Dear Diary: Finding peace through forgiveness . . .

Forgiveness (butterfly)

“Recognise the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) and honour wherever you fall in the process”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu have written a book called: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and our World. I read about this book in the You Magazine (http://www.you.co.za) dated 15 May 2014 and thought I should share some of this with you.

In this book the authors speak of the fourfold path to forgiveness, i.e.
1) Telling your story to the person you have to forgive
2) Naming the hurt
3) Granting forgiveness
4) The renewal or release of a relationship

Forgiveness is not something we give to the other person. In reality, it is something we give ourselves – we get to cut the chains holding us to the person who hurt us. Forgiveness is not easy – to be angry, devastated and grief-stricken are all valid and appropriate responses – they are all part of the journey of forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesnt excuse behaviourpg

How do we start the journey of granting forgiveness or being forgiven?

The authors talk about The Revenge Cycle:
“Whenever we’re injured we face the choice of whether to retaliate or reconnect”, the authors write.”

The revenge cycle looks like this:
• Hurt, harm or loss
• Pain
• Choosing to harm
• Rejecting shared humanity
• Revenge, retaliation, payback
• Violence, cruelty
• Hurt, harm or loss

The forgiveness cycle follows a fourfold path.
In choosing to heal . . .
• We tell the story
• Name the hurt
• Grant forgiveness (recognising shared humanity)
• Renewing or releasing the relationship

The authors then give very useful and practical exercises to be completed. (I’ve heard of similar exercises like writing a letter to the person who hurt you and then to throw the letter into a fire or to burn the letter to release the feelings of hurt and to move on with your life). The exercises provided in the book are as follows:

THE STONE RITUAL:
Carrying the stone:
• You need a stone the size of the palm of your hand
• For one full morning (about six hours) hold the stone in your non-dominant hand i.e. if you are right-handed, you will need to carry the stone in your left hand and vice versa. Do not put the stone down for any reason during this six hour period.
• At the end of six hours, proceed to the journal exercise (the journal will only be read by you).

JOURNAL EXERCISE:
• What did you notice about carrying the stone?
• When did you notice it most?
• Did it prevent you from completing any other activities?
• Was the stone ever useful?
• In what ways was carrying the stone like carrying an un-forgiven hurt?
• Make a list of people you need to forgive in your life
• Make a list of all those you’d like to have forgiven you

THE CLOAK OF SAFETY (Mindfulness Exercise):
Forgiveness can sometimes feel like it’s too much work, when all you want to do is to be still and feel safe. Create a cloak of safety that will always be within reach.

• Start by sitting comfortably. You may prefer to close your eyes lightly.
• Pay attention to your breathing. Don’t direct it – follow it. (Think about how your chest moves up when you breathe in and down when you breathe out).
• When you have settled into the rhythm of your breathing, allow yourself to feel the cloak of safety surrounding you like fabric.
• What is the texture of this cloak? Does it have a colour? Does it have a fragrance?
• Settle into this cloak. Does it feel warm or cool?
• Describe this cloak in your imagination as fully as you are able to. Pull the cloak around you and settle into feeling safe.
• When you need this cloak, know it is there and you can just reach for it.

THE BOX OF SORROWS:
You may want to surround yourself with the cloak of safety you created.
• Create a safe space. Think about a place of safety. It could be real or imaginary. See this place fully and inhabit it. Relax into this place.
• Someone is calling for you. The one who is calling for you speaks in a voice filled with warmth, love and delight. When you’re ready, welcome this person into your safe space. Who is your companion? Is it a loved one, a friend or a spiritual figure?
• Between you and your companion sits an open box. Tell your companion the story of the hurt you carry. Tell the truth about how you have been wounded, disdained, disrespected, shamed or disregarded in as much detail as you can remember. As you speak, see the hurt and the words pouring out of you like a stream. Watch the stream being poured into the box. When you’ve said all there is to say, close the box of sorrows.
• Take the box into your lap. When you are ready, hand the box to your trusted companion. Know that the box is in safe hands. You don’t need to carry those sorrows any longer.
• When you are ready, you may leave your place of safety. Know that your trusted companion will take your box of sorrows from the place but will return it should you have a need for it.

HOW TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE HARM DONE:
If a friend comes to you asking you to help them with their process of forgiving you should do the following:
• Listen
• Do not try to fix the pain
• Do not minimise the loss
• Do not offer any advice
• Do not respond with your own loss or grief (don’t tell your own story)
• Keep confidentiality
• Offer your love and caring
• Empathise and offer comfort

JOURNAL EXERCISE:
Forgiveness is a process of letting go:
• Think of the things you must give up or let go in order to forgive. The list might include things such as the right to revenge or the expectation of an apology. It might even include having to give up an expectation that the person who hurt you will understand the pain they have caused.
• As you make your list, pause with each item and offer thanks for the ability to let go of what you don’t need in order to forgive.

NAMING THE HURT:
• Identify the feelings within the facts. Remember, no feelings are wrong, bad or invalid.
• Recognise the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) and wherever you fall in the process.
• Find someone who will acknowledge you and listen to your feelings without trying to fix them.
• Accept your own vulnerability.
• Move forward when you are ready.

Forgiveness not done for others

GRANTING FORGIVENESS:
• Forgiveness is a choice
• We grow through forgiving
• Forgiving is how we move from victim to hero in our story
• We know we are healing when we are able to tell a new story

RENEWING OR RELEASING THE RELATIONSHIP:
This is a stone ritual in which you decide whether you should release the stone and all it symbolises or turn it into something else.
• Decide whether you will turn your stone into a new thing of beauty or release it back into nature.
• If you have chosen to renew the stone, decide how you will paint it or decorate it. You may also choose to turn it into something useful in your home or garden.
• If you have chosen to release your stone, you may take it back to the place where you found it and put it down or you may take it to a new place that is meaningful to you.
• Nothing is wasted. Everything, even a stone, has its purpose.

JOURNAL EXERCISE:
• Was it possible to make something beautiful from what you had?
• How difficult was it to do so?
• What did you learn about the renewing and releasing [of a relationship] as you completed this exercise?

WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED TO BE FORGIVEN:
• Get the support you need.
• Admit the wrong (although the path to making it right may or may not include telling your story to the person you have injured. Revealing an unknown betrayal may cause a deeper injury to the victim than that person’s ignorance or your deed. If this is the case, tell your story to a trusted counsellor).
• Witness the anguish and apologise.
• Ask for forgiveness.
• Make amends or whatever restitution or reparation is called for or needed.
• Honour your victim’s choice to renew or release the relationship.

STONE RITUAL: SETTING DOWN THE STONE:
• You will need a heavy stone. You want to feel its weight as burdensome.
• Walk with this stone some distance to a private place.
• Admit to the stone what you’ve done.
• Then tell the stone the anguish you have caused.
• Apologise to the stone and ask for forgiveness. You may imagine the person you have harmed in your mind’s eye or ask God for forgiveness.
• Decide what you can do to make amends to the person you harmed or how you can help others.
• Then set the stone down in nature.

Forgiveness_Life becomes easier

Wow, this sure is powerful stuff. There is so much food for thought here. The exercises are simple yet practical. Just reading all of this makes me want to go out to buy the book, don’t you?

The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and the World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu (Harper Collins) is available through http://www.kalahari.com

PEACE
It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work, it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
– Unknown

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Dear Diary: HIV and Me – I know my status: do you know yours?

AIDS Ribbon 3D_Stick figures

Newspaper headline recently: “36 percent of South African women in early 30s have HIV”

Quoting directly from the newspaper the article went on to say . . .
A number of shocking statistics have emerged from a major national HIV study (The SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey) launched by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

• More than one third (36 percent) of women in their early 30s in South Africa are now HIV-positive
• HIV incidence (the rate of new infections) is higher among unmarried couples living together than among single people
• Females between the ages of 15 and 19 are eight times more likely to be infected by HIV than their male counterparts
• A disturbing trend among both genders is an increase in multiple sex partners for the 15 – 49 age group
• More males are losing their virginity before the age of 15 years (increased from 11 percent in 2008 to approximately 17 percent now) but girls having sex before 15 years dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent
• More females than before were having sex with men who were much older than them
• 15 – 49 age group: 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men infected
• 30 – 34 age group: 36 percent infected
• 25 – 29 age group: 28 percent infected
• 40 – 44 age group: 28 percent infected
• 15 – 24 age group (new infections) is 4 times higher than boys of the same age. Could this be due to the “Sugar Daddy Syndrome”?

Is HIV infection a greater risk for women? If so, why?

• Increase in risky sexual behaviour/multiple sexual partners?
• Infrequent use of condoms?
• Women are more vulnerable to rape?
• Socio-economic issues?

Blood drop

MULTIPLE SEXUAL PARTNERS:
Having sex before marriage and having multiple sexual partners no longer carries the stigma of shame it used to in years gone by. Sound Biblical morals have been replaced by self-centred selfishness in that “I have needs (sexual) which need to be met” and these “needs” don’t need to wait until I am in a committed relationship to be met. Women also bow to pressure from men to sleep with them for fear of them moving on and finding someone else, believing that if they sleep with the man, he will commit to marrying them.

Before long, they find that they have gone through a number of “sure thing” relationships still ending up unmarried in the end. What women fail to understand is that each time they sleep with a man, they are sleeping with all the sexual partners he has ever had in his life. Men are not open and honest about how many they have had so women never find out the truth. If the man turns out to be HIV positive, he more than likely will not even know how he contracted the virus.

INFREQUENT USE OF CONDOMS:
Those in abusive relationships find it difficult to negotiate sex and to tell their partners to use condoms. Some women are forced to engage in unprotected sex because they don’t have a choice i.e. they depend on the man for money (he is more likely the breadwinner in the family).

Women are more vulnerable to rape and therefore don’t have a choice in the matter. They are so busy trying to protect themselves from being raped that there simply is no time to negotiate with the rapist (especially if it is a date rape or husband raping his wife).

Women tend to date older men and therefore are at risk of being infected. Younger men have a lower HIV prevalence.
Rural women vs urban women are more at risk due to lack of education and resources.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS:
Most women are still financially dependent on their male partners and therefore are powerless when it comes to negotiating safe sex. Many women are also living in abusive relationships and fear leaving the man because they think they will not be able to cope on one income so they sacrifice their own health by giving in to the man’s demands regardless of their own concerns.

Blood Droplet_Cartoon Face

TRIBAL CUSTOM/TRADITION:
The Ovahimba and Ovazemba nomadic tribes, based mainly in Namibia’s arid north areas have practised wife swopping for generations.

The practice is more of a gentleman’s agreement where friends can have sex with each other’s wives with no strings attached. The wives have little to say in the matter. The men belive that the age-old custom strengthens friendships and prevents promiscuity. They believe it’s a culture that gives them unity and friendship. It’s up to the man to choose among his friends who he likes the most to allow him to sleep with his wife.

Known as “Okujepisa omukazenda” loosely translated means “offering a wife to a guest”. The practice is not widely known outside these reclusive communities.

Tribal members don’t make random draws to pair couples. They meet in their own homes, while the wife or husband of the other party goes to a separate hut during the exchange. Women cannot object to sleeping with a man chosen by their husbands. Most women are opposed to the practice and would like it abolished.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

The Day I Taught How Not to Rape

Well written and worth reading.

Abby Norman

Yesterday, the news invaded my classroom. I think the kids aren’t paying attention. I think the kids only care about the news as it relates to Justin Bieber. I think they aren’t listening or capable of advanced thought. Every single time I think one of those things, I sell out the ninth-graders that come traipsing through my room every day.

It started when I picked this poem to go over different ways to look at poetry:

Witness

Martha Collins

If she says something now he’ll say
it’s not true if he says it’s not true
they’ll think it’s not true if they think
it’s not true it will be nothing new
but for her it will be a weightier
thing it will fill up the space where
he isn’t allowed it will open the door
of the room where she’s put him
away he will fill up her mind he…

View original post 1,105 more words

Dear Diary: Cry the beloved country . . .

earth5

“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that’s the inheritor of our fear.

Let him not love the earth too deeply.

Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.

Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing.

Nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley.

For fear will rob him if he gives too much.”
― Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country

Dear Diary: How can I do more of what matters?

Flowers with butterfly

As I grow older, I am searching daily to do more things that really matter. I want to do things that I can be remembered for. I want to leave some sort of legacy that will signal to the world that I have been here. I have lived. I mattered to someone out there. I want to leave this earth one day knowing that I’ve made a difference.

How does one do that, I’m asking myself? How do I leave footsteps that others will want to follow one day?

When I find the answers, I will share them with you. In the meantime, let me share the following information I have come across in my search for leaving that lasting legacy.

I have found there are three “C’s” for finding sanity:

CLARITY: What is my life about? (focus on this) then keep moving to what matters more
• What matters most exists in the more distant future. Live in the moment with an eye on the future.
• Vision always centres on people, not projects, products or programmes.
• Clarity requires simplicity. Describe your hopes and dreams in once coherent actionable sentence.

COURAGE: Have the courage to say no to the “good stuff” to pursue “great stuff”. Courage requires clarity. Saying “no”, so you can say “yes” to something better, is a process.

CONSISTENCY: Consistently focus on what matters. It’s not always about doing less. It’s about doing more of what matters.

Living by priorities begins with determining:-
VALUES what matters to you?
STRENGTHS – What activities give you energy?
VISION – Where do you want to apply your strengths to achieve fulfilling results?

Getting a grip on time is contained in three words:

ELIMINATE: Stop unnecessary or low priority tasks

DELEGATE: Give tasks to others

ACCELERATE: Become more efficient

What activities give you energy?

Strengths Finder Assessment Test:
http://freestrengthstest.workuno.com/free-strengths-test.html