The Power of Forgiveness

BEFORE YOU JUDGE ON THE TITLE, let me just say this is not going to be some ultra-religious diatribe about turning the other cheek. It is instead the result of helping a friend through a mid-life crisis using a method that worked for me in the lowest points of my life. He seemed grateful for the advice, so I thought I’d share. Feel free to leave your own opinions in the comments if you feel so inclined.

The Practice of non-judgment

Yoga has helped me in many ways – not just with physical health, but mental and spiritual as well. One thing that I hear again and again in my yoga classes is to practice Non-Judgment. That is, eliminating your competitive drive and accepting your personal limits as well as the limits of others. This can be difficult in yoga because of the physical aspect. For example, I attended a level 2/3 class the other day, and was frustrated to find that a ten year old girl in the class had more strength and flexibility than I did. Eventually, I had to close my eyes to quieten my competitive spirit and focus on my own practice instead of letting her actions affect me.

Non-Judgment is about discovering how to become the best ‘you’ without beating yourself up over your faults or through comparison to others. Usually, though – as in the case with my friend – there are underlying reasons behind self-criticism, and maintaining Non-Judgment is not as easy as it sounds.

Attacking the problem Head-On

When I first met my friend with whom I shared this advice, it was apparent in his mannerisms, speech and the way he interacted with others that he was not entirely comfortable with himself nor at peace with his childhood. Later, when I asked him about it, he tried to change the subject, mentioning that he was planning to go to a meditation class to ‘fix it’.

Here’s where I take issue and where I think a lot of people get stuck: instead of finding the courage to deal with your problems head-on, you expect that taking a drug or attending a class or a religious service, or a whatever will automatically eliminate the problems you’re experiencing. But unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘cure’. Obviously, establishing a good support group is a very important part of getting out of depression, but ultimately, if you’re unable to address your problems head-on, any religious service or group you attend to ‘fix it’ is just going to be a band-aid. This is where the practice of Forgiveness comes in.

Finding Confidence through Forgiveness

What I found in my case – when I searched deep enough – was a series of grudges that I just couldn’t let go of. I held them against friends, family members, ex-boyfriends, and most of all, myself. They ranged in size from minutiae to the extreme, and they affected me every day. When I identified these grudges to be the main cause of my distress, I became intent on eliminating them.

The funny thing about a grudge is that it’s hurting you more than the person against whom you’re holding it. Not only does it take effort to maintain a grudge, but grudges also give you an excuse not to achieve self-actualization. Your lack of success in whatever realm gets blamed on someone else, “Well if so-and-so hadn’t have done x, I’d be in a better position now.” In my opinion, self-pity is the arch-nemesis of a person trying to pull out of depression. But I digress.

What I told my friend, and what I’d like to share with you here is how to make peace with your past through forgiveness. When I asked my friend if he’d forgiven whoever it was in his past that had affected him so deeply, his immediate response was, “Yes.”

“But have you really forgiven them?” I asked, “Have you searched deep within yourself and let go of that grudge with a quiet, but true ‘It’s OK, I forgive you.’?”

“No, no I guess I haven’t,” he said.

This is the catch. Forgiveness is not just a verbal statement. True forgiveness is not as easy as saying, “I accept your apology”, nor is it something that you do once and you’re suddenly cured. Instead, it is a daily practice of making peace with the past by letting go of your grudges. Depending on the magnitude of the grudge, it can take immense and continuous effort or be as simple as closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and letting go.

Sometimes letting go of particular grudges requires both deep inner searching and daily reminders. If there is something in your past that affects you greatly, chances are, it will come up in your thoughts on a regular basis. When this happens, pay attention to what your face and body do – do you tense up? Try calming yourself first by relaxing your muscles, then do your best to smile and remind yourself that you’ve forgiven that person, you’ve forgiven yourself, and you’re at peace with the situation.

Using Forgiveness in Daily Life

One of my goals this year has been to be more forgiving with the people with whom I interact in my daily life. I have always had problems with road rage, and so my biggest challenge has been to stay calm on the road, even when someone does something stupid. The result has been a much calmer, nicer, less stressed me, which is pretty important when I’m operating a huge vehicle at high speeds.

You can translate this practice to any aspect of your life, and you will be amazed at the changes you’ll feel in your overall happiness. You become practically impervious to insult or embarrassment because you’ve learned to forgive whomever has insulted you, or yourself for doing something stupid.

Is Forgiveness The Answer??

Forgiveness is just one method to help you find the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is by no means “the answer”. I do think, however, that practicing Forgiveness can give you the strength to delve deeper into your problems and to discover the best way to climb out.

Maybe later I’ll write a post about dealing with other issues such as coming to terms with death, getting over panic attacks and motivating yourself, but I don’t want to write a novel, so I’ll end this post here. I’d love to get your opinions, so feel free to leave a note in the comments if you agree/disagree or just want to share.

My Twitter Policy

To Tweet or not to Tweet

Recently, a twitter follower and work associate, @lawryn_m, of mine posted a link to an article, “Three Things You Shouldn’t Tweet“. I read the article and found myself guilty at one point or another of all three. But I have to say, while these are (decent) guidelines for companies or strictly-business people, I don’t think they should apply to the majority of tweeters. To be fair, if you are constantly updating your current location or whining about one thing or another, your followers are going to get annoyed. BUT, above all, I think it’s important to BE REAL. People respond best when they know they’re talking to a real person, not getting some filtered comment that was run through a PR agency before making it to Twitter.

Here’s a little something I came up with a few months ago on my personal Twitter policy. Check it out below.

For businesses, twitter is like advertising by word-of-mouth. It’s more of a community than a traditional advertising campaign. People on Twitter want to get to know you personally, not just what your business can do for them. This is great because you can establish customer loyalty by getting to know them. It allows your business to have a mom-and-pop feel with the customer range of a big corporation.

I like to think of Twitter in two analogies:

1) Twitter is like walking into a cocktail party. You probably know a few people there, but most of them you’ve never seen. Since it’s a party, it’s perfectly acceptable to go up to someone and start a conversation with them. This is how you get to know them on Twitter. The only difference is, you can target your Twitter friends by reading their interests and seeing who they follow, making it easier to decide who to start conversations with.

• Target people using search words related to your business, location, or interests

• It’s perfectly acceptable to respond to the tweet of someone you don’t know. This is actually appreciated!

2) Twitter is like a neighborhood. Once you have established some connections, you want to stop by and say hi to everybody, keep up with what they’re doing, help them promote their projects and expect to be promoted in return. Most people on Twitter will be good neighbors if you are one too!

Great ways to act neighborly include:

• Retweeting a tweet you liked (“RT” or “via”)

• Mentioning or CCing someone in a tweet @theirtwitterhandle

• Sending someone a Direct Message (great if you are exchanging several messages or a “welcome new follower” message)

• Follow Friday (FF): Mentioning a handful of people on any Friday that you think others should follow, show of appreciation

• Follow back. Someone took the time to follow your updates. If they aren’t a spammer, a “quote bot”, or tweet in a language you don’t understand, show some love and follow them back.

How to write good tweets:

Is it informative, funny or conversational? If not, don’t tweet it.

If you can, always post a link (use a URL shortener like or if your application doesn’t do it automatically)

Use hashtags and descriptors that can be searched for easily

I have a thousand million followers and follow just as many! How do I keep my tweets organized?

Lists. I’m a big believer in lists. I have a list of people I know personally that I keep up with (this is especially helpful for friends and family who don’t tweet often and would otherwise be lost in the flood of tweets). I also have a list of people I chat with often on Twitter (usually you end up on this list if you have ever mentioned me in a tweet.) and a handful of lists related to topics that interest me.

• Use a desktop application. I use TweetDeck, the app that organizes all your lists, tweets, searches, etc into separate columns and sends you alerts via Growl when you receive new tweets from specific lists or people. I’ve also used Tweetie and Twhirl in the past, which are a little less complex and fairly user-friendly.

Tweet via text. This may seem a little old school, but I love receiving text messages every time someone mentions me on Twitter. It allows me to respond quickly and to carry on a conversation I might otherwise miss. Sometimes it can lead to trouble, though, as you have to manually type the person’s twitter handle (potential for typos), and you can’t see their profile when you respond.  Sign up to receive tweets via text on the settings page of your profile on the Twitter homepage.

Go forth and tweet!

Obviously these are just guidelines, and you don’t have to follow them to a T(weet). Use your judgment; everybody breaks the rules now and again, but I think the one rule you should follow all the time is to BE REAL. Twitter is about creating personal relationships with people you’d never otherwise be able to connect with. So go forth, make friends and tweet!

Another good blog post about twitter: Ted’s Twitter Follow-Back Policy


Why I de-friended you: Keeping Up with Facebook’s Changes

It’s true, I’m a de-friender.

You probably find it ironic that I keep my blog 100% public, but am very careful about who I add on Facebook. When you think about it, though, Facebook is an entirely different beast. On my blog(s), I have absolute control over what gets posted and what does not. On Facebook, I am often at the mercy of my friends and the applications to which I’ve subscribed. Though I do my best not to post anything I wouldn’t want my Grandma to read, my Facebook wall tends to be more candid than anything I publish elsewhere on the web, and it’s impossible to control what your friends tag you in and applications that alert the entire Facebook world every time you read a news article.

It’s particularly important to safeguard your contact and other personal information from people you don’t know, and Facebook’s constant interface “upgrades” make it difficult to keep up with who can see what on your page. This is the main reason I periodically weed out people from my friends page – to protect my privacy and to preempt Facebook’s changes.

Usually, my policy is if I don’t feel comfortable writing “Happy Birthday” on your wall once a year when that day rolls around, then I probably should not be your Facebook friend. But lately I have modified my friend qualifications.

When deciding whether or not to de-friend someone, I ask myself these questions:

1) Are they a person?
If you are a gallery, store, restaurant, or other organization, you should not have a profile page. I will “like” your fan page; I might even join your group, but I will not add you as a friend.

2) Do I recognize them? Would they recognize me?
Sometimes, I add someone as a friend (or accept their friendship) after just meeting them, but then I have no further interaction with them. After a while, I forget who they are completely. So I delete them. Even if I do recognize them, I ask myself, “Would they recognize me? Would they wave to me if they saw me in the street?” If the answer to those questions is no, they get the axe.

3) Have I communicated with them in the last year?
This one is not definite, and I refer to #4-7 for exceptions, but generally, if I have not communicated with someone in any way, shape or form (basically, have we acknowledged each other’s existence) in a year or longer, I de-friend them.

4) Are they related to me?
This includes not only blood relatives, but family friends, childhood friends, and siblings’ best friends and significant others.

5) Are we former friends?
I have several Facebook friends with whom I was close at some point, but our friendship has since lapsed. Even though we haven’t talked in over a year, I know we’d say hi to each other if we passed on the street.

6) Have we worked together?
This one is a bit tricky, because you don’t want to share too much personal information with business associates. However, I feel that maintaining that relationship however you can, especially if you work freelance, may keep you in the back of their minds (or them in the back of yours) for some project down the road. Besides, I have other measures of restricting content on my Facebook page (see below).

7) Do I consider them cool/interesting/nice/non-creepy or otherwise worth keeping up with?
This one is for people that don’t fall into one or more of the above categories, but I’d like to keep up with them because they seem like someone with whom I’d get along and/or I’d like to be friends with them but just never had the opportunity to get to know them better.

Besides de-friending people, there are other ways to restrict what others can see on your profile. One of my favorite tools on Facebook is the “View As…” button. This is located on your profile page under the settings wheel button. You can type in any name or group to see exactly what they can see on your page. You can also see how the general public views your page.

Create groups and restrict what they can see. I got on board with this idea as soon as Facebook created groups, though it took ages to sort all of my friends. Groups are extremely convenient (once you’ve sorted your existing friends) because you need only add each new friend to a certain group, say “work” or “relatives” or “best friends”, and what they can view will be restricted according to your settings for that group. (As a side note, these types of groups are the basis for the Google+ interface). Facebook has recently added easier-to-use pre-made groups such as “acquaintances” and “close friends”, as well as categorizing people by work or location. You can also now restrict individual posts to certain people if you want.

I’m here to say, it’s OK to be that girl (or guy). If you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings, remind yourself that your privacy should be top priority, and go ahead and click that “delete friend” button.