A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of July 29-August 4, 2015
Friends, sisters, and forgiveness
Three special days are always celebrated on the first Sunday of August: Friendship Day, International Forgiveness Day, and Sisters Day. There’s a common thread running through these days: they amplify the importance of our relationships with family, friends, and acquaintances.
International Forgiveness Day was created by the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance in 1996. It’s a nondenominational educational foundation established by Robert W. Plath of Mill Valley, California. Following is the WFA’s Mission Statement: “The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance is a non-profit 501(c) 3 tax-deductible organization whose mission is to evoke the healing spirit of Forgiveness worldwide. We declare that “Forgiveness Is the Greatest Healer of Them All (Dr. Gerald Jampolsky)” and that “Without Forgiveness There Is No Future (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).” WFA focuses on providing training in the techniques of forgiveness as well as in the knowledge of the psychological, physiological, emotional and spiritual benefits of the forgiveness process. WFA also promotes the spread of awareness and knowledge of the scientific findings related to forgiveness (www.forgivenessday.org). If you type in “techniques of forgiveness” into your search engine, you will encounter many websites for this valuable resource. One of the simpler ones to understand is the article, “How to Forgive and the Value of Forgiveness” by Lisa Claycomb: “There are a variety of techniques through which people can release resentment and welcome serenity into the mind and body. Sometimes people become offended when they believe that another person has purposely caused them harm. Looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective and choosing to believe that the intentions were good can be a helpful start to forgiving. Reciting words of encouragement, affirmations and forgiveness quotes can also be useful for replacing negative thoughts and feelings with kinder images. Visualizing the resentful thoughts floating away from the mind and inviting forgiveness through the law of attraction are other effective techniques. And, using a combination of all of these approaches can be extremely powerful.” (https://suite.io/lisa-claycomb/4f8d2tq)
Last year, WFA reports that 1.7 million people took that moment to forgive. This year, on August 2, 2015 (Sunday) at 2 pm, we are all invited to take 2 minutes to forgive someone. You can go to the website above if you want to be officially counted among the 2 million people targeted this year to take those couple of minutes to forgive. Now suppose you are at a loss about who to forgive. Maybe you’re thinking that you’re a pretty laidback, easygoing person so you actually have no enemies to speak of. I have an app for that: Forgive Thyself. For that part of you which keeps setting unrealistically high standards for yourself that you never really meet: forgive. For that part of you which makes many stupid mistakes: forgive. For that part of you which is too shy or too bold or too anything: forgive. Even better, why don’t you forgive all of the many beautiful and imperfect parts of yourself? Guilt and worry could only be counterproductive and a waste of mental energy. On the other hand, gratitude is big. An “attitude of gratitude” actually makes it more likely for people to be forgiving of themselves, others, and uncontrollable situations, and makes people kinder and happier as well (www.forgivenesschallenge.com). A song by the Beatles goes: “Try to see it my way/ Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong/ While you see it your way/ There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long/We can work it out, we can work it out/ Life is very short/ And there’s no time/ For fussing and fighting, my friend/ I have always thought that it’s a crime/ So I will ask you once again…” (Beatles – “We Can Work It Out” Lyrics |www.metrolyrics.com)
Sisters Day is also celebrated on the first Sunday of August. This one applies to most of us, being or having a sister. In fact, around 80-90% of us has at least one birth sibling. I am the eldest of four children, having two sisters and a brother. With this special Sisters Day, I will be paying tribute to my sisters Cherry and Edna. They have been with me through my ups and downs, showing me incredible understanding, love, support — and forgiveness when needed. For these and many other reasons known only to sisters, I would like to express my gratitude to them. However, sisterhood goes beyond being related by blood. There are sororities in schools where “sisses” build lifelong friendships. There are friends who refer to each other as sisters — such is the closeness of their relationship. We also have our sisters-in-law who can be very compassionate and present when we need them. There are all sorts of sisterly bonds.
Let’s mention a couple of films about sisters and friendship. First of all, who among us hasn’t seen Disney’s 2013 film, “Frozen?” Your children certainly loved them, right? Their new idols are sisters Elsa and Anna, and they want to wear their own tiaras. Even if it’s only based on a fairy tale, “Frozen” still has something to say about the power of love between sisters. When Anna, seeing that the villain Hans is about to kill Elsa, blocks the attack and turns to ice, the rest of the ice thaws later on because Anna’s decision to sacrifice herself constitutes an “act of true love.” This act of love is enough to lift a curse, restore a kingdom, and allow us the closure of a happy ending, as usual.
A 2005 film, “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” exemplifies the friendship among four young women. Per imdb.com, “Four best girlfriends hatch a plan to stay connected with one another as their lives start off in different directions: they pass around a pair of secondhand jeans that fits each of their bodies perfectly.” They’re best friends from Bethesda, Maryland who are all going to different places for the summer: Lena (Alexis Bledel) is going to Greece, Carmen (America Ferrera) is going to visit her father in South Carolina, Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is staying home, and Bridget (Blake Lively) is going to soccer camp in Baja California, Mexico. So what’s with the pair of jeans that they bought and called the “Traveling Pants?” To me it’s a symbol of the magic of their friendship: the pants apparently fit all four of them despite their differing sizes. Despite the internal changes and realizations they each go through during the summer, the one constant is that pair of pants that they pass around among each other, one-size-fits-all, like the inclusive, non-judgmental quality of their four-way friendship.
Therefore, let’s now talk about the third special day we are celebrating on the first Sunday of August this year: Friendship Day. It’s a great day to get in touch with your friends: old, current, and new. With your old friends, some of whom may already be living far away from you, why don’t you surprise them with a phone call, email, or card/e-card? To catch up with your current friends, be sure to invite them to lunch or an interesting activity before the day is through. While you’re at it, why don’t you look around for opportunities to gain a new friend or two? You get extra points if you make a new friend on August 2, 2015 itself, which is this year’s first Sunday of August – when we get to celebrate a trifecta of special days: International Forgiveness Day, Sisters Day, and Friendship Day. Please make merry responsibly.