Dear Dad, I forgive you

Dear Dad,

I forgive you for being angry. I forgive you for coming home from work and being disappointed with the family and the life that you came home to. I forgive you for threatening to give up on your family and leave me behind. I forgive you for the nights you lost your cool. I forgive you for the tantrums and the screaming. There were nights when I was afraid to be around you but also afraid to leave your side because of what you might do. The uncertainty that consumes me. The fear of being abandoned. The fear of never being good enough. The anxiety. The rebellion. “When I was younger I saw my daddy cry and curse at the wind. He broke his own heart and I watched as he tried to reassemble it. And my mother swore that she would never let herself forget. And that was the day that I promised I’d never sing of love if it does not exist.” My childhood has left a mark on my heart. A scar. But I forgive you Dad. I forgive you for the nights you drank too much. I forgive you Dad because you are scarred from your past as well. We are dealt a certain hand and we do the best we can with the cards we were given. I forgive you because I know your love for me is infinite. I know that you are proud of me. And I am immensely proud of you. For working to improve your marriage. For working to become a better husband and father. For supporting your family. For not giving up on us.

With love,

Your daughter

Advertisements

The benefits of forgiving

“Forgiving people are less likely to be hateful, depressed, hostile, anxious, angry and neurotic. They are more likely to be happier, healthier, more agreeable and more serene. They are better able to empathize with others and to be spiritual or religious… Forgiving allows a person to move on” (Lyubomirsky, p. 176).

Search forgiveness interventions:

Worthington, E. L., et al. (2000) ‘Group interventions to promote forgiveness: what researchers and clinicians ought to know’

 

Dear Mom, I forgive you

Mom,

Do you even remember how bad it was? Do you remember the screaming and the crying day after day and night after night? I will never get those years back but I forgive you. I forgive you for the times you wanted nothing to do with me. I forgive you for not knowing how to love me unconditionally. Because that means you yourself were not given an example of what that looks like. You did the best you could. And you loved me in a way you knew how to. I thank you for that. Because through it all, I learned so much. I forgive you for slapping me across the face. I forgive you for being preoccupied with a failing marriage. I forgive you for the name calling and bashing. I forgive you for pushing me past my breaking point. Because from that I have learned self control. I forgive you for being depressed. I forgive you for being a perfectionist. I forgive you for crying all hours of the night. Because you are only human. Because there were countless nights where you held me while I cried. Because through that I learned how to nurture and comfort and love unconditionally. Forgiveness is not the same as pardoning. Many of the things you did were not right. I should not have had to experience a childhood full of sadness. I can’t forget the events of the past. I wish I could but I can’t. But through forgiving you I am able to look back on my childhood and smile. Because I will remember the good instead of only the bad. And there was a lot of good. The summer vacations, the spaghetti and meatball dinners, the picnics and birthday parties. I hope that by forgiving you, our relationship will grow and blossom. There is still time to form traditions and memories full of joy and love. I want to spend quality time with you. I want to be friends. And most of all I want you to be my mom. Not the scary or scared version of yourself. But the real you. And if you can’t find who that is, then I will keep forgiving you. Because I love you. And because I am not perfect either. I hope that someday you can forgive me.

All the best,

Your daughter

Understanding happiness

What is happiness?

According to Lyubomirsky, happiness is “the experience of joy, contentment or positive well being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.”

Happiness Myths:

  1. Happiness must be ‘found’
  2. Happiness lies in changing our circumstances
  3. You either have it or you don’t

“When I am in New York, I want to be in Europe, and when I am in Europe, I want to be in New York.” – Woody Allen

I can relate… When I am in Connecticut, I want to be in Australia, and when I am in Australia, I want to be in Connecticut. I thought that studying abroad (changing my situation and my environment) would bring me an immense amount of happiness. It has not made me feel that much happier. This demonstrates that life circumstances actually have little to do with our level of contentment. If I depend on changing my circumstances instead of changing my mindset than I will never experience true happiness.

What determines happiness?

  1. 10% circumstances
  2. 50% set point
  3. 40% intentional activity (I actually have the power to control my happiness)

How do I measure happiness?

After completing Lyubomirsky’s Subjective Happiness Scale, I have a better idea of my happiness set point. On a scale of 1 to 7, where 7 represents the highest happiness score, I have scored a 4.5. According to her research, this is an average score for college students. Yet in my opinion that score seems very low.

The Oxford Happiness Questionnaire:

This questionnaire measures a person’s happiness level on a scale from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest score and 1 being the lowest possible score. The happiness score fluctuates based on your level of happiness. Today is day one of my journey towards happiness and forgiveness and my score was 4.207. I will calculate my happiness score again at the end of week 2, at the end of week 4, and at the end of my assessment to track my progress.

  1. Happiness score 8 March: 4.207
  2. Happiness score 22 March: 4.862
  3. Happiness score 5 April: 5.552
  4. Happiness score 12 April: 5.793

Center for epidemiological studies: Depression scale 

This scale measures you total depression score given your responses to 20 different statements. Each statement is rated from 0-3 based on how often you felt or behaved during a specific week. The lowest possible score is 0 and the highest possible score is 60. A score of 16 or higher indicates that you are depressed. The degree of depression can range from mild to severe, which is indicated by your score. My score was 19, which suggests that I am mildly depressed.

  1. Depression score 8 March: 19
  2. Depression score 22 March: 13
  3. Depression score 5 April: 7
  4. Depression score 12 April: 8

 

Understanding forgiveness

What is forgiveness?

“Trying to distance yourself from the transgressor and especially trying to retaliate ultimately makes you unhappy, damages and destroys relationships and may even harm society at large” (Lyubomirsky). So what is the alternative? What can make me happy and what can improve my relationships?

Forgiveness is not reconciliation, pardoning, condoning, justifying, minimizing, tolerating, excusing, or denying. Forgiveness “involves contemplating the injury at some length” and coming to terms with the injury, abuse, betrayal or offense. Forgiveness also involves a shift of thinking. Forgiveness is what you do for yourself and not for the person who has wronged you (Lyubomirsky).

How to forgive?

  • Appreciate being forgiven
  • Meditate on forgiveness
  • Practice forgiving thoughts
  • Practice empathy
  • Write a letter of forgiveness
  • Write the letter you’d like to receive
  • Contact the person who wronged you
  • Make forgiveness a habit, like you would a prayer
  • Ask for help (i.e. talk to others who practice forgiveness and/or ask God for help)

See http://www.forgivenessday.org/heroes.php for examples of forgiveness.

Look up forgiveness researchers:

  • Michael McCullough and Everett Worthington
  • Charlotte vanOyen Witvliet

Research on the science of forgiveness:

Forgiveness assessment (take before and after completing activity/letters):

Forgiveness resources (books):

  • McCullough, M.E., Pargament, K.I., &Thoresen, C.E., Forgiveness: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: The Guildford Press.
  • Enright, R.D. (2001). Forgiveness is a choice, A step-by-step process for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: APA Life Tools.
  • Worthington, E.L. Jr. (1998). Dimensions of forgiveness: Psychological research & theological perspectives. Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.

Forgiving my way towards happiness

In completing the Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic in The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky (2007), I have discovered four activities that should increase my level of happiness.

These include: practicing religion and spirituality, expressing gratitude, learning to forgive and nurturing relationships.

After some consideration I have decided to challenge myself and learn to forgive. In order to do this, Lyubomirsky (2007) suggests “keeping a journal or writing a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment towards one or more individuals who have hurt you or wronged you.” My goal over the next five weeks is to forgive five individuals, in hopes that this activity will bring me one step closer to an even happier and fulfilling life. Perhaps this activity will provide me with the skills I need to become a more forgiving and understanding person in the future.

And for inspiration I look to the One who gives us a perfect example of forgiveness…

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV)

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18: 21-22 NIV)