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Excerpted from Self-Esteem by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning. Copyright © 2000 by Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning. Excerpted by permission of New Harbinger Publications, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 

"To develop a compassionate mind, you must make a commitment to a different way of thinking."

  Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning,
Self-Esteem
, Part 4

Alice was a young woman who had trouble accepting dates. Men would ask her out to dinner or the movies, and she would invent some excuse for why she couldn't go. Then her pathological critic would start up: "Chicken. He's a nice guy. Why can't you take a chance? You've blown it for ever with him." Alice would suffer this attack repeatedly for days. When she began fighting back, forgiveness was one of her most powerful weapons. She would say to herself, "OK, I made a mistake. I would have liked to go out with John, but I felt too shy and scared. That's in the past. There's nothing to do about it now. I forgive myself, and I can go on to the next opportunity. I refuse to atone forever for my shyness."

True forgiveness of others means that the accounts are balanced. The person who harmed you no longer owes you any thing. He or she is no longer in a one-down position to you regarding what happened. You have given up any idea of retaliation, reparation, restitution, or revenge. You face the future with a clean slate between you.

Charlie was a landscape architect whose relationship with his dad was poisoned by a long-standing disagreement over some money they had earned when they were in the gardening business together. His self-esteem suffered whenever he com pared himself to friends who had closer relationships with their fathers. Finally, he realized that the key to raising his own opinion of himself and getting back in touch with his dad was to sincerely for give him. "I had to stop rehashing all the old arguments," Charlie explained.

"They were hanging around both our necks and keeping us apart." When he for gave his dad and put the past behind him, Charlie's self-esteem and his relationship with his father improved.

Toward a Compassionate Mind

Understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness: these are three big words that seem almost platitudinous. No one becomes more understanding or forgiving because he or she reads somewhere that this is a good way to be. Abstract concepts, no matter how laudable, have little effect on behavior.

To develop a compassionate mind, you must make a commitment to a different way of thinking. The old way was to judge and then reject. The new way requires that you suspend judgment for a few moments. When confronted with a situation that you traditionally evaluate in a negative way ("She's stupid . . . I screwed up again. . . He's selfish . . . I'm incompetent . . . "), you can instead use a specific series of thoughts that are the compassionate response.

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