Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All
ByG. Jampolsky, M.D.
Publisher: Hillsboro, Oregon: Beyond Words Publishing, 1999.
Gerald Jampolsky, author of Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, has been a practising psychiatrist working with both children and adults for over 40 years. Two events opened his eyes to the effect that attitude has on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. One was reading the book A Course in Miracles by Judith Skutch Whitson and Robert Skutch in the early 1970s. The other was meeting and becoming a disciple of Swami Baba Muktananda in 1974.
In 1975 Jampolsky founded the Center for Attitudinal Healing in Tiburon, California, to treat children with catastrophic illnesses. A network of such centers now extends over 30 countries. Jampolsky has given workshops and talks on “Attitudinal Healing” throughout the world and has written half a dozen books on the subject. His first bestseller, Love is Letting Go of Fear, came out in 1979. In 2005, Jampolsky received the Pride in Profession Award from the American Medical Association.
In Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All, Jampolsky shows how entertaining judgmental, unforgiving thoughts rebounds negatively on one’s own self. Negative thoughts cause a stress response that translates into various physical, emotional or psychological symptoms. The unforgiving ego imprisons us by holding on to anger, and yet we are unaware of our self-imposed imprisonment.
To Jampolsky, the essence of our being is love. We need to shift our attitude about life from a perspective dominated by our ego toward an understanding of ourselves as spiritual beings only temporarily living in physical bodies. When we embrace our spiritual essence, we find that it has always been our source of love and happiness. As Jampolsky says:
Why is it so difficult for us to see that our search for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is only hiding the fact that we are both the rainbow and the gold?
We all sometimes experience other persons as treating us badly. While not condoning other individuals’ bad actions, Jampolsky says, we can maintain our own peace of mind by empathizing with them as fellow earthbound beings. In fact, forgiveness is the only way we will ever enjoy peaceful relationships. He says,
We will truly have more peaceful relationships when we stop telling others how to live and start practising love and forgiveness.
Usually, when we first try to forgive, obstacles crop up. Most of these obstacles are cherished but unproductive beliefs. Among the examples Jampolsky gives are:
- You are weak if you forgive.
- If you forgive that person, it is the same as making them right and you wrong!
- The best way to keep a distance between yourself and the person who hurt you is to never forgive them.
With these thoughts, the ego feeds itself on “a steady diet of unforgiving thoughts, fear, judgment, blame and guilt.”
In the course of the book Jampolsky relates many stories of individuals whose persistent efforts to develop forgiveness brought about changes in their lives and well-being that seemed almost miraculous. Not all examples concern forgiving another person. Sometimes it is nature, or life itself, that we must forgive. Sometimes “life” seems to have treated us unfairly. For example, one family went through a hurricane that ravaged their property. It took a year of unflagging efforts to rebuild, and then a flood washed away all that they had built. Jampolsky tells how this family worked at maintaining their positive attitude. In essence, they forgave God and the forces of nature, refusing to dwell on their misfortunes. With a resilience springing from this forgiveness, this family found the energy to help people around them.
Jampolsky breaks the process of forgiveness into a preparation stage and an action stage. In the preparation stage we work at developing the ability to change our underlying beliefs. Negative beliefs, coming from repeated thoughts, block our ability to forgive. For example, we can choose no longer to believe we are victims, and this makes it easier to forgive. Similarly, rather than seeing people as attacking us, we can choose to see them as fearful and “giving us a call of help for love.” A calm and centered frame of mind helps us realize that we have the ability to choose our attitudes. Jampolsky suggests prayer and meditation as tools for calming and centering the mind.
These preparations lead to the action stage: choosing to forgive. Jampolsky believes that “willingness” to forgive is the key word in this process. Willingness gives us the power to move ahead in forgiving. If we can learn to turn our grievances over to the highest truth in ourselves – a Higher Power or God – this strengthens our willingness to forgive and transform anger into love.
Jampolsky illuminates his ideas with unnumbered pages bearing a single quote that invites the reader to linger and ponder. For example, the reader may slow down when he turns to a page that is blank except for the words “We can choose the thoughts we put in our minds” or the words “There is always a choice to be made: We can listen to the voice of love or to the voice of the ego.”
Using concrete examples from daily life, Jampolsky spells out various techniques that may be helpful in achieving “willingness” to forgive. For example, in the workplace, a co-worker or supervisor may offend or insult us. How do we keep ourselves from being bowled over by it?
In our work lives, it can be extremely helpful to have a forgiveness process that is easy to do whenever we feel the need. You simply imagine that someone has given you a medicine that will give you a selective form of amnesia which lasts for ten minutes. It can be helpful if you imagine that this special medicine is a glass of water which you drink. During the ten-minute period that this medicine is in effect, you forget all hurtful memories of the past; you remember only memories of love. By focusing only on this remembered love, most people feel themselves become peaceful and joyful, living very much in the present moment.
Such techniques can help us in the moment, but Jampolsky points out that forgiveness will not become habitual without long, continued effort. He suggests that we have to recommit ourselves daily to a forgiving attitude and way of life. Not only do we have to exert a conscious effort to adopt new attitudes, we also need to remind ourselves of our new concepts frequently. We may even need to write our new ideas on note cards to reread during quiet moments. Prayer, meditation, and relaxation techniques help.
Jampolsky ends his book with a poem he wrote in Bosnia in 1998 while he was on his way to a workshop on reconciliation for religious and spiritual leaders. An excerpt follows:
Your love from anyone.
Healing the hole in your heart
Caused by unforgiving thoughts.
Seeing the light of God
In everyone, regardless
Of their behavior.
Forgiveness is not just for
The other person – but for ourselves
And the mistakes we have made,
And the guilt and shame we still hold on to.
Forgiveness in the deepest sense
Is forgiving ourselves
For separating ourselves from a loving God.
Jampolsky’s other books include: One Person Can Make a Difference: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things; Out of the Darkness, Into the Light: A Journey of Inner Healing; Shortcuts to God; and Teach Only Love: The Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing.
Book reviews express the opinions of the reviewers and not of the publisher.