Forgive, Not Forget

Forgive, not Forget

You’re angry. You’re hurt. You’ve been betrayed, cheated, assaulted. Or your loved one was hurt badly. It was the other guy’s fault and you’re completely justified in your rage, in your desire for revenge.

Now what?

Will you let those powerful feelings take over your life? Will you let your pain color everything and everyone around you?

“60 Minutes” recently had a segment on the show about the Restorative Justice Project at the University of Wisconsin Law School, which, after careful vetting, introduces victims of violence to the convicts that committed the crime. One woman, whose brother had been killed by a drunk driver who was serving 10 years in prison for his crime, said that she, too, had been locked in a prison of her own making. A mother of four and a teacher, she was trapped behind the steel bars of her feelings of hatred and resentment; as she called it, she had been “sentenced to a life of vengeance.” She had become a “bad” teacher, a “bad” parent, and knew she had to find a way to forgive so she could live in peace again.

She finally reached out to the Restorative Justice Project, and five years after her brother’s death she was able to meet with the driver. They talked for hours, and she cried for him. In order to rectify her own situation, she had to extend her personal forgiveness to him. She apologized for having made it her job to find evidence of his character flaws so he would receive the longest sentence possible.

The victim has to request help from the Project; the prisoner has to be seeking redemption. Both parties have to be willing to meet and face each other. And while nothing will bring back the murdered love one, or fix the injuries that may have been suffered, forgiveness does allow both the victim and the perpetrator to get out of self-generated emotional prisons.

The University of Wisconsin program is one of many that focuses on what harm has been done and how to make amends. Restorative Justice is both a philosophy and a social movement. It thinks differently than our usual system that emphasizes punishment, instead focusing on healing and rehabilitation. Not only are victims helped, but so are the perpetrators, through dialogue and communication, community support, and respect.

You could be the victim of a crime as heinous as the murder of a loved one, or the victim of rape, or the betrayed one in a relationship. Maybe you were cheated or scammed out of all your money. Maybe a doctor bungled your surgery. There are hundreds of ways you could become a victim and be furious at the one who perpetrated your suffering. And you could get stuck there. Because you don’t understand that forgiveness is for your own benefit, not the other person’s.

It doesn’t mean you forget. You don’t forget that type of trauma, the physical or emotional violence that was done to you. But in time you can learn to forgive. You can get yourself out of a life-long prison sentence in which you are endlessly trapped in negative thoughts and feelings.

You don’t necessarily have to have a face-to-face meeting with the person who hurt you so badly. You may never see or speak with them again, and that’s fine. But in your heart you can plant a seed of forgiveness. You can water it with compassion, with kindness for yourself.

You can seek your own restorative justice. It’s like going through the divorce from hell, feeling like you have lost everything and that you made terrible decisions; you’re really angry at your yourself and your ex. You can brood, gain 40 pounds, and dream of revenge, or you can see that you are victimizing yourself more than your ex ever did and let go. Let go of those feelings of resentment, let go of those revenge fantasies, and forgive yourself. Eventually, you may feel good enough about yourself to also forgive your ex.

Forgiveness is not an extension of victimization. You are not lying down like a doormat and saying, hey, you hurt me but it’s okay. It’s not an extension of people-pleasing. It’s a way to release the negative emotions that are crippling your chances of happiness. It’s a way to live in the world and with yourself, not as a victim, but as a whole functioning person. It’s for you.

You can watch the “60 Minutes” show segment at

Spiritual Burnout

Burnout: 5 tips to Recover

You can feel it when you wake up in the morning. You open your eyes with reluctance and a feeling of uneasiness spreads through your body. Is it fear? Is it dread? Another day to be survived. When did this sad state of affairs become your new normal?

Feelings like these can build slowly and eventually become like a dark curtain descending over your spirit. They call it “burnout” because it resembles the fading embers of a dying fire—the warmth and the light are going out. Without fuel, the fire dies.  People who work in the helping professions are always being cautioned to watch for burnout and take measures to prevent it. Your spiritual nature calls you to help others; that means you are susceptible to burnout. How well are you taking care of yourself and making sure that the light you bring to the world isn’t beginning to fade?

The job of keeping yourself healthy and well in mind, body, and spirit is yours alone. The gift of life in this world has been given to you along with the responsibility and the power to nurture it. You even have a soul gauge to tell you how you’re doing. When feelings of gloom and doom replace your optimal setting for joy, love, compassion, and laughter, something needs adjustment. When your soul is crying out for a reset, when you need healing and sanctuary, the symptoms described above will appear. Your burnout alarm will sound.

Here are 5 signs of burnout to watch for, along with some solutions:

  1. You feel angry and bitter. You are mad at life and everything in it. You resent the people who expect something from you (love?). These negative and destructive emotions are blocking the energy that keeps you buoyant and resilient in the world. Where did they come from? How did they begin? What have you not resolved and healed in your past? What have you not forgiven? Try journaling your raw feelings until you have nothing more to say. This will help you feel more balanced.
  2. You feel hopeless. You can’t see any positive future ahead. It feels like the hole you are living in has no bottom and certainly no stairs to the rim. Your problems have no solutions and there is no help available for the likes of you. Look closely at this hopelessness and see if you see any reasons for it. Do you know anyone else who has a more challenging situation than yours? What steps are they taking? Isn’t there a power you are forgetting to reach for? Have you forgotten who you are and why you are here? Look around for an appropriate 12-step program — sharing with like-minded people is a great place to start your recovery.
  3. You are exhausted. You can barely get out of bed in the morning. You feel as if you haven’t really rested in recent memory. A wall of numbness surrounds you. You feel empty and immobile. Have you really not rested enough? Is your fatigue really physical?  Can you imagine a scenario where you can truly relax and “recreate”? Can you picture a place of renewal where you are truly comfortable, happy and free? Where can you find the spiritual fuel you need to revive yourself? You are sleep deprived — change your schedule to get more sleep. You deserve it.
  4. You are unbalanced and out of sync. Something is wrong with the natural rhythm of your life. You can’t connect with the healing patterns that sustain you. Have you fallen off from your practices of meditation, prayer, journaling, exercise, study, and service? What is interrupting your rhythm and keeping you off balance? What can you do to restore your healthy equilibrium of mind, body, and spirit? Meditate, meditate, meditate. 😊
  5. You are living in a box (or a cubicle). You haven’t been outside for a long time because you just don’t have the energy. You haven’t seen the sun, or the moon, for so long. You don’t know how the hills, the grass, the clouds, or that squirrel who lives in the oak tree even look any more. Your world is so small, so narrow, and so cold. How would it feel to walk outside and look up at the sky? When is the last time you visited the park, the woods, the beach and took a long walk? When is the last time you touched the earth with your bare hands or your bare feet? Go outside and enjoy, nature will revive you.


The good news is that being susceptible to burnout means you are striving to live with awareness and an open heart. Having a spell of burnout is common for those who love and give and serve.

The important thing is to realize when the fire is burning low and take steps to refuel. Don’t let the light go out! Practice self-love and compassion by healing negativity, seeking balance and rest, and joining in the company of like-minded friends who are also on the path to wellbeing.

If you’re really feeling the burn, you can register for my upcoming October retreat in Ojai and watch in awe as your energy is restored, your heart refilled, and your life aligned with your true purpose. The help you need is just one click away >>>