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February 1, 2015

Forgiveness is one of the most compassionate acts that can occur between human beings. That Is why having the willingness and ability to forgive others is one of the most meaningful traits we can possess. True forgiveness is cleansing. By creating a fresh start it allows us to stop wasting time dwelling on the past so that we can focus on the future. It benefits both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. Forgiveness is so compelling that it can instantly change a person’s life. It is fundamental to all healthy relationships, and it is necessary for our society to thrive.

When we have the strength to ask for forgiveness it makes us better people. It is an acknowledgement that we are less than perfect, while at the same time it demonstrates our desire to improve our lives and to show concern for others. It draws its power from the fact that it takes courage to ask for forgiveness and it takes character to forgive. In both cases it gives us the opportunity to grow and to reach our potential. It forces us to look at ourselves realistically and to be willing to change so that we no longer feel the need for payback or revenge. It prevents us from being petty and spiteful. And when we have been taken advantage of or hurt in some way it gives us the ability to let go and release the pain so it can no longer interfere with our happiness.

People who go through life holding grudges against perceived slights by others or against life itself set themselves up for continual unhappiness. To constantly be at war with everyone around you wears a person down. We all know people like this. They take offence at anything by personalizing it. Their focus is always on themselves. These are the people we dread seeing each day. Their eagerness to complain about their latest imagined wrong has a dispiriting effect on everyone they encounter. How troubling it must be to go through life perpetually seeing yourself as a victim.

Sadly, many people have to learn from personal experience that the refusal to forgive leads to continuous anger, bitterness and overall unhappiness. The lack of forgiveness can tear apart entire families while the capacity to forgive can heal them. Refusing to forgive is exhausting. Holding a grudge diverts our attention away from far more important aspects of life. It prevents us from living fully in the present because we trap ourselves by clinging to something that has happened in the past. Fortunately the unwillingness to forgive is often based on a simple lack of communication. Once both parties are willing to confront the issue, forgiveness usually occurs and everyone can let go of their resentment and indignation.

There are some situations, however, where we are so hurt by the actions of someone else that, for now, forgiveness cannot take place. The pain is too fresh and raw. The hurt is too deep, and the memory of the transgression is overwhelming. In these cases, time becomes the determining factor on how long we carry our discomfort before we are willing to release it. What has happened cannot be undone, but the effort to forgive that person can act as a release so that the negative emotion no longer controls us.

Often it seems to be the case that the hardest people to forgive are the ones we love the most. Perhaps the sense of unfairness or betrayal is heightened when it comes from someone who is close to us. But because we care about them it is all the more reason to find it in our hearts to forgive their behavior. We are all imperfect; therefore we all deserve to be forgiven for our mistakes. It is tragic to endure feelings of estrangement and rejection because of the insensitivity of a person who is important to you. It is so much better to realize that life is too fragile to carry grudges for long periods. The time that is wasted when you refuse to forgive someone can never be regained. It is lost forever.

Of course, sometimes it is easier to forgive others than it is to forgive yourself. This can lead to feelings of unworthiness and a lack of self-respect. Every person on earth has flaws, and undesirable characteristics, but we must accept our shortcomings as part of what makes us human. We can’t let guilt and self-recrimination paralyze us to the point where we can’t be productive and enjoy life. Until we learn to forgive ourselves it is difficult to forgive others.

On the occasions when you are the transgressor it is critically important to summon the courage to ask for forgiveness. The acknowledgement of your mistake often softens the heart of the person you hurt or offended. And because it is comparatively rare for people to take responsibility for their negative actions, when someone actually does the right thing and asks for forgiveness it is usually sincerely appreciated.

Thankfully there are no special conditions needed to ensure that forgiveness takes place. It simply demands that we be our best. It requires that we are open minded and that we are willing to accept the fact that none of us is perfect and that no one is always right or always wrong. It means that we must attempt to see both sides of an issue so that we have some understanding of why the other person took a different view. 

If we will each stop and think for a moment we all have someone to forgive, and we all need to ask forgiveness from someone as well. The issues involved might be minor or they might be quite serious. Whatever the case, we should each make the effort to embrace forgiveness at every opportunity so that we can be at peace with ourselves and with others.

Carrying a grudge or being filled with resentment is a burden that we can decide to release at any moment. We always have the choice of letting it go or allowing it to weigh us down. No matter how the other party behaves we have the freedom to choose how we react and how we respond. 

Without forgiveness the human race would be in desperate circumstances. It is the one quality that heals everyone involved, and because it can be life changing, it is something we should practice each day.