Forgiveness Hawaiian-style for the holidays

 Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D  Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D gives DolceDolce readers tips on how to use the ancient Hawaiian wisdom of Huna for more harmonious holiday gatherings. Dr. James is known for his work on forgiveness. He is the President of Kona University and the author of The Foundation of Huna: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times. The book is about forgiveness and meditation techniques used in Hawaii for hundreds of years.

Huna for the Holidays by Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D
Families dealing with divorce can find the holidays difficult as ex-spouses juggle children and family gatherings. There are many other stresses that can make Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays hard, including job losses, financial worries, and old emotional wounds.
The good news is we have control over how we respond to these situations. Forgiving others and ourselves is essential if we are to experience holidays that are filled with gratitude and harmony rather than discontent and turmoil.
Huna, the ancient Hawaiian system of my lineage and life experience, emphasizes the need to forgive others and seek forgiveness and provides practical ways to do it. The first step is to recognize that you need to forgive.
People often carry around grudges and don’t even realize it until they encounter a person or situation that triggers the negative thoughts. But there is something we can do before we encounter people and situations that can lead to unhappy holidays. That is to think about the people we will spend time with and recognize the emotions we experience. Look for these five signs of needing to forgive:
1)     Specific negative feelings;
2)     Lack of balance;
3)     The need for closure;
4)     A feeling you want to say something, but can’t;
5)     Thoughts of getting even.
In Huna, the concept of making things right is called pono. Though pono does not have a specific English translation, the closest word is right — not as in “I’m right, you’re wrong,” but right with each other and the situation. Pono is a feeling of congruency and calmness to the extent that nothing needs to be said.
What can we learn from the ancient Hawaiians about forgiveness? The process I use and teach comes from ho`oponopono, which literally means to make something doubly pono.
In doing research for my dissertation, I found the process works today just as it has for thousands of years. The research showed that those who engaged in ho‘oponopono experienced a statistically-significant reduction in a lack of forgiveness compared to a control group that showed no such change.
This was the first time the Huna method has been studied as a process-based approach to forgiveness, and it validated ho‘oponopono as an effective therapeutic approach for improving relationships and mental health.
So how do we balance our approach to forgiveness so that we (1) forgive, (2) release the negativity, and (3) still learn from the event?
To take the first step in ho`oponopono, we need to rethink the process of forgiveness. In western thinking, our first approach upon wronging another person is often to say "I’m sorry." However, an apology is only one-sided, a statement that asks for no response from the one harmed.
Huna understands that it takes two to tango. So the first step is to ask for forgiveness. The second is for the other to give forgiveness.
I’ve had heated arguments with people who definitely required an apology afterwards. But it’s like a meal that doesn’t last: Within a short time after all the apologies and making-up, either I or the other person bring it up again “this is just like the last time….” So even though we were sorry, we weren’t done and complete.
Getting to pono is different. When you are pono with someone, nothing else needs to be said or done. You are right with one another.
To become truly pono with someone, you first ask for and offer forgiveness for anything you may have done. Saying, "I forgive you; please forgive me, too" brings the other person into the picture and gets them actively involved. Rather than merely "being sorry," a two-way street of forgiveness is formed.
Next, allow the space for you and the other person to say everything that needs to be said. Express what needs to be expressed without hiding or holding back. When you have both shared your thoughts and feelings, you should experience a sense of "I have said it all, and I am done." Once again, give and ask for forgiveness from one another.
Finally, move forward. Huna says that we must learn from all of our experiences in life. Once you are pono, ask yourself: what do I need to learn from this event that will allow me to continue to be pono?
Learning is positive, about the self and future based. Take this learning with you to help you change your behavior and thinking, make better decisions, and to create the relationships and situations you desire.
Dr. James offers these steps to help let go of resentment during the holidays and year-round:
§        Forgive. Regardless of what the future holds, you don’t want to carry the negativity with you.
§        Take action. Thinking positive is great, and you need to express your needs and boundaries.
§        Communicate from the heart. When enforcing boundaries, do it with love and the intention of healing things up.
§        Break the cycle insteadofrepeating the same patterns over and over.
§        Seek revenge. It is not your job to punish. Look to yourself for a solution.
§        Avoid. Avoiding issues and pushing them down only creates more explosive situations in the future.
§        Hold on to "stuff." Saying you will never forget only hurts you. Let it go, and keep the learning from the experience.
§        Blame yourself. It does take two to tango, and the blame game is a waste of time. Do take responsibility for getting to a positive place without blame.