Have YOU Found Your True Forgiveness?

Mike George

(Clear Thinking is Monthly at the moment)

There is a huge difference between a hurt body and hurt feelings.  Someone or something can cause you physical pain but no one can cause you to suffer emotionally…if you so decide.  However, it seems that few us learn to make the clear distinction between physical pain and emotional suffering.  As the old saying goes pain is compulsory but suffering is optional.  Unless it’s chronic, then physical pain is usually a one time event before it subsides.  But emotional suffering tends to linger longer.

Our feelings usually ‘hurt’ following something someone says about us, to us, or behaves badly towards us.  And those feelings can last a long time depending on how much we repeat the experience in our own minds.  And yet, if we cast our mind back to the school playground we may remember singing, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me”.  We would call each other horrible names and mock each other mercilessly and yet, the next moment, we would play on as if nothing was said.  Unfortunately, as we grow up, we tend to become increasingly sensitive to what other people say to us and about us.  Suddenly we start taking things personally and we are easily offended.  Why?  The ego.  As we grow we develop our ego, which is essentially an image of ourselves that we create in our minds.  We become attached to that image and it becomes our subtle identity.  And if people say or do anything that contradicts that image we become offended and create ‘hurt feelings’.  We inflict emotional suffering upon our self. The principle therefore sounds something like this: “No one can hurt me, but I can use you (what to say) to hurt my self”.

We are of course talking about our emotions and not our body.  When someone hurts your body they don’t hurt you, they hurt your body.  You feel the physical pain of course, as the body sends the appropriate signals to the brain.  But the hurt feelings i.e. ‘emotional suffering’ is always a choice.  We can choose to instantly forget the physical pain and it’s cause if we want, or we can keep remembering it and keep generating anger and/or resentment towards the person who caused the physical pain.  It’s a choice, but only if we can see the choice.  And it seems many can’t, simply because no one teaches us to be aware of the emotions that we feel.  Even fewer of us learn that we are entirely responsible for our emotional state.  Realising that we are the creator of our feelings and that we can choose our feelings is one of the most significant steps in re-empowering our self and being the master of our own life.

There are seven frequent occurrences following which we tend to generate emotional suffering.  These are when people insult us, gossip about us, ignore us, reject us, betray us, deceive us or let us down.  These are the behaviours that may ‘trigger’ our hurt, but they never actually ‘cause’ our hurt feelings.  Here is why.


We feel rejected when we interpret others attitudes and behaviour towards us as non-accepting.  If it happens often enough we will start looking for evidence of rejection almost as soon as we meet someone.  The belief that we are ‘rejectable’, that for some reason we are not worthy of others acceptance, has set in.  If it pains us emotionally, if we feel hurt by others apparent rejection, it means we are coming to the relationship in a state of neediness.  It’s the need to be accepted and approved by the other which underlies any hurt feelings.  It’s this neediness that usually sits under any insecurities that we may feel in any relationship.  If we can free ourself from needing to get the acceptance and approval of others we would probably never ‘decide’ to feel hurt by their behaviour towards us even if it was overtly rejecting.  Not so easy in a world where most of us are taught to build our sense of self on how others see us and act towards us.


Sometimes it seems there is nothing worse than being ignored by another.  Even worse if its by a group of ‘others’!  At least in rejection there is some engagement, some acknowledgment of our presence and existence!  Can we live without the acknowledgement of another?  Can we survive being ignored?  Well we usually do.  But it’s emotionally painful because we are dependent on others acknowledgement to give us the feeling that we exist and that we are of value.  Perhaps the only way free of yet another form of neediness is to affirm our own existence and to find ways to make our self of value to others.  Being of value to others is the context in which we grow our awareness of our own value, our own worth.  And when we ‘know’ our value, which is also one of the deepest foundations of self-confidence, our neediness dissolves.  Then, if someone ignores us, it’s OK!  Besides who knows why ‘they’ do what they do, it’s their choice!


It’s hard to overcome the feeling of hurtfulness when you know someone has lied to you, when you know you’ve been been ‘had’, you’ve been deceived.  We expect others, especially those close to us, to be honest and open and well…straight!  So we are not only surprised when there is deception, we take it personally, and start to feel hurt by the other.  Sometimes it’s a hurt that we will hold on to for many years.  But it’s not the others deviousness that hurts us, it’s our expectation of them. It’s a our sense of our self as someone who is worthy of ‘their’ best behaviour that is the underlying cause of our feeling offended.  We then upset our self when they behave in the ways that we don’t expect, in ways that do not acknowledge and affirm that image we have of our self i.e. as someone deserving of the honesty and openness of others.

The only way free of our hurt is to seek to understand them.  When we find out why they seem to have deceived us we usually find it’s nothing to do ‘with me’ and more to do with a flaw in their character, a fear of revealing something, an avoidance of being exposed, a strategy to hide something from us.   We will likely find they are, in some way, fear full!  Only our understanding of the other can give us the internal impetus to transform our hurt and condemnation into understanding and compassion.

Ultimately the deepest way free of hurt in almost all such instances is to drop our expectations of the other.  But if that’s a bridge too far then perhaps, to begin with, we can separate our happiness from having our expectations met.

You are spreading GOSSIP about me!

We live in the age of the gossip.  The media has spawned it’s many social offspring.  Social media gives us access to others peoples lives and an opportunity to interpret, comment and tell stories about other peoples activities.  It gives us the power to build a reputation and project that reputation to hundreds of thousands of people almost instantly.  That’s when we become ‘reputation dependent’!  We want others to see and think of us in a certain way, usually as a good person (minimum) and perhaps also as a great person (maximum!) if not a beautiful person!  We then become dependent on others affirmation of our goodness, acknowledgement of our beauty, if not our greatness!  We want to be recognised and we become dependent on others for how we see our self and feel about our self.  It’s no surprise we become super sensitive to what others are saying about us.  And it’s even less of a surprise when we become easily hurt by the slightest slur on our character.  Sometimes simply the absence of admiration is enough to tip us into feeling ever so slightly…hurt!

Sometimes we encounter someone who has no concern for what others think of them.  Yet they are still warm and sensitive people to be with. We may say they have a thick skin.  Deep down however we probably appreciate, respect and even admire their ability to stay unfazed by the judgments, stories and even slander that others may spread about them.  They seem free on the inside.  They are not dependent on others for how they see and feel about themselves.


“You let me down.  I’m so disappointed in you”.  Both statements are code for ‘you made me suffer’!  It’s one of the most prevalent illusions of modern society.  These exchanges usually start somewhere in childhood in the relationship between parent and child.  In those moments we learn that we are responsible for others feelings and therefore others are responsible for our feelings. They are fatal lessons.  They will guarantee a lifetime of unhappiness born of a dependency on others for what we feel within our self.  The only way free is to realise that no one is responsible for what we feel, no one ever lets us down.  We let our self down.  And ‘down’ usually means we bring our self ‘down’ from a happy or contend state to a sad or agitated state…even when ‘they’ are just five minutes late!  Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that seems to trigger our ‘down’.  Imagine a life where, regardless of what others do or what anyone else says, you cannot be ‘let down’.  Can you smell the freedom, the stability, the contentment within your self and at the same time the consistent ability to ‘be there’  for others regardless of what they do, of how ‘late’ or ‘remiss’ they may be.  Is that not what we sometimes call unconditional love?

You just INSULTED me!

“I was so offended when they said that to me.  It was such an insult when they said that to you.  I am not only going to be personally offended but I’m also going to be offended on your behalf!”  Well perhaps we don’t say exactly that but we do become indignant and create the feeling of being insulted even when others are insulted and it wasn’t directed at us.  It’s as if we identify with their suffering and join in, ensuring that we suffer with them.  Some people will remember an insult for the rest of their lives and not realise the memory is as good as the best prison cell!  They lock themselves up in the memory of the images and feelings of their moment of emotional pain.  Then, perhaps one day, they may see that it wasn’t them that was insulted it was just an image of themselves that was in contradiction to what was said.  They may realise that the ‘self’, the ‘I’ that says ‘I am’, has no image.  The self  creates images in the mind but has no image of itself!  This takes us into the spiritual territory which is why it’s perhaps the deepest freedom a human being can ‘realise’.  And when we do live from this free, inner space, it just doesn’t matter what anyone says to us, it will have no effect.  And we certainly won’t be saying, “You just hurt my feelings’.


“But you promised.  You promised you wouldn’t say anything.  You said you wouldn’t tell!”.  We all view the breaking of a promise as a betrayal.  The worst seems to be the transfer of a ‘promised exclusive intimacy’ from one to another.  Otherwise known as an affair!  The hurt feelings go deep and often turn out to be expensive!  What started out as love can end as hate filled resentment and the emotional wounds may last a lifetime.  But wait a minute!  Why all the weeping and wailing?   Why the indescribable emotional pain and everlasting misery?  Could it just be expectation again?  Could it just be dependency on another to bolster our own ego…again?

Could it be that we didn’t realise that trusting another and then expecting that trust to be be upheld, fulfilled, respected, was just our mistake?  Who knows what makes someone betray a trust.  There could be a thousand reasons ranging from their fears to their weaknesses.  But as long as we ‘expect’, as long as we ‘depend’, as long as we ‘believe’ the other will never betray us, then we can also pretty much guarantee that one day we are going to feel hurt, let down, devastated, for a few moments or for a very long time.  Unless!  Unless we realise the emotional hurt is our responsibility.  Unless we realise we have a choice.  Not an easy choice to see in such moments for sure.  But we don’t have to suffer. People break promises.  That’s a reality on planet earth!

Paradoxically, or perhaps weirdly, in the middle of of such suffering we may even have the thought, “What did I do to make them betray me?”,  as we turn the emotional gun on our self.  Crazy!  So crazy it’s almost pure comedy!  But it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

And so… the result of understanding what’s really going on during and after all these reasons to be hurt is seeing that it’s not ‘them’ that is hurting my feelings, it’s me that is generating the emotional suffering, usually a mix of sadness and anger.  That’s why, at an emotional level, forgiving the other is slightly irrelevant.  It only affirms our self image as a victim.  And that’s the best invitation for it to happen again.  There is in fact a deeper level of forgiveness that can release us from all such moments of emotional pain.

All of these scenarios have one thing in common.  There is one reason why we are hurting our self emotionally in each of these seven examples.  It’s dependence.  It’s the moment when we think, “I am not getting what I WANT or they are not doing what I WANT or they are not being the way I WANT!”

In such moments we are really saying, “My life is ‘for getting’ what I WANT.  I am alive, I am here, in order to GET something”.  But that’s not quite the purpose of life, it’s not quite how life is designed to be lived, so the sages and the saints have reminded us for eons.  We don’t come here to GET something we come here to GIVE.  To GIVE of our self.  As soon as we realise, “My life is FOR GIVING,” we discover the true meaning of forgiveness…for giving!  And as soon as we stop depending and expecting, which are just ‘wanting’ in disguise, it will be impossible for us to ever be emotionally hurt.  And if you don’t ever get hurt emotionally then the idea of forgiveness is irrelevant.

So, when someone stands on our foot on the train there is a moment of truth, a moment when we are being tested.  Will we forgive and forget their clumsiness (or our misplaced foot!) and get on with our life.  Or will we fume with an indignant anger for the rest of our journey?

Question: Which of the seven reasons do you experience as the most frequent excuse to create emotional suffering?

Reflection: What is it that you want/wanted from the other that they did not give you/be for… you?

Action: Choose to give something of your self to the person whom you previously thought was the cause of your hurt feelings (but now you know they were just a trigger!) and notice how this ‘giving’ heals your hurt.

by Mike George

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