Forgiveness: What it is and what it is not.

The following is the combination of 2 different articles I’ve come across on forgiveness.  The first, “What is Forgiveness?” is from Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.  The second is from Ron Edmondson, “7 Things Forgiveness Is” and “7 Things Forgiveness Is Not”.  I was struck with the simplicity and yet profundity of these articles.

The links for the above articles:


What Is Forgiveness?

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

Just as important as defining what forgiveness is, though, is understanding what forgiveness is not. Experts who study or teach forgiveness make clear that when you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.

Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.



7 Things Forgiveness IS…

I often wonder if the reason we don’t forgive as we should is because we don’t understand the subject well enough.

Yesterday I posted 7 Things that Forgiveness is NOT. It seems appropriate to also post 7 things that forgiveness IS.


Here are 7 things that forgiveness IS:

Letting go of a right to get even – You give up the right for revenge when you forgive someone.

Moving forward – Forgiveness is like saying, “It hurt. I didn’t like it, but I’m moving forward with my life in spite of the pain.”

Dropping resentment and grudge – Forgiveness releases the angst towards the person who did the injury.

A choice – Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s a conscious decision made by the injured party.

A step towards healing – Forgiveness releases a weight from the shoulders of the injured, opening the door for emotions to heal.

An opportunity to display grace – There is no greater picture of God’s forgiveness of us than for us to forgive one another.

The removal of a roadblock – Forgiveness removes the barrier between us and living at peace again with ourselves, others, and God.

I know these are difficult. I know some of the pain runs deep. I can’t describe it for you adequately, but I can tell you that forgiveness IS all its claims to be. If you truly want to be free of the hold the injury has on your heart, forgive the one who injured you.



 7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT…

 We get confused about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Maybe we don’t really know sometimes.

Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), that’s a whole lot of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful…perhaps even tolerable…but I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.

With that in mind, in two posts, I want to share what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.


Here are 7 things forgiveness IS NOT:

Forgetting – When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust – You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely it will never be the same.

A leverage of power  Granting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.




I have recently been asked about hoarding.  This is the first of a series of articles on hoarding.  This article, from Mayo Clinic, gives a good overview.  In future articles, I’ll focus on hoarding behavior in children, treatment interventions, and medications used in the treatment of hoarding.

Hoarding Disorder

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.

Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets in unsanitary conditions because they can’t care for them properly.

Hoarding ranges from mild to severe. In some cases, hoarding may not have much impact on your life, while in other cases it seriously affects your functioning on a daily basis.

People with hoarding disorder often don’t see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people with hoarding disorder understand their compulsions and live safer, more enjoyable lives.

In the homes of people who have hoarding disorder, the countertops, sinks, stoves, desks, stairways and virtually all other surfaces are usually stacked with stuff. And when there’s no more room inside, the clutter may spread to the garage, vehicles and yard.

Clutter and difficulty discarding things are usually the first signs and symptoms of hoarding disorder, which often surfaces during the teenage years. As the person grows older, he or she typically starts acquiring things for which there is no need or space. By middle age, symptoms are often severe and may be harder to treat.

Hoarding disorder affects emotions, thoughts and behavior. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Persistent inability to part with any possession, regardless of its value
  • Excessive attachment to possessions, including discomfort letting others touch or borrow them or distress at the idea of letting an item go
  • Cluttered living spaces, making areas of the home unusable for the intended purpose, such as not being able to cook in the kitchen or use the bathroom to bathe
  • Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
  • Letting food or trash build up to unusually excessive, unsanitary levels
  • Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, such as trash or napkins from a restaurant
  • Difficulty managing daily activities because of procrastination and trouble making decisions
  • Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
  • Difficulty organizing items, sometimes losing important items in the clutter
  • Shame or embarrassment
  • Limited or no social interactions

People with hoarding disorder typically save items because:

  • They believe these items will be needed or have value in the future
  • The items have important emotional significance — serving as a reminder of happier times or representing beloved people or pets
  • They feel safer when surrounded by the things they save

Hoarding disorder is different from collecting. People who have collections, such as stamps or model cars, deliberately search out specific items, categorize them and carefully display their collections. Although collections can be large, they aren’t usually cluttered and they don’t cause the distress and impairments that are part of hoarding disorder.

Hoarding animals

People who hoard animals may collect dozens or even hundreds of pets. Animals may be confined inside or outside. Because of the large numbers, these animals often aren’t cared for properly. The health and safety of the person and the animals are at risk due to unsanitary conditions.

When to see a doctor

If you or a loved one has symptoms of hoarding disorder, talk with a doctor or mental health provider as soon as possible. Some communities have agencies that help with hoarding problems. Check with your local or county government for resources in your area.

As hard as it might be, you may also need to contact local authorities, such as police, fire, public health, child protective services or animal welfare agencies, especially when health or safety is in question.

It’s not clear what causes hoarding disorder. Genetics, brain chemistry and stressful life events are being studied as possible causes.

Hoarding disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex or economic status. It’s not clear, though, how common hoarding disorder is. That’s partly because some people never seek treatment.

Risk factors include:

  • Hoarding usually starts around ages 11 to 15, and it tends to get worse with age. Younger children may start saving items, such as broken toys, pencil nubs, outdated school papers and broken appliances. Hoarding is more common in older adults than in younger adults.
  • Many people who have hoarding disorder have a temperament that includes indecisiveness.
  • Family history.There is a strong association between having a family member who has hoarding disorder and having the disorder yourself.
  • Stressful life events.Some people develop hoarding disorder after experiencing a stressful life event that they had difficulty coping with, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, eviction or losing possessions in a fire.
  • Social isolation.People with hoarding disorder are typically socially withdrawn and isolated. In many cases, the hoarding leads to social isolation. But, on the other hand, some people may turn to the comfort of hoarding because they’re lonely.



Recovery from Abuse

“She leads, you follow”. That was the advice I received from a mentor years ago when I was a young therapist, working with a woman who had been raped and come to me for therapy. I followed.

This is my overriding principle when I work with a survivor of abuse; whether it is physical, sexual or emotional.  If someone has been abused by another and they come in for assistance, you must let them be in charge, at all times, otherwise, in therapy, as she will be victimized again.  I worked with a woman for 6 months before she addressed the incest she had survived. She talked about it in the first session….and not again for 6 months!

A few exercises I use when working with a survivor:

  1. Write out the abuse, on paper. Why? Often, the survivor will think (and think and think) about the event(s) and because our thinking is so easily influenced, survivors, especially women, will minimize the events that happened, will tell themselves the events didn’t occur, didn’t occur that often or that intensely. Their emotions know the event occurred but their mind can tell them other things and this adds to their confusion. The assignment is tremendously emotional (reliving the assault(s)), so I only assign this if the person feels they are strong enough to do such.
  1. Envision what it would be like to successfully confront their attacker; what you would say. Note the working of the assignment; “successfully” confront the attacker. This builds self-esteem, gives the survivor hope, building a vision of how the ultimate step in this situation will unfold. This can be very cathartic.
  1. Confront the attacker in a role-play. In this exercise, the survivor prepares what she would say when confronting her attacker, identifies who could play the attacker (often myself) and then either during a session or over a series of sessions, she confronts her attacker.
  1. Actual confrontation of her attacker. Sometimes this is possible, often it is not for a variety of reasons. Again, deciding to do such is the survivors decision, after she and I have discuss and judged if it would be safe for her to do such.

Depression…What are the Signs?

According to the DSM-V (the diagnostic manual for mental health disorders), Major Depressive Disorder (or depression) is characterized by five or more of the following symptoms, present during a two week period:

Depressed mood most of the day, described either by the person themselves

or someone close to them,

Marked diminished interest in or the ability to derived pleasure from all or

most all activities of the person’s typical day,

Significant weight loss or gain (i.e., more than 5% of body weight) or decrease

or increase in appetite nearly every day,

Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping nearly every day,

Psychomotor “agitation or retardation” nearly every day, observable by others

(i.e., trouble handling things with smooth/flowing motion, dropping

things, shakiness, feeling slowed down or as if one is moving “in slow


Fatigue or feeling a loss of energy nearly every day

Feelings of worthlessness or excessive/inappropriate guilt nearly every day,

Indecisiveness or inability to think/concentrate nearly every day and

Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide (with or without a plan), taking

uncharacteristic, life-threatening risks or suicide attempts.

A depressed mood or lack of interest/ability to experience pleasure must be one

of the five symptoms in the person. Further, these symptoms interfere with the person meeting their social, occupational or other important obligations. And, these symptoms are not attributed to a consumed substance or other medical

or psychological condition.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, (encourage them to)

seek help….from a doctor, psychiatrist or mental health therapist. Depression

is a condition that gradually deteriorates the person’s level of functioning to its

minimal level. It’s like having a computer but never allowing it to load updates.

Gradually, it becomes VERY slow and barely functional.


I find treating depression intriguing!

Depression is one of those “There is more there than meets the eye” things.  A person could be “depressed” because: They have Major Affective Disorder, a medical condition that produces recurrent bouts of depression. They could be “depressed” in reaction to a major loss in their life, i.e., your father died, your girlfriend broke up with you, etc.  You could be “depressed” because something you thought that would happen, i.e., winning the lottery, didn’t occur. Finally, people complain to being “depressed” because their boss is a jerk, they have psoriasis or they have gained weight….or because they never exercise, overeat, drink or smoke pot too much, never give to others or pray, never get enough sleep and have nothing in their lives that brings them fun or excitement.

So when someone reports being depressed, I ask a lot of questions!

I have worked with people who are “clinically depressed”; the aforementioned Major Affective Disorder.  I am one of those people.  I believe I inherited it from my father and grandfather. There is treatment for this:  Become aware of and monitor your symptomology, take your medications, get regular exercise, eat well, get sufficient sleep, put fun in your life, engage in spiritual activities, i.e., pray, giving to others, and maintain a healthy sex life (as your life situation allows).

These things, I do.  Of my symptomology, I always monitor the frequency and intensity of my anger and negative self-talk. I take my Prozac, every day. I exercise 3-5 times a week, get 8 hours of sleep a night, consult with a nutritionist regarding my diet, pray on a daily basis,  give to others often, work in my yard and ride my motorcycle.

People can live with depression…just as they live with diabetes or cancer!

Often, what is called depression is really loss or grief. If your father dies or your girlfriend breaks up with you, you SHOULD feel down.  Further, if you expect something to occur that doesn’t, that too can lead to feeling down. If you expect to find a job after graduating college, and after a year’s search, you are still unemployed, you will feel down.

Feeling down however, is not the same of being depressed. Feeling “down” usually lasts a shorter amount of time and is less intense. Can feeling down lead to depression? It can, the more intense the loss is, the longer the loss lasts and the more areas of the person’s life are affected.

Often, I will work with people who are struggling with just one area of their lives, i.e., their marriage, their job, etc. Whether we are talking a spouse struggling with their mate or an employee who has a jerk for a boss, in such situations, the person can feel trapped and consequently depressed.  In such situations, I will begin working with the person on their self-talk in critical situations; assess their skill level in for example, the area of assertiveness, etc.  Sometimes, changes in these areas can rectify the situation.  Sometimes, more significant decisions have to be made, i.e., a change in jobs, a structured separation or divorce.

More recently, I have begun seeing people who complain of depression but in fact appear to be struggling with a relatively mild case of narcissism and social insecurity; a sense of entitlement and self-centeredness that I believe comes from our internet-centered lives, the belief that one must be in charge of all aspects of life and a lack of experience interacting with life because they do almost everything on-line. These expectations are unrealistic and the anxiety keeps them afraid of taking the risk of interacting with the real world. The solution….again, skill development, monitoring negative self-talk and encouragement.


I really like working with panic attacks….panic attacks, agoraphobia, social anxiety, all of this….I really like working with it.

For most, panic and other forms of anxiety are INCREDIBLY uncomfortable. But once you understand how they work, why they are in your life, what their function is and how to stop or minimize them; they lose their strength.

When working with someone struggling with one of these conditions, I look at when they occur, what was happening before and then after the incident, what you were thinking before, during and after the attack, what you did and didn’t do as a result of the attack. These are all important pieces of the puzzle.

I teach persons what to think and do differently during such situation; teach them important breathing techniques, stress management practices and role-play out situations helping them master the situation that has been stumping them.

I really like working with panic attacks.

Mental Health

People will ask, “How do I know if I need to see a therapist, if my problem is that….bad?”

Most frequently, I tell people that if the problem begins to interfere with a person meeting their responsibilities in life, they need assistance with the problem.

This “interference” my take the form of excessive worry, crying, sleeping(or lack), eating(or lack) and overreaction to the topic.  These are “direct” indications assistance is needed.

“Indirect” indications include overreaction to other problems, i.e., the fight over small issues, the child who suddenly becomes oppositional to school (when they are typically model students), etc.

Sometimes, people just need to talk about a problem.  They just need to discuss it outloud with someone who is listening to them. Sometimes, they need a different perspective on the problem.  They need to see if they have “missed something”, if they could “connect the dots” in a different way or have missed another solution.

Sometimes, a person needs someone else to say something they have been saying all along.  For example, “I agree with you”; “You are being too hard on yourself”; or (speaking to the husband of a couple, “She is right” or “Her method of addressing this is how I would do it.”.

Sometimes, people just need a safe place to be “crazy”; say whatever comes to mind, knowing they are not going to be judged. And then, at the end of the hour, they pack up all their baggage and go back to their life, knowing, next week at this time, they can come and go crazy again in my office.

Sometimes, people need to be shown how to make a change; what specific steps they need to take.  Sometimes, they know how to make a change but they don’t want to make it on their own. They want someone to be with them as they make their change.

Sometimes, people need to be told they need to make a change but need some time to sit with someone before they make it.  Sometimes, people sense something is wrong but they don’t know what and need help discovering what it is.

Sometimes, people need a place to refuse to make a change in their life.

Moments of Awkwardness and Mental Health

This audio is from the radio show “To The Best of My Knowledge” (aired locally on August 21, 2016). The guest, Jenny Lawson, begins by sharing some of her most awkward moments and the response she received from others; then related to similar experiences. She speaks of the sense of support and comradery she felt from such sharing. She then goes on to describe a similar experience when she began sharing about her struggles with mental illness (depression, suicidal ideations). My point, mental illness is usually hidden from others, but the sharing of one’s mental illness struggles, with the right audience, can facilitate building your own support system.

–Everyone can relate to it

–Because others shared, people felt it was now okay to share their similar situations

–Counters the societal message – look at me, oh so cool

–Awkwardness has an upside, brings us all together, reminds everyone we are all in this together.  We feel a connection with others (through our moments of awkwardness or our mental illness).

–Points to the benefit of sharing about one’s mental illness in the right setting as a way of building our support system.

The link:

The 12 Laws of Karma

“I found this on Facebook and decided to share it.  I like and believe in the principles behind these laws.”  – Ed Esselman

  1. The Great Law
  • “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Also known as the “Law of Cause and Effect.”
  • To receive happiness, peace, love, and friendship, one must BE happy, peaceful, loving, and a true friend.
  • Whatever one puts out into the Universe will come back to them.
  1. The Law of Creation
  • Life requires our participation to happen. It does not happen by itself.
  • We are one with the Universe, both inside and out.
  • Whatever surrounds us gives us clues to our inner state.
  • Surround yourself with what you want to have in your life and be yourself.
  1. The Law of Humility
  • One must accept something in order to change it.
  • If all one sees is an enemy or a negative character trait, then they are not and cannot be focused on a higher level of existence.
  1. The Law of Growth
  • “Wherever you go, there you are.”
  • It is we who must change and not the people, places or things around us if we want to grow spiritually.
  • All we are given is ourselves. That is the only thing we have control over.
  • When we change who and what we are within our hearts, our lives follow suit and change too.
  1. The Law of Responsibility
  • If there is something wrong in one’s life, there is something wrong in them.
  • We mirror what surrounds us, and what surrounds us mirrors us; this is a Universal Truth.
  • One must take responsibility for what is in one’s life.
  1. The Law of Connection
  • The smallest or seemingly least important of things must be done because everything in the Universe is connected.
  • Each step leads to the next step, and so forth and so on.
  • Someone must do the initial work to get a job done.
  • Neither the first step nor the last are of greater significance. They are both needed to accomplish the task.
  • Past, Present, and Future are all connected.
  1. The Law of Focus
  • One cannot think of two things at the same time.
  • If our focus is on Spiritual Values, it is not possible for us to have lower thoughts like greed or anger.
  1. The Law of Giving and Hospitality
  • If one believes something to be true, then sometime in their life they will be called upon to demonstrate that truth.
  • Here is where one puts what they CLAIM to have learned into PRACTICE.
  1. The Law of Here and Now
  • One cannot be in the here and now if they are looking backward to examine what was or forward to worry about the future.
  • Old thoughts, old patterns of behavior, and old dreams prevent us from having new ones.
  1. The Law of Change
  • History repeats itself until we learn the lessons that we need to change our path.
  1. The Law of Patience and Reward
  • All Rewards require initial toil.
  • Rewards of lasting value require patient and persistent toil.
  • True joy comes from doing what one is supposed to be doing, and knowing that the reward will come in its own time.
  1. The Law of Significance and Inspiration
  • One gets back from something whatever they put into it.
  • The true value of something is a direct result of the energy and intent that is put into it.
  • Every personal contribution is also a contribution to the Whole.
  • Lesser contributions have no impact on the Whole, nor do they work to diminish it.
  • Loving contributions bring life to and inspire the Whole.

Karma is a lifestyle that promotes positive thinking and actions. It also employs self-reflection to fix the problems in one’s life.

Mayonnaise Jar & two beers…….

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 beers.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.  When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.  He then asked the students if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.  The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.  He shook the jar lightly.  The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.  He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed it was.  The professor then picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar.  Of course, the sand filled up everything else.  He asked once more if the jar was full.

The students responded with an unanimous “yes…”  The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand.  The students laughed.  “Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.”

The golf balls are the important things–your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions–and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.  The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car.  The sand is everything else–the small stuff.

“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls.  The same goes for life.  If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.  Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.  Spend time with your children.  Spend time with your parents.  Visit with grandparents.  Take your spouse out to dinner.  Play another 18.  There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.  Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter.  Set your priorities.  The rest is just sand.”  one of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.  The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked.  The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beers with a friend.”