Forgiveness: What is it?
What is it to forgive? To forgive is to release the anger or resentment that is felt because of an offense, flaw or mistake. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily about reconciling relationships, though it could lead to that. But forgiveness most certainly is a decision we make to give ourselves the ability to let go. At some point throughout our lives, we are going to deal with making the decision to forgive or not. So why should we forgive?
Why Should We Forgive?
There is a great example of why forgiveness is so important in this article that tells the story of a mother’s journey to forgiving her only son’s killer. Imagine being in the position of having your child murdered, and eventually coming to a place where you could hug the person that so painfully changed your life. That is exactly what this mother was able to do. But why would she?
There are other extreme instances where individuals were able to forgive. After years of holding onto hatred and resentment, they are finally set free to take responsibility for those feelings. And with responsibility comes the ability to move on and take their lives back. There is tremendous freedom to be found in forgiveness. As the mother in the article states “I felt something leave me,” she said. “Instantly I knew all the hatred, bitterness and animosity — I knew it was gone.”
Forgiveness is for unchaining ourselves from the unnecessary weight of our painful pasts. So we may look to the future more clearly and optimistically. We don’t belong stuck in the past, reliving painful events over and over again. It is living mindfully in the present moment that we truly belong. But we must make the decision to release ourselves to a mindful present moment.
The Decision to Forgive.
Above, I stated that we will all come to a point in which we will need to forgive. Some versions of the following questions may arise for you here, such as. How do we know we are ready to forgive? Does this mean we are letting the offenders off the hook? These are valid and important questions.
Forgiveness does not mean we are forgetting or dismissing the actions of an offender. The act of forgiveness does not mean that we are letting the individual who hurt us off the hook. This is where setting boundaries with others comes into play. A boundary such as, just because I am forgiving this offense, I certainly will not be putting myself in a similar position with that individual again.
If the situation allows it we may be able to continue on with a relationship that is meaningful to us. Forgiveness is no walk in the park and there are many emotions involved that need attention and mending. Some of these include but are not limited to, anger, sadness, resentfulness, bitterness, revengefulness, and embarrassment. These are all completely normal reactions when we have been hurt.
The amount of pain that we feel can make the decision to forgive that much harder. We make this decision when we feel that we are ready. But there is a difference between feeling we are ready and believe we are ready to forgive. There are bodily impulses that may be begging us to forgive, sometimes for long periods of time before we learn how to listen. The louder the anger, the louder the anxiety, speaks to the desire of these impulses that are crying out for freedom.
Time to Forgive?
Here is a question to help figure out when it is time to forgive. How do I want to feel? For most people feelings of anger and resentfulness will not be on the top of the list of the way they want to feel, at least not consciously anyway.
Most people naturally want to feel good and these feeling states keep us feeling anything but that. When we choose to not be forgiving of others our happiness becomes a direct target. Being full of hatred and resentment can take over our lives, drain us from our happiness, and make us feel less purposeful. These feelings may spill over into all areas of our lives. Meaning that we won’t simply torture ourselves, but also cause an extra struggle for the people closest to us.
We know it is time when we want to rid ourselves of the powerful emotions that are holding us back from life.
Forgiveness is a Process.
This is a process and healing will come over time. Acknowledging how we feel versus ignoring it will greatly help our journey of forgiveness. Slowly we will start to feel the benefits as we begin to free up from the negative energy that we continue flowing through ourselves. In Steven Taylors article, “Are you ready to forgive”, he talks about four different phases of forgiveness that highlight this process.
1. Uncovering Phase- In the uncovering phase we are becoming aware of the impact the resentment we are holding is having on our lives.
2. Decision Phase- In the decision phase we come to a place where we decide that we are ready to take the step to forgive.
3. Work Phase- In the work phase we come to accept a certain amount of the reality of what has happened to us. It is here where we can begin to empathize with whoever has hurt us.
4. Deepening Phase- In the deepening phase we get to come to a deeper understanding of ourselves and our lives. Hopefully having life makes more sense with the responsibility we have found in taking our lives back.
Forgiveness is not easy, it is not desirable to be in a place where we need to give it. Although forgiving is not easy, it is necessary. It is necessary for giving back the ability to feel buried emotions and free our impulses to help us live more authentic lives.
If you find yourself in a position where you might need to forgive someone, give yourself a break. Remember how it is that you want to feel and slowly start taking steps from there. And like I said in the beginning, we are not meant to live in the past reliving the same feelings over and over. We owe ourselves the ability to reside peacefully in the present moment. Being forgiving of others won’t necessarily bring us the whole way but will at least point us in the right direction. And that is a big deal.
That is all we have for today and thank you so much for stopping into My Life Experiment. What is written here has come from struggle and growth. We wish you growth in your process of learning to be a more forgiving person.