To Forebear: to abstain from punishing
There is an old saying that holding resentment is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.
This second stage in the forgiveness process enables us to gain control over our ‘hit back’ reflexes, to restore our integrity and to revive our spirit.
The importance in practicing forbearance is in how we develop control of our own thoughts and tendencies. When we are truly hurt by another, or operating under the perception that a wrong has been done to us, we withdraw the investment of our heart. We withdraw trust (which in some cases is entirely appropriate) and we withdraw from interaction with the offender. We exclude that person from our good favor, sometimes forever.
To forbear is to hold back from punishing, provoking, auditioning supporters, building more of a case and otherwise allowing the pain to run amok in the emotional body. To forbear you must catch yourself and redirect your energies in order to stop drinking from the poisoned well of resentment. Quell the temptation to punish the offender by mental bin diving for evidence; restrain from spreading the story of your trouble or poisoning another’s opinion; avoid seeking power by fantasizing revenge; refrain from hostility. Stop it. You are feeding the bad dog (resentment) and he will keep coming back for more until you are truly powerless.
This does not mean that you pretend you have not been injured, or pretend all is okay. It means that you honestly examine your motivations for sharing your story or baring your pain to another; that you make an effort to de-escalate the situation by containing the memory like a riverbank contains the flowing water. After the dam-bursting injury, you must do what you can to restore a sense of order, to bring the wild river of emotion back into it’s banks so that your pain does not contaminate other areas of your life.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes puts it, forbearance “…does not mean to go blind or dead and lose self-protective vigilance. It means to give a bit of grace to the situation and see how that assists.” Forbearance creates time and space to set aside your held belief or interpretation of events long enough to allow another truth or possibility to emerge.
To forbear requires courage and patience, the ability to ‘bear up’ under the pressure of resurfacing memories, questions from concerned family and friends, the unexpected sight of your ‘offender’, and sometimes even the sound of their name spoken in a different context. People who have suffered physical abuse, lost a loved one to murder, divorce or abduction, been through a Katrina-like experience, developed a life threatening disease, witnessed a serious crime, experienced war, famine or terrorism learn early on that their survival and health depend upon finding a way to contain and process the pain and grief, however slowly, by making internal decisions about how they will hold the memory.
Revenge, hatred and self-criticism are poor survival strategies. One mother who lost a child to murder knew she had to begin to contain her grief, to give herself specific time and space to grieve, in order to be present for her living children, and to be able to get through the months and years of court trials, appeals and parole hearings. She did not bury her feelings, rather, she practiced forgoing, or taking a break from tragedy, and forbearance, by hauling her energy back from revenge fantasies and obsessive surveying of the damages.
With life’s more ordinary injuries and offences, we are always offered an opportunity to examine our perceptions—what do I believe really happened? What do I think it means? Often, the small slings and arrows of life serve to bring something more valuable to the surface: the realization that a friendship is shifting it’s focus; the awareness of having lived with a dissatisfaction or irritation for a long time, and perhaps bringing it to ‘a head’ so to speak; the need to make a decision that will change your life. Leave that job, take a chance on that relationship, mentally rearrange your friend priority list, do not shop there anymore period, tell the truth (with compassion), speak up, throw or give it away, move to London, exercise, get control of your life, energy, money, etc.
Estes says: “To forebear means to have patience, to bear up against, to channel emotion. These are powerful medicines. Do as much as you can. This is a cleansing regime. To forebear is to practice generosity, thereby allowing the great compassionate nature to participate in matters that have previously caused emotion ranging all the way from minor irritation to rage.”
Forebearance, an elegant word and one that I will bring into my life.
I have been struggling with resentment. I have over the last three years tried to change my heart. It is getting better and I find that making a more conscious effort to give everyday makes it easier. I know you can't change people, only yourself, so that is what my goal is. To release the anger and bring fourth more love.Thank you for your article
Your willingness and giving are substituting grace for anger. It is so much lighter for your body and soul. :o)