including ulcers, heart disease, headaches and backaches.

There also are psychological concerns. Being drawn to negative thinking can lead to anxiety and depression. Many believe that all thought and feeling, such as love and anger, may have an effect on our bodies.

So important is forgiveness that there are actually numerous organizations specifically organized to promote forgiveness.

Some are part of healing programs. Religions are the most prevalent. The organization that focuses mostly on forgiveness is the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Mich. I first noted it as a sponsor of a news program on PBS television. I said to myself, “I don’t believe this. How could an organization promoting forgiveness have enough resources to promote themselves on TV?”

It turns out that Fetzer is just one of several organizations that promote forgiveness. A few more are the International Forgiveness Institute, The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance and there are others of a smaller scale.

Once one looks, one sees insight on forgiveness everywhere. Google quickly provides some notable quotes:

 “‘I can forgive, but I cannot forget’ is only another way of saying, ‘I will not forgive.’ Forgiveness ought to be like a canceled note — torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” — Henry Ward Beecher

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” — Mark Twain

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” — Lewis B. Smedes

The world’s religions are, of course, full of exhortations and reference to forgiveness:

Matthew 18:21-35: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.”

Quran, 42:43: “If someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow.”

In Judaism, one must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. One who sincerely apologizes three times for a wrong committed against another has fulfilled his or her obligation to seek forgiveness.

Buddhism is often described as the practising positive thoughts through spiritual awakening.

There are lots of places you can go for holiday gift giving. But this season be especially good to yourself and others. Go to your soul, and give the priceless gift of forgiveness

Phil Rizzo is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesday in The Signal.


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