Are you having trouble finding forgiveness in your life? Do you feel letting go of the anger and bitterness has been difficult? I have interviewed Dr. Eileen R. Borris, Licensed Psychologist to help understand what forgiveness truly is and what someone can do to find forgiveness.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“Since the 1980’s I have been on the frontlines of forgiveness from the personal to the political. I am a licensed clinical psychologist and a political psychologist with a private practice that focuses on the emotional pain associated with the betrayal of intimate relationships and with people dealing with relationship difficulties and divorce. Forgiveness is a large component of my work. I am a prolific writer publishing many articles and books on the topic of forgiveness. “Finding Forgiveness: A 7 Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” my second book is a self-help book published by McGraw-Hill and is published in seven different countries. “Finding Forgiveness” was a finalist for “Books for a Better Life Award” and the winner for “Best Books for 2007″ award in the self-help category. His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote a foreword to this book. I also conduct workshops and speak on the power of forgiveness. By invitation at the United Nations I speak to the members of the United Nations, UN agencies and to nongovernmental organizations worldwide about forgiveness and reconciliation. I have made over 30 radio and Television appearances debunking myths about forgiveness and more recently have appeared in Real Simple and O Magazine. I am a spokesperson for Fetzer Institute’s Campaign for Love and Forgiveness and have a blog totally dedicated to the work of forgiveness. Working as a political psychologist I have helped to rebuild war torn countries such as Liberia, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Israel and the Occupied Territories. As Founder of Global Peace Initiatives I design and implement programs in international peace building, conflict resolution, trauma recovery and forgiveness and train people such as diplomats, peacekeepers and humanitarian organizations in forgiveness healing.”
How would you define forgiveness?
“Forgiveness is a voluntary act in which we make a decision, a choice on how we will deal with an event concerning the past. Forgiveness is about your inner healing, a release of your pain and not about letting someone off the hook. It is a process that shows us how to heal our emotional pain. Forgiveness is a radical way of living because it transforms our thinking from thoughts of “an eye for an eye” to compassion and understanding. It is about changing the way we think and for most of us, this takes time. It is about changing our perceptions so we can see our situation differently, not through anger, fear or guilt but through understanding and compassion. Forgiveness is the science of the heart, a discipline of discovering all the ways of being that will extend love into the world and discarding all the ways that do not. It restores our hearts to the innocence that we once knew ‘” an innocence that allows us the freedom to love – for forgiveness is the highest form of love. It is the greatest gift we can give not only to others but also especially to ourselves.”
How does a person move from a place of negative emotions such as anger to a place of forgiveness?
“Although forgiveness can happen in an instant, for many of us it can take weeks, months and possibly years. The work of forgiveness is different for each one of us yet there is certain predictable steps all of us will go through. These steps include: 1) understanding what forgiveness really means and recognizing that revenge although is a natural response, will ultimately not give you what you want; 2) telling your story to someone you can trust and be able to express your emotions in a safe place; 3) work with your anger recognizing that anger is always a messenger telling us that something needs to change and if we can’t let go of our anger it is also telling us that we need to change; 4) work with your guilt realizing that if you pretend that the guilt buried within yourself doesn’t exist, the only thing you can do with these feelings is literally place that guilt on someone else. We become very judgmental because of the lack of love within ourselves and begin to blame others because we can only see the situation through our negative thinking caused by our guilt; 5) reframe the situation by asking “why them” instead of “why me”, what has happened in their life that has caused them so much pain that it has made them who they are today. Often when you uncover someone else’s pain it will disarm your own anger; 6) mourn your losses so that you can move forward in your life and 7) if all the above work is done you will find forgiveness and know inner peace.”
Does a person need to continue having a relationship with someone they have forgiven even if it is a family member?
“I really like this questions and it is a very important one. Remember, forgiveness is part of someone’s inner healing. When we forgive we lessen our emotional burdens. Forgiveness has very little to do with one’s outward actions. Just because we have forgiven someone, it does not mean that we need to be in a relationship with him or her even if it is a family member. Suppose the family member is very abusive and brings harm to you. Would it be wise to stay in that relationship and continue to get hurt? Absolutely not! Forgiving that person can help bring clarity into that person’s behavior and help you let go of the pain you may have had to endure while in that relationship. Yet there is no reason to continue that pain and the wise thing may be to let that relationship go.”
What last advice do you have for someone who is struggling with finding forgiveness?
“As long as you have just a little willingness to forgive, you have opened the door to forgiveness. So often I have seen people struggle with being able to forgive someone and when they go deep within themselves and in their heart of hearts they want to forgive, people usually experience a power in which they are overcome by this outpouring of inexplicable love, which transforms their relationship with the one they are struggling to forgive. In this moment it is like their heart leapt over the fence and suddenly they were taken over by feelings of liberation as though a great weight had been lifted from their shoulders. There was something being created inside, an interior renovation that healed the relationship. Something gets written upon their inner self where there is no need for outer instruction. Divine intervention comes to pass and people finally feel free.”
For more information about Dr. Borris, her counseling practice and her work please go to www.dreileenborris.com and don’t forget to check out her blog www.findingforgiveness.blogspot.com. You can also become a fan on Facebook.com/findingforgiveness. For those of you who would like to submit your own story on forgiveness go to Dr. Borris’s website and click on the tab “Forgiveness Stories that Inspire.” You can also find out about her international work by going to www.globalpeaceinitiatives.com.
Dr. Eileen R. Borris, Licensed Psychologist
Author of “Finding Forgiveness” published by McGraw-Hill
Finalist for “Books for a Better Life Award”
Director of Training for the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy