As I look around the world, I see a world in need of forgiveness instead of a world immersed in blaming, bitterness, and vindictiveness. What do you see?
I am a purveyor of great, inspiring and enduring quotes, three of which have held the top spots and been uncrackable for twenty-five years. Before I tell you the quote that was the first to leapfrog those three and left them in the dust and so I don’t tease you about them, here they are:
If you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day;
If you teach a person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime;
If you teach a person to learn, you feed them for a lifetime…
And they don’t have to just eat fish
The purest form of listening is to listen without memory or desire.
First we are children to our parents,
then parents to our children,
then parents to our parents,
then children to our children
Those three have especially inspired me for many years, but the number one quote which tops my list currently is:
The reason that quote is so powerful to me is that I have noticed that most people have an unforgiving streak in their personality. And if and when the unforgiving streak acts like a cancer and metastasizes through their psyche and personality, they will become embittered and make themselves and everyone around them miserable.
It is painful to watch that happen and painful to be around such a person. I can personally attest to both.
Since immersing myself in that quote and then internalizing it, my life has changed for the better. One special application of it has been in accepting the apology from my deceased father who died twenty-two years ago.
My dad was very hard working, was a “dyed in the wool” accountant type and when I showed him a 90, he would usually respond, “You can do better.” Wanting his full approval and praise for my grade, I took that to mean, “This is crap.” As a result, I always carried a bit of a chip on my shoulder towards him.
But when I realized that to a numbers guy a 90 meant you actually could always do better and get a 100, I realized he wasn’t saying what I did was bad at all.
So, applying to him “the apology I never received,” I now hear him say in my mind’s eyes, “I never meant to say a 90 was bad. In fact, it was great and so are you and if I were alive I would be completely astonished at what you have accomplished in both your professional and personal life and I would be very proud to be your dad.”
As I have heard him say those words, which I am certain he felt, I spontaneously say in my mind’s eye, “I’m sorry I resented you for that and many other things you said and did that you didn’t mean to hurt or upset me.”
And then feeling my forgiveness and asking his, I become a bit emotional, exhale and think how sad it was for that not to have happened when he was alive, so we could both enjoy a different relationship.
If you read this and it speaks to you, I hope you will apply it and enjoy a new and joyful relationship within your life and not wait until it’s too late.
This story first appeared at the Huffington Post.
Mark Goulston, M.D., the author of the book Just Listen, is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.