When one considers the stress of carrying all the resentment, anger and hate that goes with not forgiving “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Louis B. Smedes). Forgiveness is important for many reasons and Positive psychology says forgiveness is:
“a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”
It’s also important to recognize what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean idly accepting wrongdoings or forgetting that a person has a tendency to act badly in some way. ‘You do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.’ (Greater Good Berkeley)
Psychology Tools has an excellent PDF defining what forgiveness is and what it is not:
Once we understand forgiveness the next step is practicing it and lucky for us experts like Robert Enright have defined a process for doing this. Enright’s Eight Keys to Forgiveness:
- Know what forgiveness is and why it matters: We understand what forgiveness is and what it is not (see above). So why does it matter? Psychologically it relieves us of the burden of resentment, anger and hate. Depending on the situation forgiveness also allows for a rebuilding of damaged relationships, closure in unfortunate situations (moving on), and the learning that goes with positive reflection on a wrongdoing.
- Become “forgivingly fit: Forgiveness, like most things, improves with practice. “It’s important to cultivate this mindset of valuing our common humanity, so that it becomes harder to discount someone who has harmed you as unworthy.”
- Address your inner pain: Know who has hurt and why. Acknowledge the bad feeling or harm that person has caused you and address it in a healthy way (i.e. talk to someone or seek professional help) “There are many forms of emotional pain; but the common forms are anxiety, depression, unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing or low self-esteem, an overall negative worldview, and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to change. All of these harms can be addressed by forgiveness; so it’s important to identify the kind of pain you are suffering from and to acknowledge it. “
- Develop a forgiving mind through empathy: Research shows that forgiving someone activates the parts of your brain responsible for empathy. When we forgive we begin to see why the person responsible did what they did and what issues they might be dealing with that caused them to do you harm. It works both ways: when we understand we can forgive and when we forgive can begin to understand. “Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness.”
- Find meaning in your suffering: This can be hard to do when feeling angry, resentful or hurt by someone but an important part of the process. We can learn from what went wrong and ‘try to see how our suffering has changed us in a positive way.’ Some people see it as learning experience (i.e. that’s a person I can’t trust or that person doesn’t like it when I so such and such or I need to be better prepared next time….etc.). Some people view suffering as a building of their ability to cope (resilience) “To find meaning is not to diminish your pain or to say, I’ll just make the best of it or all things happen for a reason. You must always take care to address the woundedness in yourself and to recognize the injustice of the experience, or forgiveness will be shallow.”
- When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths: Forgiveness can be hard, even seemingly impossible and in these times we can call upon other supports to help us. We can do this by first accepting that we aren’t perfect either and forgiveness will not always be easy. We can then call upon other supports in our lives to find the courage to forgive.
- Forgive yourself: We can be hard on ourselves when we are the ones who have done wrong in some way. However when we forgive ourselves we “offer to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense of inherent worth, despite your actions.”
- Develop a forgiving heart: I’m not one to simply copy and paste content but I could not find better words: “When we overcome suffering, we gain a more mature understanding of what it means to be humble, courageous, and loving in the world. We may be moved to create an atmosphere of forgiveness in our homes and workplaces, to help others who’ve been harmed overcome their suffering, or to protect our communities from a cycle of hatred and violence. All of these choices can lighten the heart and bring joy to one’s life. Some people may believe that love for another who’s harmed you is not possible. But, I’ve found that many people who forgive eventually find a way to open their hearts. If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply. This kind of transformation can create a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone.” (Enright, 2015)
As a humanist the sentence “a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone” as a lot of meaning. Humanists like myself don’t believe in the afterlife as described by religion. Our only eternal life is the one that resides in people’s memories of us and so we strive to make that afterlife a good one and it must include forgiveness.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
This blog has plenty of ideas, tools and so on on living happy but a person can’t really live a happy life without identifying their values.
What are Values:
Values are the things important to you in your life. There are two categories:
Physical: Anything that exists outside of your mind such as friends, family , your job, your sport or hobby.
Psychological/Philosophical: These values are your emotions and principles. For example: Kindness and sharing, happiness, contentment, compassion, charity and generosity. These can also be political such as democracy or liberalism or a political/social belief such human rights or being pro-choice.
Identifying Your Values
There is a surprisingly simple way to identify your values. Just ask yourself three questions:
- When were you the happiest?
- When were you filled with the most pride?
- When were you the most fulfilled?
Answering these questions can and should take time, be absolutely sure you were truly happy, prideful…etc. Once you have a list prioritize them and reexamine regularly. Mindtools has some excellent suggestions as well:
- Be Willing to Be Surprised
- Test Your Values. Just having your list of values from the top of your mind, might not be enough. To get more clarity, you can test your values:
- Is it truly YOUR value? (i.e. is it internally motivated or is it external … a “should”)
- Is it a means or an end? If one value is simply to accomplish another, then look to the value you want to accomplish. If you want economic security because you think it leads to freedom, then freedom is the one you value most. This is important because there’s multiple ways to accomplish a goal and flexibility is key. Know what you want, but be flexible in your approach.
- Do your actions show your values? Actions speak louder than words.
- When were you happiest or most excited? What was your proudest moment? These highlights are a potential showcase of your values.
- What do you regret the most? Again, this is a way to figure out what’s most important to you. (source)
Your values should determine your priorities and how you live your life. It is also important to keep your priorities ethical, this won’t be difficult as no one values the guilt or other bad feeling that go with being leading an unethical life.
Here are some examples of values:
Once you have determined your values you can focus on goals, achievements and a lifestyle that suits them and end up a much happier person.
I have had a few people ask me ‘without religion and god what’s stopping you from murdering and pillaging?’ My response is always ‘Are you saying that without your religion you would be out murdering and pillaging?’ This sums up the moral debate quite nicely. Once you have empathy then, no matter what your beliefs are, your moral framework has all the support it needs.
Dr. James Croft is the author of the Temple of The Future and director of the Ethical society of St. Louis. The Humanist Experience Podcast series is well worth a listen.
Everyday we try to be nice, we don’t steal or lie or hurt or make people feel bad, these moralities are common sense. We do this primarily because of our experiences (upbringing, education…etc.) and our conscience. Morality in a religious context is an issue complicated by fear and reward. Religions that use fear and reward to enforce morality lack integrity and the good feeling of moral behaviour based on compassion, love and intellect. Doing good is it’s own reward and science shows this:
Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin. Michael I. Norton. Elizabeth W. Dun (45 sources)
Conclusion: The evidence we reviewed is quite supportive: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).
Stephen G. Post (28 Sources)
Conclusion: The principle has been scientifically established. The welfare of oneself (self-fulfillment) and of others (self-sacrifice) are
inseparable and interrelated components of the healthy human personality in a healthy environment.
The evidence supports that doing good feels good what about motivation? Why is fear of God, hell..etc. an unhealthy motivation? Common sense tells us that fear creates undue anxiety and all its problems. Also using fear as a motivation is the way of bullies and dictators, it also creates resentment in the people being manipulated. Ultimately using fear as a tool enforce moral behavior is unhealthy and can lead to resentment, defiance and loss of control.
Research also shows that we shouldn’t need fear to enforce moral behaviour anyway. Moral Psychology has been separating ethical behaviour from emotion for decades. Empathy has also been shown to be a natural result of our evolution. While it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to separate emotion from decision making fear is most certainly the worst way to make a moral decision.
A question religious apologists often ask of unbelievers is “What is stopping you from murdering and raping and pillaging as much as you want?’ to which we ask ‘Are you saying that without God you would be doing those things?’ Humanists, atheists and other unbelievers believe that the primary motivator for moral behavior should be love itself when balanced with reason doing good deeds is its own reward (see above) and that can be achieved right here and now. It also takes courage to take responsibility for own actions (integrity).
When I’m raising my children, my job is to get my children to act in ways that are moral when there is no fear and no reward, but to do it for the sake of doing it. When you add everlasting life as the reward, and everlasting torment as the punishment, there can be no morality. We need to treat each other well because we love each other, and not for reward or punishment. – Penn Jillette
When one considers religions so often also use guilt as well as fear and that moral behaviour existed long before and despite religion then we see that religion’s grip on morality has been lost. Instead we suggest that we let our love and our rational faculties be the motivator. We can reap the rewards of being good right now knowing that we did it for the right reasons.
As a humanist I can not imagine making someone feel badly, especially for something like weight or height or some other result of their genes, their health and their circumstances but this is an all to common occurrence. In fact ‘fat’ has become a dehumanizing insult, ‘Fat’ is the new ‘ugly’. People in western cultures have a new and terrible way to drag other humans down: ridiculing and bullying based on their body. This is particularly nasty when one considers how many reasons a person may be overweight.
- Ectomorph: Ectomorphs are skinny with a small frame, light build, small joints and lean muscle. Usually they have long thin limbs with stringy muscles, narrow shoulders with a fast metabolism making this body type the most resistant to weight gain.
- Mesomorph:Mesomorphs have a medium sized bone structure, athletic body, and they typically have a considerable amount of lean mass.
- Endomorph: Endomorphs have a larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass, and this extra fat seems to resist most efforts to get rid of it. The endomorph body type is solid and generally soft, and gains fat very easily. Source and More Info
There are numerous other causes for a person to be overweight:
- Energy imbalances can cause overweight and obesity. An energy imbalance means that your energy IN does not equal your energy OUT. (.I.E. lack of exercise).
- Medical conditions: Some genetic syndromes and endocrine disorders can cause overweight or obesity.
- Several genetic syndromes are associated with overweight and obesity, including the following.
- Prader-Willi syndrome
- Bardet-Biedl syndrome
- Alström syndrome
- Cohen syndrome
- Endocrine disorders: Because the endocrine system produces hormones that help maintain energy balances in the body, the following endocrine disorders or affecting the endocrine system can cause overweight and obesity:
- Hypothyroidism. People with this condition have low levels of . These low levels are associated with decreased and weight gain, even when food intake is reduced. People with hypothyroidism also produce less body heat, have a lower body temperature, and do not efficiently use stored fat for energy.
- Cushing’s syndrome: People with this condition have high levels of , such as , in the blood. High cortisol levels make the body feel like it is under stress. As a result, people have an increase in appetite and the body will store more fat. Cushing’s syndrome may develop after taking certain medicines or because the body naturally makes too much cortisol.
- Tumors. Some tumors, such as craneopharingioma, can cause severe obesity because the tumors develop near parts of the brain that control hunger.
- Medicines: such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiepileptics, and antihyperglycemics can cause weight gain and lead to overweight and obesity. (source)
All of these are out of a person’s control and don’t take into account lifestyle, cultural upbringing and other life situations a person may be in that has lead them to be overweight. For example some people use food to cope with the bullying they are receiving to begin with.
“The next time you see a fat person, you don’t know whether that person has a medical condition that caused them to gain weight,” Thore added. “You don’t know their mother just died. You don’t know if they’re depressed or suicidal or if they just lost 100 pounds. You don’t know.” (source)
This short list should show why shaming someone for being overweight is so ignorant. The same rules apply to being underweight, tall, short or the multitude of other physical reasons people bully and torment other people for. The lack of empathy and understanding in body shaming is staggering. It can have disastrous consequences such as depression, social anxiety, low self worth, Anthropophobia (fear of people) and other social phobias, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia and suicide.
The problem is compounded by electronic communication and cyber-bullying which provides a bully with a virtual anonymity.
Also cultural glorification of unrealistic standards of beauty such as being skinny or big breasted for women or being muscular and have a a full head of hair for men. Beauty standards very from culture to culture as well.
In short regardless of what shape or condition a person’s body is in shaming a person for their body is uninformed and cruel. If anyone ever calls you fat in a disrespectful way you are well within your right to retort with an F-Word of your own.