Wives who can’t forgive
First published on KSL.COM
I read your article about not suffering more than you have to over and over again. I get and agree with everything in it except for the forgiveness part. I feel like I can absolutely NOT forgive my husband at this time, due to how severe the situation is and how hurt I still am. Do you have any advice?
I get letters daily from heartbroken men whose wives are stuck like you are stuck and not ready to forgive. It breaks my heart because these husbands desperately want to change, have changed or are working on changing, but the wives can’t let go of the past and forgive. This is causing great suffering on both sides. (I realize in some marriages it is the husbands who can’t forgive — the same principles apply.)
Forgiving your spouse can be very hard to do, especially if the offenses feel personal, but you must not make excuses and put off doing it any longer. Forgiving is the most important lesson you are here (in the classroom of life) to learn, and the consequences of putting it off are a great deal of pain and suffering for YOU and your family.
I'm sorry, but I'm going to be blunt here, "I'm not ready" is an excuse you use when you can't articulate the real reason you don't want to forgive. You need to identify the real reason you don't want to forgive so you can work past it.
Here are some possibilities:
Do you think staying angry towards your spouse protects you from further mistreatment and that forgiving would allow more of it? Is staying mad (and casting them as the bad guy) allowing you to avoid looking at your own faults, mistakes or pain?
I have had many spouses admit that if they put down their anger towards their spouse they would have to deal with their faults and that is just too painful.
Are you using anger and hurt as an excuse to keep your spouse away from you, because you actually have issues around intimacy (discomfort or lack of desire) and you would rather avoid it? Is your anger justifying or giving you a reason not to have a healthy intimate relationship — but blame it on him?
Are you waiting to see more shame and guilt before you can forgive? Do you feel like your spouse hasn’t been punished enough? The truth is it’s healthy for people to understand the wrong and then let it go and move forward without guilt. Drawing out the shame and guilt isn’t necessary for someone to change. Are you stuck in the need to be right? Have you cast your spouse as the bad one in the marriage and you must continue to see him this way in order to feel good about yourself? Be honest.
Now, here is the truth about each of those:
Remember you aren’t perfect either. Get off your high horse. Your spouse did wrong and it sounds like this was an especially painful wrong, but you aren’t perfect either. You may not have made this mistake, but you have made others, and I guarantee there is a downside to being married to you too (there is for all of us).
You must remember that you are both imperfect, struggling students in the classroom of life, with lots more to learn, who both deserve forgiveness. You alone are responsible for the pain you are experiencing. No situation can cause you pain without your participation in it, because your thoughts and feelings are in your control. No one can take away your pain or give you pain. You alone have that power.
If you struggle to understand this principle, read my article about choosing to be upset. You must grasp the truth that you are in control of your thoughts and feelings. You don’t have to wait until you feel ready to forgive. You can choose to be ready. Your spouse is guilty of bad behavior, but he is not less of a person than you are, because you both have the same infinite and absolute value. You both have the same value no matter how many mistakes either of you make.
This is true because life is a classroom, not a test, and your value isn't on the line. That does not mean you and your spouse don't have more to learn and need to improve your behavior, but your lack of knowledge and need for improvement does not affect your value. Forgiveness is about seeing yourself and others accurately — as innocent, completely forgiven, struggling, scared, messed up, but perfect students in the classroom of life, with lots still to learn. Most of us think forgiving is about seeing people as guilty and then trying to pardon them for those mistakes. If you try to forgive this way it will never happen. You will still be hung up on the fact they are guilty.
Forgiveness will never work when it’s a gift undeserved. Real forgiveness means letting go of judgment completely and understanding that God has already forgiven all the wrongs, pain and hurt on both sides of this. The entire past has been wiped clean of all selfish, fear-based bad behavior. It is gone except for the resentment you are holding onto. It is time to let go and accept forgiveness for both of you.
You must give each other permission to be a “work in progress” and not crucify each other for mistakes. Forgiveness is the key to happiness. It is the only way to peace, confidence and security. This is just universal law. The key to forgiveness lies in one very simple choice that you must make over and over every day.
What energy do you want to live in — judgment, energy or forgiveness energy?
Judgment energy means you stand in judgment of others, condemning and crucifying them for past mistakes. If you choose this, you must understand that it will also create low self-esteem in you. This happens because you are giving power to the idea that people can be "not good enough" and this will subconsciously feel true about you too. The energy you will live in that comes with a judgment mindset is also heavy, negative and unhappy.
Your other option is a forgiveness mindset. Here you choose to forgive yourself and others and completely let go of every misconceived, stupid, selfish, fear-based mistake either of you has ever made. You choose to see these mistakes for what they really are — bad behavior born of confusion, self-doubt, lack of knowledge, low self-esteem and fear.
In this place, you choose to see everyone as innocent and forgiven (by God) for all mistakes, and in doing so, let them and you start over with a clean slate every day. If you choose this mindset, you will feel safe, loved, whole and good about yourself all the time. This energy that comes with this state is light, peaceful and happy.
The question is: How do you want to live?
(This obviously does not mean you should put up with abuse. If your spouse is emotionally, verbally or physically abusive, you should seek professional help.)
If you continue to struggle with forgiveness, I encourage you also to work with a counselor or coach who can help. I also have some forgiveness worksheets on my website that may help you work through specific offenses.
You can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach and speaker.
This was first published on KSL.COM
My brothers have deeply hurt me and my family, and I've been upset towards them for years. I hear people say all the time "it just takes time to heal." My question is whose time, how much time and how does healing happen? Because time is passing but I'm not feeling any better. Do some offenses take more time? Is there a chance I may never be able to forgive them? I am honestly trying to let it all go, but every time I think about what they did I get upset all over again. Do you have some advice for me?
The truth is time doesn't change anything. You have to do the work to change how you feel yourself … and you can do this at any time. There are situations where some distance from the offense does lessen the pain a little and may make forgiving easier, but you are still going to have to change how you see this situation if you want to feel better.
Some people never do change their mindset and continue to suffer from past offenses forever. One reader told me his father hasn’t spoken to him since Thanksgiving and hadn’t spoken to his brother since 2002. Most of these people are stuck because they either don't know how to change their perspective (this is the most common reason) or they aren't willing to change it because they are getting some benefit from staying hurt.
A couple weeks ago I wrote an article about the quirky benefits of negative thinking, and if you suspect you may be staying mad for a subconscious reason, you may want to read that one.
You must understand changing, healing and forgiving are a choice. Some people make that choice quickly right after an offense and suffer for only a short time. Others hang onto misery and choose to suffer for a long time (again usually because they don't know how to choose something else.)
It is interesting that most people heal faster if the offense involves a stranger than they do if it involves a close relative. It appears the closer the relationship the deeper the wound. Your inner state also determines how much pain an offense causes. If you have really low self-esteem and someone criticizes you, it will cause a deeper wound than if you had good self-esteem. But in the end, you have the power to consciously choose whether an offense is a deep muscle tear or a scratch.
Buddha taught that when an offense happens you should decide right then, if this is going to be a cut through water, which heals immediately, a cut through sand, which will be gone by tomorrow, or a cut through stone, which could be there for decades. You are in charge of how much and for how long you suffer.
When you get offended you immediately create a story around the offense (either consciously or subconsciously) and that story determines the amount and length of your misery. You may want to take some time and write down the story you have created about this offense. Then ask yourself the following questions:
We believe the fastest way to change how you feel about an offense is to look at it from a different perspective. When you can see the positive it has created in your life, and you can see it as a perfect lesson in your classroom journey, you may find you don’t even need to forgive your brothers anymore. Clarity can do that.
Besides, holding onto hatred is like reaching into a fire to grab a hot coal to throw at your enemy, but then realizing you are the one being burned. It would make a lot more sense to pour water on the whole thing and let it wash away.
You should hold onto the lessons this experience taught you (the positive gift) but then chalk the whole thing up to learning on every side. We are all struggling students in the classroom of life, with much more to learn. Also remember that when you are carrying a big pile of stinky old garbage from your past around with you, your arms are too full to receive the fresh, wonderful new things life is bringing you today.
It is time to set down that garbage and focus on the good in your world and choose love. Choose to see people accurately as struggling students and let them all be a work in progress, just like you. Choose to see their value as unaffected by their mistakes. When you do this, you will subconsciously see your own mistakes as not affecting your value and your self-esteem will grow.
We call this the Law of Forgiveness. You get what you give. When you criticize and judge others, you are giving power to the idea that people can be “not good enough” and this will, in the end, affect your self-esteem. You will never feel you're good enough either.
Coach Tim Eversole says there are two types of people.
People who aggrandize the good, who see more good in the world, tend to feel more joy. These people minimize the bad and therefore they feel less bad. By minimizing the bad they also create just a scratch when they are offended, and their scratches heal quickly.
Then, there are people who aggrandize the bad, who see more bad in the world and feel more sorrow and pain. They minimize the good and therefore see less good. By making the bad bigger they get big deep wounds and scars when offended that take a long time to heal.
Who do you want to be?
How do you want to live?
If you are holding onto anger thinking it is protecting you from future offenses, it isn’t. Being confident and bulletproof because you know your value cannot be diminished and doesn’t change — that is your best protection.
You may also want to read my article Forgiving a grudge without getting hurt again from 2013. Keep working on this and you can do it.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com and the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness." Tim Eversole is a certified claritypoint coach and speaker.
This article was first published on KSL.com
I consider myself a pretty optimistic person. My husband on the other hand is very negative, holds tons of resentment and is always complaining. It really is hard to be around all the negativity from him and his entire family. It's definitely a coping mechanism they all have developed. I get annoyed and shut down when he's like this and when I have ever tried to talk to him about it he gets very defensive and withdraws himself. He says he feels he can't talk to me about a lot of stuff because he doesn't want to upset me or sound like he is complaining too much... Please tell me how I can find peace with this because I know I can't make him change. I want to strengthen our relationship and communication, but I feel lost on what to do. I also worry the negative attitude will rub off on my children and that really bothers me.
In my last two articles I’ve addressed levels of consciousness and the effects of negative fear-based thinking on your life, but when your spouse is filling your world with negative energy, they can easily pull you down with them. Your significant other has more power to affect your mood than anyone else because of how important they are to you, but that is no excuse for giving your power away. You can and must remain in control of yourself and your emotions every day, especially when your spouse is struggling. You going down (in energy and spirit) with them, won’t help anyone.
Here are some things you can do to maintain your positive energy in any situation and influence your negative spouse to get more positive. First, you must understand a couple basic principles of human behavior that will help you see your spouse’s behavior accurately and remain in control of your attitude.
Principle 1: All bad behavior is based in that person’s fears for and about them.
Most of the time a person with a negative attitude is either terribly afraid they might not be good enough (they have a fear of failure) or they are afraid of loss (being walked on, taken from, or mistreated). These two core fears make them see everyone as a threat. That can also make them overly sensitive to feeling offended, put down or cheated and they will often see offenses that aren’t really there. They may also be subconsciously selfish (overly focused on their own concerns and needs) and have a hard time seeing anyone else’s. Make sure you don't take their lack of attention towards you personally. It is about their fear about themselves. It is not about you.
Principle 2: People in fear will complain and point out the bad in everything and everyone. They do this because if they stay focused on the bad outside themselves, it distracts them from the bad they are afraid is inside them.
If they can cast anyone or anything as “the bad one” that subconsciously makes them feel like they must be the “good one.” This is just one of the quirky subconscious ways we humans deal with fear of failure and we all do this (even you at times) so don’t stand in judgment here. We call this tendency the “shame and blame game.” When you feel shame or fear about yourself, you automatically look for someone else and their bad to focus on.
I want you to understand this because I’m pretty sure your husband is battling some internal fears of failure or loss. It probably helps him at some level to focus on the bad in everything around him so he doesn’t have to deal with his fear. It would be better if he could escape the fear and focus on the positive, of course, but until he learns to do that, you are right, this is his coping mechanism.
I find it helps me to accurately understand why people do this so I don’t take anything they say personally, especially when the blame comes my way. Make sure you choose forgiveness, compassion and accuracy towards your husband and understand that his negative attitude could even be serving a purpose in your life.
Yes, I said that. His negative attitude, like everything else in the classroom of life is here to serve you in some way. This may be serving you by providing a beautiful opportunity to practice choosing a positive attitude when it’s hard to do. This relationship is helping you learn to be stronger, wiser and more loving. Every time he is negative, you get to practice choosing gratitude, unconditional love and peace. If you see your situation this way, you will focus more on your own behavior, instead of being bothered by his. There are some great articles about choosing your mindset and not getting upset by things on my website. They might help you to gain more control over your emotions when things get rough at home. (Look for the white arrow.)
There are also a couple of things you could also do to help him change his negative outlook (and that secret to a happy marriage is coming). Don't go into this trying to change your husband. You have to go into this determined to love your husband more, not change him, and trust that love often creates change. If you do this right, you won’t change him - he will change himself. Then, everyone wins. (These suggestions, by the way, also apply to teens, parents or anyone else you would like to influence for the better.)
1 - Understand that every person (especially your spouse and children) wants to feel these four things on a daily basis. More than anything else they want to feel:
If you answered no, this is the problem in your relationship. You are probably bringing fear, disappointment, resentment and rejection energy into your marriage and no marriage can survive that for long.
Understand that every interaction you have with your spouse is creating either more love energy or more fear energy in the relationship. Over time, whichever you have brought more of wins. You might even keep a tally of every interaction you have during a week and mark down a point for love if you made them feel those four things, and one for fear, if you brought anything negative into the conversation. This is a great way to see how you're doing.
These interactions are also influencing the way your partner sees himself. If you want to help this person to feel better about himself and life, this is one thing you can do to help him. Make sure you do or say something everyday that makes your spouse (child or parent) feel respected, admired, appreciated and wanted. Make this your number one focus. You cannot be responsible for fixing this person’s self-esteem, because in the end he/she is the only one in control of it, but if you do these four things, every day, you can literally change the way he/she sees their self. You can lessen their fear of failure.
I mean, if a man is respected, admired, appreciated and wanted by his wife, he must not be failing too bad. Right?
This is the real secret to a happy marriage. Each person must make their spouse feel respected, admired, appreciate and wanted every day.
2) The second thing you might try is an approach we call the Encouragement Technique. Basically, you sit down with a pen and paper and describe this person at their very best. How would they behave if they were being the person they have the potential to be. Get a clear picture of this amazing person on paper.
Then look for opportunities to tell them this is who they are, right now. Thank them for being that way (even if they hardly are). In your case, you might look for anything positive in his outlook and say, “Babe you are such a positive person these days. I love how your outlook on life has changed lately. You are an amazing man who sees the good in everyone. I sure love that about you.”
If you say these kinds of things often enough, your husband will literally start seeing himself as a positive person. This technique works because people want to live up to your highest opinion of them. (Some people say they feel like they are lying when they first try this technique, but I think of it more as seeing the best in the person, even before they can see it.) It works amazingly well on kids, too. Keep telling them how amazing, smart, kind and honest they are, and if you say it often enough, this is who they will become.
Remember, love is always the answer. No amount of nagging, talking, pointing things out, begging for changes, or threatening will ever change a situation the way love can.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach and speaker.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I read your article last week about processing emotions and choosing my inner state, but I’m really struggling with negative thinking and I think you underestimate how difficult some of us have it. My life has been so much more difficult than most people get, and my situation is frankly miserable and unfair. When I try to choose gratitude for what I do have or think positive, I can literally feel my subconscious mind resisting this whole idea. I’m not sure it’s possible for everyone to just choose to think positive. I find myself complaining about my situation quite often but I think that expressing how I feel helps me. Isn’t it good for us sometimes?
Expressing negative emotions can be healthy (some of the time) as long as it is part of your process to work through them and get to a better place. If you are constantly expressing your negative feelings though, without working through them, you are just complaining, which is giving more power and energy to the negative and making it bigger in your life. This doesn’t serve you.
The steps I gave you last week to process through emotions would serve you much more, but there could be another factor in play that is making it difficult for you to choose a positive outlook. You might be getting some quirky subconscious benefits from the negative state and you might not be ready to let those benefits go.
Let me give you some examples of how this happens. Someone who is holding onto feelings of anger or hate toward another person may be getting the benefit of staying distracted from their own feelings of inadequacy. By staying focused on anger toward another person, they don’t have to deal with their own faults. If they let go of their anger they would have to deal with their pain, so anger feels like a win.
People who are constantly dwelling in feelings of inadequacy or have low self-esteem often apologize a lot, worry about what others think and need to vocally explain every aspect of their behavior. At the subconscious level they may think this fear mindset protects them at some level, because it makes them very careful what they do and say. It might even make them more polite or gracious toward others so people will like them.
They could be afraid that thinking positively about themselves would make them selfish and less cautious. They may also see self-deprecation as humility and think it's righteous. This means that low self-esteem may make them feel better in some ways. The problem is that low self-esteem makes people see you as weak and lose respect for you. Loving strength and confidence are much more attractive.
Someone who is overburdened with work, who feels stressed out and exhausted all the time, may get all kinds of benefits from these negative feelings. They may subconsciously believe this state means they are working really hard (they may believe if you don’t feel this way you aren’t working hard enough). So, they get a sense of accomplishment or self-esteem from being stressed. Complaining about being overworked may also protect them at some level, discouraging others from asking anything more from them, or giving them an excuse to say no to anything they don’t want to do. They may also like the sympathy love they get from others, who feel sorry for them when they complain.
Sympathy love is a common benefit to being in a negative state and many of us learned to use this as children to get the attention or love we needed. You may subconsciously complain about life mostly for this reason. Why else would you need to voice your complaints out loud so often? Why not just feel this way on the inside and keep it to yourself?
If you find yourself complaining a lot about how unfair your life is, how difficult you have it, how awful you are, or how miserable you are, you must ask yourself these questions:
One other thing you mentioned was that your life is unfair and more difficult than most people get. I want you to see that you have placed a label on your experience, and just because you have chosen to do this doesn’t make it true.
Beliefs like these are only true in your life if you believe they are true. They are a perspective you have chosen, but you could just as easily choose a different perspective, one that might make you feel more grateful, loved, safe and blessed even in the very same circumstances.
When I was going through a difficult time in my life, I wasn’t very happy with people who gave me the very advice I’m giving you. I felt they needed to walk a mile in my shoes (and suffer like me) before they could know how impossible it was to be positive here.
Then I read about Viktor Frankl, who suffered through the concentration camps in World War II, lost everything and everyone he loved, and who (in much more miserable circumstances than mine) found the power to choose his attitude, to find meaning and purpose in his experiences and to choose love over fear, and I realized that if he could do it — I had no excuse.
Having said that, I also know it isn’t easy and it takes time and work. I usually work with a coaching client for 3 to 6 months to teach them how to process their experiences in a different way and learn how to choose their inner state, but I promise you can get there if you keep reading, learning and practicing.
Steven Richards, who wrote "Think Your Way to Success," said, “You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.”
I believe this is true. You can change the way your life is going! I see people do it every day. Just know that you are way more powerful than you realize and you can create change by changing your thinking.
You can do this.
This article was first published on KSL.COM
I am dealing with some tough challenges including a really difficult job, and the stress is taking a huge toll on my health. I am very discouraged and frustrated and I don’t see things changing anytime soon either. I just really wish I could control my stress level. Do you have any advice for me? Is there anything I can do to feel less buried?
It is a normal part of the human condition to feel stressed and burned out on occasion, and there are definitely things you can do to brighten your outlook, lessen your suffering and lower your stress level. You can do things like get more organized and plan your time better, but I suspect from reading your letter that your real issue isn't a time management issue as much as an attitude issue. I think you would benefit most from understanding human emotion at a different level.
One of the most amazing books ever written on dealing with human emotions (in my opinion) is "Letting Go: The pathway to Surrender," by Sir David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. a nationally renowned psychiatrist. Hawkins says, “The real source of stress is actually internal; it is not external as most people would like to believe. The readiness to react with fear, for instance, depends on how much fear is already present within … to the fearful person the world is a terrifying place. To the angry person the world is a chaos of frustration and vexation. To the guilty person it is a world of temptation and sin. What we are holding inside colors our world.”
In other words, we see the world as we are. Circumstances just give us a chance to express what we already have inside us, and most of us have a great deal of fear of failure and loss inside us. We learned this fear from our parents, who probably learned it from their parents, and it probably is driving your attitude toward problems like an autopilot in your subconscious mind.
What this means is your circumstances are not the real cause of your stress, fear and discouragement, your reactivity (the way you subconsciously react) to the circumstances is. You subconsciously react to life with fear and stress.
This is good news (not bad news) because it means you have power to change the way you react to circumstances. You can change yourself on the inside and that will change how you feel about your life on the outside, even if you can’t change the negative circumstances you are in.
The first step to changing how you feel is to understand human emotions in a different way and so you can process them more objectively. Dr. Hawkins created some fascinating charts on emotion and the levels of consciousness you should see. You can download my version of the levels of consciousness charts here.
These charts show that there are two main kinds of emotions. The first are fear-based negative emotions that produce unhappiness and suffering, and the second are trust- and love-based emotions that bring peace, joy and clarity. When you live on the lower end of the scale, you tend to have lower energy, poorer relationships and worse health. When you live on the higher end you tend to have more joy, more energy, better relationships and better health.
It is interesting to see the range of emotions laid out this way and it will help you to see all emotions as mindset options. It will also remind you that you are in control of your reactions. I keep these charts handy all the time to check myself on. Also remember that you may have a subconscious tendency towards a certain level of consciousness, but you can always consciously choose your way to another.
In a specific moment, you can step back from an emotion (like stress, anger or frustration) and look at it objectively and process the thinking behind it. When doing this focus more on the emotion though, than the thoughts. Thoughts are often illogical and can keep you going in circles. If you focus on resolving the emotion, like magic, all the negative thinking that came with it will disappear. Just like a picture is worth a thousand words, an emotion is worth a thousand thoughts.
I am going to teach you a simple procedure in this article you can use to help you process emotions, but first you might need to break what you are feeling down into small pieces. Hawkins says you sometimes experience a bunch of emotions at once (especially if we are dealing with a huge issue like the loss of a loved one or big life problems like divorce). If this is the case, you will want to process one small piece at a time. Start with one thing, like feeling that life isn’t fair or the feeling of being overburdened by work.
Dr. Hawkins also says you must watch out for the three ways you might subconsciously deal with emotions, if you don’t consciously choose to process them in a healthy way. They are to:
I recommend processing emotions in a healthy way using the procedure below.
This will be an ongoing work to master your subconscious tendencies, but you can get control of yourself and experience more peace, energy and love. Learning to do this might be the main lesson you are on the planet to learn. Just keep working on it. Keep the levels of consciousness charts handy and practice doing what you do today from a state of calm, safety and trust that things will work out.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.