What does it surely mean to forgive? Can you forgive without forgetting? So how exactly does it feel to forgive or be forgiven? Could it be better to forgive a real pain incurred by another’s accidental actions than a psychological wound inflicted with intent? Does “sorry” from the offender require forgiveness from the offended? Does the offended require an apology in order to forgive the offender?
I have pondered the idea of forgiveness many times. I suspect many of us have. We have all been hurt and we have all been the reason for someone else’s pain.
While endeavoring to explore what forgiveness means and why it is known as so important to our mental health, I reflected upon some well-known aphorisms.
“To err is human; to forgive divine.” (Alexander Pope)
“We ought to develop and maintain the capability to forgive. He who is lacking the power to forgive is lacking the power to love. There’s some great in the worst people and some evil in the most effective of us.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
“I can forgive, but I cannot forget is just another way of saying, I won’t forgive. Forgiveness should be just like a cancelled note-torn in two and burned up so that it never could be shown against one.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
“Without forgiveness there’s no future.” (Desmond Tutu)
Many religions encourage and even require forgiveness as an act of piety.
There’s, in reality, no end to famous maxims encouraging us toward forgiveness. Could it be really so easy? No, needless to say it isn’t, but it is possible and it is inside our control.
There’s a wide variety of affronts, accidents, and human atrocities which have left small, large and inconceivable wounds upon individuals, groups and civilizations. There are monstrous acts of inhumanity which can be beyond understanding and should never be forgiven or forgotten a course in miracles podcast. There are simple oversights which can be dismissed without hesitation. It is the “in betweens” that cause so much consternation. Particularly amongst family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Here is the physical and emotional terrain where many of us live. It is where we react and over-react. It is where we experience our most raw feelings and where we can cause the most enduring sorrow. This is where forgiveness and acceptance become an intrinsic element of our humanity and our mental health.
I don’t think that forgiveness requires forgetting. I don’t believe it is always possible to forget. I do think that the test of forgiveness lies inside our emotional being. What does this mean? It indicates that if you think back on the incidence that initiated the pain and there’s still hurt or anger that bubbles from within, you have not forgiven. We experience true forgiveness once the event ceases to trigger an adverse emotional response.
Forgiving could be the area of the equation that is inside our control. We cannot force someone to forgive us. We can extend the olive branch, ask for forgiveness, even offer compensation if appropriate. But we cannot choose for someone else. We can, however heal, even without having to be granted forgiveness from whomever we have injured. It starts with forgiving ourselves. It could sound just like a cliche, but it’s true. With or without forgiveness from another, we still have to let go of our personal guilt. It is simpler to take action if anyone we have hurt accepts our apology, but in any event we can use self forgiveness to heal and let go. We can incorporate the encounter into our being and give it time to influence our future choices of behavior.
When we hold on to anger or resentment, we unwittingly encourage the body’s stress response that may trigger a series of unhealthy physical reactions. Meditation, yoga, visualization, breathing exercises and prayer are typical ways of coping with stress and reprogramming our responses to events we cannot control or change.
What else can we do to help ourselves forgive or accept non forgiveness if it is wanted however, not granted? First, don’t make assumptions about what someone else is thinking or feeling. Odds are you will soon be wrong or, at minimum, not completely right. Wrong assumptions generally cause the perpetuation of bad feelings and interfere with the capacity to heal. Second, don’t reinforce the negative emotions by continuing to re-live the encounter through stories you tell yourself and others. Third, try treating forgiveness like some other behavior you wish to see extended for you and those around. Even when forgiving doesn’t come naturally, it can be quite a learned behavior. If you offer and practice forgiveness, others are more likely to accept and extend the exact same behavior. Finally, Decide that giving and accepting forgiveness is more important than who you believe is right or the way the conflict was initiated. Even early woulds could be healed through practicing genuine forgiveness. Remember, we are discussing the “in-betweens” here not monstrous acts of abuse that might belong to the group of atrocities. Forgiving and healing from the deep scarring of physical and emotional trauma is just a subject and process that goes way beyond the scope of the article.Business