Are you currently bitter or angry at someone? Perhaps you have even allowed yourself to hate another person in your life right now. I've been there. If you are like me, the anger, hate and bitterness don't make you feel any better - do they?
In my case, I was filled with bitterness at an ex-girlfriend when I was 19. I had given her my heart and she crushed it. I blamed her for everything (of course, I couldn't be at fault right?). I was mean, terse and unpleasant to be around after that breakup. I deserved to be angry though - I was hurting and anger and frustration were my outlets. At least, this is what I told myself.
Secretly though, that tough, angry facade was just that. I was concealing the more fragile, inner parts of my heart that were broken and hurting. I know now however, that being angry didn't help me - it actually made it harder for my heart to heal.
Let me share with you a story of another man's journey of how he dealt with anger and bitterness – see if you can absorb any lessons from his story - his name was Capt. Charlie Plumb.
I recently had the tremendous honor of interviewing Capt. Charlie Plumb for my new book. He was a Navy Pilot who flew 74 successful missions in Vietnam before being shot down over Hanoi on his 75th mission. He was captured by the enemy and began to serve out the first of his 2103 days as a prisoner of war.
Capt. Plumb was tortured (oftentimes with burning electrical wires), starved, saw many of his fellow POW's die and suffered many other torments. He was away from his sweetheart, away from his comrades, and to top it all off, had he not been shot down on that mission, he would have been going home to the USA - his 75 mission was scheduled to be his last and then his deployment was going to be over.
Imagine the pain of having that knowledge while you are now trapped in a POW camp being tortured? I cannot fathom it. To make it all even more horrible, he was trapped for so long, that when he finally did return home, his fiancé had broken off their engagement and was engaged to a new man – he never married his pre-war sweetheart.
During the interview, I asked Capt. Plumb about what virtues make a successful warrior or protector - the standard question I ask all interviewees for my new book. He gave 2 of the more routine answers (empathy and courage) that many give but then he said something that not one other person in 115 interviews has said to me - forgiveness.
"Forgiveness?" I thought. I decided to dig into more detail here, "Please elaborate more on what you mean by forgiveness Capt. Plumb" I said. He proceeded to tell me something that gives me chills to think about - he said to me, "I had to forgive my captors in order to be able to protect myself, survive and protect my fellow comrades. I had to forgive them for torturing me and enslaving me - and that wasn't easy."
I should say not. Ask yourself this, is the situation you are going through comparable to being a POW in Vietnam? If Capt. Plumb could forgive his very torturers, can you not forgive the person who hurt you?
Perhaps more importantly, can you not forgive yourself for the mistakes of your past and start fresh? We often think to forgive others but we are our own harshest critic. I can relate to this immensely - quick to give other's the benefit of the doubt while being a cruel taskmaster to myself. Not so much anymore since my journey into discovering the virtues of a protector.
You might be wondering what the reason is for why forgiveness is so important to the protector? Capt. Plumb answered that too:
"Only when you can forgive can you really see things as they really are" - Capt. Charlie Plumb
What is the most important thing to be able to do if you want to protect yourself and others? To be able to perceive reality as it truly is - otherwise, how would you ever prevent, recognize and combat threats?
"You cannot see all of your surroundings if you are busy hating one particular thing" is another quote from our interview. Hatred and bitterness narrows your focus and removes from your eyes the ability to see options, choices and other avenues to attack a problem or prevent it.
If you grasp the power of what Capt. Plumb has said here, it will do you immense good if you apply it in your life. Forgive yourself. Forgive your enemies, no matter who or what they've done to you. Odds are, they didn't torture and enslave you for 6 years and kill your friends as they did to Capt. Plumb. If he can forgive his torturers, you can forgive who you need to forgive.
When I spoke to this man he possessed an air of calm that I have sensed in few other people - he is not faking it, this man is at peace with what happened to him and his friends and you can tell. I want that peace in my life. Not only for myself but so that I can more accurately perceive reality to ensure the survival of others and help them solve their problems. I want the same for you in your life.
Be the warrior and forgive - this takes tremendous courage and humility to do but that’s what makes you a warrior – the willingness to do the hard things others won’t. These are the true hard things – forgiving yourself and your enemies.
It isn’t hard to go to a gun range and shoot your gun and master that skill so you can shoot the home invader – it is hard to forgive that home invader for breaking into your home. If you can find a way to forgive, and actually do it, and really mean it, you will feel a tremendous burden lifted from you and you will be better able to protect and serve the people you love and yourself.
Forgive in the battleground,
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National Speaker, author, blogger, and life-long student of warrior arts and science.