Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Forgive Someone Tuesday

So tonight (Monday) we're watching this show called Intervention. It's an amazing study of beliefs, counter-beliefs, counter-counter-beliefs, and counter-counter-counter-beliefs. In this episode, there's a woman named Linda who has successfully sold her family on the belief that she suffers from an extremely rare syndrome in which she experiences severe bouts of pain. Things that trigger the pain range everywhere from exposure to the electricity radiating from certain people to exposure to too much of the wrong color. As I'm watching, it appears that the triggers are basically anything that Linda doesn't like and wants changed.

To manage her pain, Linda has become dependent upon prescription drugs, lots of them, prescribed by lots of doctors. At thirty-six, she lives in Los Angeles with her younger brother who traveled from the east coast to visit and help her out for a week or two. He's been there for eight years now: taking care of her, running errands, cooking, cleaning, bathing her, etc.

My Mom's Fault
Linda's parents escaped China and immigrated to the US in 1949. They had no money, but worked hard to build a life in America opening and operating a dry-cleaning business. Growing up, each of their three kids helped out on the weekends working in the family business. Listening to Linda, it would appear that all her problems stem from having had to work in her parents' business and not being allowed to spend her Saturdays hanging out with her friends like 'normal' American kids. At thirty-six, she clings steadfastly to the offenses of her parents harboring deep anger and resentment.

Her mom has totally bought in to Linda's accusations feeling terrible about all that she did to her poor daughter. Her dad seems less inclined to do so, but nonetheless feels responsible for his daughter having spent more than half-a-million dollars supporting her over the past few years.

The situation is a wonderful example of the long term effect of hanging on to judgments. Linda is judging pretty much anyone who's willing to entertain being judged. Her one brother is judging her for being a burden on her family. Her other brother is judging her parents for making him take care of her. Her mom is judging herself for not having been a good enough mother. Her dad is caught in the midst of conflicting judgments all of which he holds as true.

When judgments go critical reaching the five-alarm stage, there are two exit doors (that apparently aren't very clearly marked): judge-not and forgive. Over the past ten years or so, I've been a strong advocate of the former (judge-not) seeing the latter (forgiveness) as a bandaid solution that's going to eventually (after years of chemical bonding to whatever thin-skin remains) need to be ripped off. However, as Iris and I are watching Intervention (it's still on and I don't know how it's going to turn out), it's occurred to me that although not judging in the first place may be the best way to go, there are times when we're simply not ready to drop judgments. In those cases, perhaps the best route is through forgiveness.

Watching Linda tonight I'm thinking, hmmm... perhaps second-best is good enough... actually, it's better than good enough... OK, it's way better than good enough. If you've been standing on the corner of Fire and Brimstone waiting for the Judge-Not-Lest-Ye-Be-Judged bus to roll up, modifying your word selection so as to appear to be non-judgmental and watching the Forgive-and-Forget buses pass you buy, then I would suggest that it's time to stop judging being judgmental and simply forgive. Whatever it takes, dropping judgments, forgetting the offense ever happened, or forgiving the offender, get past it and move on.

Why? Well, as cliche as it may sound, watching Linda tonight convinced me that judging others only hurts you. Ummmm..., okay, it may hurt others (if you can get them to buy in), but it definitely hurts you more than anyone else. Let's put it this way:
  1. judging anyone hurts everyone (especially the judge)
  2. not-judging anyone (even yourself) is the best way to go
  3. if not-judging ain't in your immediate future, then forgiveness will do
  4. strike that, forgiveness is awesome!
  5. the path to not-judging is often paved with forgiveness.
Why is this important? Well, tonight as I watch Linda getting to the point where her teeth are disintegrating, her liver is ready to stall-out, her family members are angry, grieving, guilty and resentful, it seems clear that the force the drove her into the depths of addiction and bound her there is judgement: judging her parents for wanting more for her, judging her siblings for not supporting her, judging herself for not being enough. I'm convinced that addiction itself is heavily dependent upon judgment and that without judgment, it would cease to exist.

Forgiveness is a great way to start.

So, what judgments are you hanging on to? A parent for whom you were never enough? A teacher who saw you as a bad apple? A lover who broke your heart? A friend who betrayed you? A boss who worked you like a mule but never rewarded you for it? An interviewer that didn't see your potential? A clique of would-be friends that rejected you? The guy who just cut you off in traffic? Perhaps forgiveness might be just what you're looking for.

Ultimately, there's no future in judgment, at least none that's not totally shitty. Still, it's hard to imagine a future based on being judgmental that's better than one that's not.

Happy Tuesday!


  1. Very neat, Teflon. I'm reminded of a quote that struck me like a ton of bricks when I first came across it:
    "Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past" - Lily Tomlin

    I guess it was so impactful for me because it brings in the concept of acceptance to really drive home the element of choice in our judgements. As I was reading your post, everything made sense to me, as in, I have seen not-judging work out better than judging. But I also know that before I got that, just being told to forgive wouldn't have made sense to me. So I'm thinking we all judge for a reason, taking care of ourselves in some way, and I think in many cases that reason has to do with wanting to change the past and making the original problem go away.


    P.S. by the way, is this the new reality show with Anthony Robbins? I heard about it the other day.

  2. To me forgivenss migth be my strongest reason to go to church. Sitting in church always provides me with the opportunity to reflect on who or what I want to forgiven.

    I often find myself in a place where I forgive myself for judging someone - judging myself for judging someone else is often what hold me back from forgiving...

  3. Sree, I've been repeating, "Forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past." It's an amazing statement that merits repetition until your whole body exhales deeply and fully.

    It's kind of funny as there's also the notion that it's never to too late to have had a great past. In some ways, these two statements seem to be at odds with one another, acceptance versus denial. In other ways, they're the perfect complement. It all depends on how you do it.

    Some people get over their "bad" experiences by denying that they happened, remaking the past into something good by morphing what happened into something else. I would call this denial. It's a way to get past the past without dealing with it.

    Other people embrace Lily's statement fully accepting what happened for what it was, and then remake the effect of it into something positive and wonderful. They don't make the past better, but they make their experience of it better.

    Accept what is. Make it all good.

  4. I believe that the two statements leads to the same place.

    To get a better past is simply to stop judging the past - and you'll that the strong feelings are disapearing - and you will allow yourself to feel good about the past - regardless of what happens - and that equals to give up all hope of a better past.

    If you deny (or forget about) your past, you can't really say that you got a better past, can you?

  5. I think the difference between the two statements is that one refers to events in the past WITHOUT their accompanying interpretations and judgements, and the other one is WITH. The events are for acceptance, and the interpretations/judgements are for questioning and changing as seen fit.

  6. Yes Sree, I think that the challenge lies in not muddling what happened and what it means. There are so many things in life where we've ascribed intrinsic meaning to an event or an object. It becomes difficult or impossible to distinguish them.

  7. Perhaps you have heard of Landmark Education. A key belief I got from their material is "Life is meaning-less..." - implying that there is no intrinsic meaning in what happens; all meaning is created and attached by us. Almost all frustration I've had with anything in my life disappeared once I got that.

  8. Yes. All about our amazing freedom, volitional-consciousness, how we make-up and determinate what is going on.

    Judging, (finger-pointint, blaming) vs forgiveness, (acceptance of responsibility,) for the flavor of ones experiencing (present-tense) of life.

    Joy, "To get a better past is simply to stop judging the past," Why is a 'better past,' important? How we make up where we are, presently,....doesn't it reign supreme? If one values, appreciates 'where they are,' authentically, isn't the past all been helpfully productive towards bringing one there? (and therefore in no need of betterment?)

  9. Sree, Yes, indeed. In the words of Miles Davis, "So what?"


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