Forgiveness. It's more than saying, "sorry."

Think about a person who has hurt you deeply. Think of a person who did an unkind or dishonest act that caused you pain. Perhaps you were the victim of a lie, or even a crime. What are the feelings that come to you when you bring these memories to your conscious mind? Remembering those events can instantly change our internal world. Often, we feel anger, resentment, rage and even a desire to get even. Just the thought of the pain caused by others can raise our blood pressure significantly.

Recently, I saw a movie called The Power of Forgiveness. Three women who lost sons and husbands on 9/11 are promoting a forgiveness garden as part of the memorial. The Amish community that lost five girls to a gunman visited the man's family and offered forgiveness. A father whose son was shot by a young man of 14 befriended the shooter's grandfather. They now tour the country talking about the need to forgive, and to be forgiven. Incredible. These people believe that our higher selves are capable of forgiveness. Our lower selves need to hold onto the hatred and the anger toward the perpetrator.

It seems obvious that holding onto negative feelings is detrimental to our health. Often the person we hold a grudge against is not even aware of our feelings. Yet we hold on to the negativity. But, why? What good does it do?

Practicing the fine art of forgiveness starts when we are children. Teaching children that all people make mistakes and that there is typically more good about a person than bad, is pivotal to the development of their ability to forgive. Their sister may hit them or say mean things, but she also is the sister who can be kind and share toys or candy. The bad mood that made her act out is not all of who she is.

Teaching children to offer an apology when they have done something wrong is also pivotal to their understanding of asking for forgiveness. We all do things that are unkind or even hurtful to others. That's part of human nature. Learning to say "I'm sorry" is vital to all relationships and something we need to learn as children.

Tell your children you are sorry when you snap at them, when you shout, or when you get distracted. It's a wonderful way to model exactly what you want them to learn. Saying "I'm sorry" is necessary in life. Being able to say "I forgive you" promotes spiritual, emotional and physical health.

With a smile,
Diane Strausser

"Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting a great battle."