Opposable Thumbs? Check. Written Languge? Check. Ability to Ignore or Question our Instincts? Double Check!
A few things seperate humans from animals, but at our core we are wired the same. We need food, water, and rest. Procreation is paramount. Survival of the fittest is still the game. Our instincts for survival are often hard-wired from generations of evolution. Yet we humans are differentiated from the rest of the animal kingdom but a series of evolutionairy (of G-d given, or both) traits that have allowed for us to create societies, not just prides or herds.
Humans have free will, a unique trait that allows us to override our instinctual reactions independently. In short, that means that though we have hard-wired instincts that result from anger, like the need for revenge, scholding, rebuking, or fighting even, we have an ability to apply self-motivated restraint to ignore or neautralize these feelings. Other animals, however, don’t have this ability. They do, purely, what they are hard-wired to do. We, humans, have choice over what actions we allow ourselves to carry out.
The first argument one might make is that dogs, whales, bears and even elephants can be trained; that they can also show discipline if taught. And while yes, animals can in fact be taught tricks, it is merely that. Though animals can memorize commands, sense fear, and recognize yes and no, they cannot reason with themselves about right and wrong, just and unjust, mercy or merciless. They cannot, and need not, calculate whether suppressing their need for fight or revenge is a worthy use of energy and brain power. Free will like this is a purely human phenomenon.
So on to how to activate this ability to use your free will, to exercise forgiveness by controling your insticts when angered and wronged:
1) Don’t deny your anger :: As explored last week, anger is a real emotion, but its also temporary. Allow yourself to feel through your anger, give it validity, but also prepare youself to let it go
2) Remind youself:: Don’t forget that holding a grudge consumes a lot of brain space; space thats valuable for goals and achievements
3) Train your brain:: Work on kicking thoughts of revenge or combatitiveness out of your mind, after being wronged. Fill that space with positive self-care, to get ahead
4) Learn:: Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting the lesson you learned. Heed the experience, and gather valuable lessons for the future.