Forgiveness Is a Favor: Finding my Strength


I struggle with what I tell myself about myself. When I chose to leave Thailand in 2014 and eventually my marriage, I was challenged at first to believe I even made a choice. I felt like events were happening to me and I felt out of control. I felt like a victim. I was angry with myself. I was not sure I did enough, tried hard enough.

When I returned home to Los Angeles, I began going to Shabbat services again at Stephen Wise Temple, something I desperately missed while on the road for eighteen months. In addition to going to services every Friday, I also met with my rabbi and went to temple events. Rabbi Harold Kushner spoke one night about his book, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, and I was inspired. I read his book and want to share quotes from it with you.

nine essential things harold kushnerIn his book, Kushner writes: “Prayer, as I understand it, is not a matter of begging or bargaining. It is the act of inviting God into our lives so that, with God’s help, we will be strong enough to resist temptation and resilient enough not to be destroyed by life’s unfairness.” I realized this is what I needed. I felt life was so unfair. I worked so hard on the road to build my business and my relationship but it was not enough. I felt like a failure. I needed to find a new vision which seemed to get better when I invited God in through prayer. I needed to find faith that I would be okay again someday.

Kushner talks about faith through science and says: “no scientist has ever seen an electron, but all scientists agree that electrons exist. No physicist has ever seen a quark, but all physicists believe that quarks are real. Why? Because when they look into their microscopes, they see things happening that could only happen if quarks and electrons existed. I believe in the reality of God the way scientists believe in the reality of electrons. I see things happening that would not happen unless there is a God.” Kushner believes because of what else he sees. I decided to borrow his belief and keep going.

I was at first angry at myself and angry at God. It helped me to read Kushner’s words: “God Does Not Send the Problem; God Sends Us the Strength to Deal with the Problem.” I did not believe him but I kept reading. I wanted to find a way to have God on my side and stop being angry at my own team.

Kushner continues and suggests to: “find God not in the tests that life imposes on us but in the ability of ordinary people to rise to the challenge, to find within themselves qualities of soul, qualities of courage they did not know they had until the day they needed them.” I did have the strength and the courage to change my situation when I needed to. It did not feel good or graceful or elegant. It only felt necessary. I did what I had to do for myself. As Kushner says, “God sends us strength and determination of which we did not believe ourselves capable, so that we can deal with, or live with, problems that no one can make go away.” I did take care of myself.

And as the Persian poet Rumi once wrote, “Light enters at the place of the wound.” I was deeply  hurt and it has taken a long time for me to heal. Going to temple and thinking about God has really helped me during this evolution. I have felt unsure what to do most of the time but it has been important to have structure and to go to synagogue on Shabbat and to belong and to listen.

I believe that Kushner is correct when he writes: “God does not send the problem; genetics, chance, and bad luck do that. And God cannot make the problem go away, no matter how many prayers and good deeds we offer. What God does is promise us, I will be with you; you will feel burdened but you will never feel abandoned.” I did really want a magic wand to make my problems go away but that did not work so well. Finding a team of support to assist me including prayer has helped. Things are so different and so much better.

I have found like Kushner says, “God is saying to Moses, as He will have occasion to say to every one of us, “Ehyeh imach”: I won’t do it for you, I won’t do it without you, but I won’t leave you to do it alone. I will be with you when you summon up the courage to do it, and I will give you qualities of strength and soul that you didn’t know you were capable of.” I believe I have not been alone even when I felt alone and I have had more strength and soul than I knew I was capable of.

Lisa Niver Harold Kushner Stephen Wise Temple Feb 2016
Lisa Niver and Harold Kushner at Stephen Wise Temple Feb 2016

I had to make the choice to change my life. I get to decide what I want to do. It has been a struggle. It has felt like being in a washing machine while on a rollercoaster but I have kept going every day. I can only go one step at a time and it feels very slow like glacial time but I am making progress.

My website, We Said Go Travel, is growing. I have run ten international writing awards and nearly 2000 writers have participated and been published on my site. I found a media coach and new distribution for my videos. I now have over 550 videos with over 700,000 video views. I get to decide where I go travel or film. I am in charge of my life.

As Kushner writes: “Forgiveness Is a Favor You Do Yourself.” This has been a very large challenge for me to forgive myself. I agree with him that “Letting go is the best revenge. Forgiveness is the identifying marker of the stronger party to the dispute. It is truly a favor you do yourself, not an undeserved gesture to the person who hurt you. Be kind to yourself and forgive.” I thought that forgiving someone else and myself was about saying it was okay what happened. It is not forgetting, it is moving forward.

I truly appreciate the team that has surrounded me and supported me. Harold Kushner’s talk and book have been great inspiration as have all the rabbis, friends and family who have been with me on this journey back to myself.

I want to share one of my most recent videos with Luvvie Ajayi from Blogher 2016. I hope you enjoy her new book, I’m Judging You, as well as Harold Kushner’s book, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life. Happy Reading!

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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