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Many people do not understand forgiveness. They think that forgiving someone is dependent on the other person’s repentance. “How can I forgive if the other person is not sorry?” is their battlecry.

At a seminar long ago, I encountered a woman I’ll call Linda (not her real name). Linda was in her mid-30’s and worked in middle management in a firm in Makati. When she started sharing, the anger in her voice was thick and palpable. She talked about her job and how she felt she was being unfairly treated by her boss — how she had been expecting a promotion twice already but had been bypassed in favor of people who were her juniors.

The facilitator, I’ll call him Gary (also not his real name), asked about her childhood and so she talked about her mother, who had worked as an OFW when she was around 6 and later ran off with another man. She had never come back, leaving her father alone to raise Linda and her brother. Every time Linda saw her father drunk and crying in the kitchen, her hatred for her mother grew more and more.

“But now that you’re all grown up and are already a mother yourself, have you forgiven her?” asked Gary.

“How can I forgive her when I don’t even know if she’s sorry for what she has done?” said Linda.

“You know what, Linda? Forgiveness isn’t about the other person. It’s about you. Forgiveness is about not letting the pain of your past affect your present. You are obviously holding on to your anger. What benefit do you get out of it?” asked Gary.

“I don’t know, nothing, It just stresses me out,” said Linda.

“That’s not true,” said Gary. “If you weren’t getting anything out of it, you wouldn’t be holding on to it for so long. Here, let me demonstrate.”

Gary walks over to a table and picks up a rubber ball used in a previous activity. He gives it to Linda and asks her to grip it tight, which she does. “Don’t loosen your grip,” said Gary.

After a minute or so, Gary asked, “How does your hand feel?”

Linda says, “Tired and tense, can I let go of the ball now?”

“Sure,” says Gary, “Just open your hand and let it drop.”

Linda drops the ball.

Then Gary says, “You know, Linda, your hand felt tired and stressed after just a minute of gripping the ball. And yet your heart has been holding tight to this anger since you were 6. That’s around 30 years. Like I said, you wouldn’t be holding on to it if it did not benefit you in some way. Letting it go would be as simple as letting that ball drop. You want to know what you’re getting out of it?”

“Yes,” said Linda.

“What you’re getting out of it is that you have someone to blame — and that’s a tremendous benefit” said Gary. “When your life goes wrong, you look back and remember your mother, who didn’t love you enough, who left you and your father and brother to fend for yourselves. It’s her fault your life is a mess. It’s her fault you grew up this way, and so on and so forth. And very often, that anger is what drives you to push yourself to succeed, to prove to her that you can make it without her, that despite what she did, you will still win.”

Linda nods.

“But remember that anger also carries a heavy price. It takes a toll on your mind and body. Just as your hand grew tired of gripping the ball, your body also suffers because of your anger, and it even radiates to those around you.”

Gary turns to the rest of the attendees and asks, “How many of you felt Linda’s anger the moment she started speaking?” Everyone of us, including me, raised our hands.

“See?” said Gary. “That is the price you pay. Maybe that’s why your boss doesn’t promote you, because he feels that anger too, and may deem you unfit or emotionally incapable of handling the higher position. Maybe that’s why you get frequent headaches and tire easily. Linda, you are now an adult and you have made something of yourself. You have made a lot of life decisions that have nothing whatsoever to do with your mother. So why do you continue to let the memory of what she did haunt you? Let it go now and be free.”

We then had some more activities during the rest of the seminar and Linda did let go. She forgave her mother and was a very happy woman at the end of the seminar. Even today when I get the occasional chance to talk to her, she seems very different from how I first perceived her. She still talks about her past, but it is just normal storytelling with no more overtones of hate or anger.

Genuine forgiveness brings a person into a space of real joy and peace.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

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Bitcoin: Beyond the Hype

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Is it the right time to buy? Isn’t it too expensive already?

These are the questions I most often hear from people asking me about bitcoin. I heard this question back when bitcoin rose from a lethargic $200 to upwards of $300. I heard it when bitcoin hit $700, then $1000, then $2000 and $3000 and I’m still hearing it even until now.

When I began writing about cryptocurrency last June, the price of bitcoin had hit an all-time high of $2,800. Today, it is December and bitcoin had just broken past $10,000. That means if you had bought bitcoin last June and simply held on until today, you would have made four times your money’s worth in six months.

This year alone, I have seen more people becoming interested in bitcoin than I have in the previous 2 years combined. The reactions are varied — some want to jump in immediately while others are skeptical and holding back.

Just this morning, I read two articles — one was from a local politician warning people against investing in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and the other was a comparison between bitcoin and email.

The warning had some valid points — that people should not pour their life savings into this, that prices are volatile and have no safeguards in place — this is sound advice that I myself also give to others.

The politician further said that, “Investors stand to lose everything overnight if exchange platforms for cryptocurrencies shut down or when the consumer’s virtual wallet containing confidential information is hacked or stolen” — and while that is true, there are also safety measures one can take to prevent that. The risk you take in leaving your currencies with an exchange is similar to the risk you take leaving your money in the bank. If the bank shuts down, there goes your money as well. Besides, it is possible to take your cryptocurrencies out of exchanges into your own private offline wallet – so that is virtually unhackable.

Life is one big risk. The key to investments, like life, is not avoiding risk, but managing it — and one manages risk by increasing one’s knowledge about the matter. The more you know, the better your decisions will be.

So yes, if you are too lazy, too unmotivated, or too uninterested to learn about cryptocurrencies, then I suggest you heed Mr. Politician’s advice and stay away. As my friend says, “Crypto is not for the weak of heart. It is an emotional roller coaster ride.”

The other article was more interesting, as it pointed out that for all the hype surrounding bitcoin, still less than 1% of the world’s population are using it, much less really understand it. The writer compares bitcoin today as similar to email, which was invented as far back as 1972. Twenty-two years later, in 1994, only 0.25% of the population were using it, but it quickly gained traction after that and another twenty-three years later today, well, who hasn’t heard of or learned to use email?

What is essential to understand about bitcoin is that it is not just some kind of money that sits on thin air. Its value does not rest on pure speculation alone. Yes, there are many casual investors jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon wanting to get rich quick.

But beyond that, bitcoin is built on the revolutionary technology called the blockchain and those who understand what that is all about know that will forever change the landscape of how programmers understand how information is stored and transmitted, how transactions can be truly “trustless”, and how decentralization works.

For those who understand, that is what we are putting our money on, and that is the vision you must embrace when you are in it for the long term. It’s not just about buying low and selling high. It’s about seeing a future where we pay and get paid in currency that we control, not our banks nor our governments.

So is it the right time to buy? Is it too expensive? I don’t know, it depends on how you see the future. Perhaps you’ll decide to take the plunge, or perhaps you will still be asking yourself the same question at this time next year.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

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