When was the last time you forgave someone who hurt you?
Forgiveness means to grant pardon without resentment. It is experienced intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Forgiveness is a key to happiness and well-being, because it releases the anger, hurt, bitterness, pain, fear and even sometimes the illnesses that we carry around.
One of the reasons we need to forgive is so we can be released from the past. Your past is always going to be the way it was. You can’t change it. Part of healing yourself is making peace with your old ghosts: those people, events or situations that are still haunting you.
When you continually resent someone and hold on to past pain, you keep yourself tied to that person. Hate, resentment and anger bind us to other people just as powerfully and forcefully as does love.
There is now some scientific evidence to indicate that resentment, rage and anger actually makes us sick: that those emotions just stay in our bodies and fester until they become a full-fledged illness. Whether or not this theory is proven accurate, it is likely that our emotions have something to do with our health and feelings of well-being. Hating people, especially those we once loved, may in fact make us sick.
Also, when you cannot forgive, you cannot love either. Our resentment will stop us from loving.
One of the reasons why people don’t want to forgive is that then they won’t have anyone to blame anymore. Forgiveness helps you to take back your personal power, because when you feel wronged, you act like a victim. If you blame someone else, therefore, you won’t work through your own emotions and issues, and as a result, you’ll remain hurt and angry. Some people thus prefer to feel powerless and victim-like, and to hold on to their blame.
Blaming someone else is a way for us to avoid having to do anything about a problem. The dilemma is that when you are angry at another person, your anger really doesn’t hurt them. It is your body that tightens. It is your peace of mind that it disturbed. It is your consciousness that is getting affected.
As a result, not forgiving is ultimately self-defeating.
One of the keys to forgiveness is about developing empathy, which means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing what must have been going on for them.
You are able to forgive someone when you resolve the anger, disappointment and feelings of betrayal you have toward them. Underneath feelings of anger and resentment, incidentally, is usually that we got badly hurt.
Forgiveness does not sanction someone else’s behavior. It is about letting go, no longer carrying the pain and hurt around with you, and no longer needing to get even. In a sense, every time we think of someone we know very well, we forgive. No marriage would last, no friendships survive, no family endure if we couldn’t forgive other people’s transgressions on a regular and ongoing basis.
So the question: do you want to be healed, or do you want to go on suffering from an unfair hurt?
“The person who pursues revenge should dig two graves.” Chinese Proverb
Next week, I will offer specific suggestions about how to forgive.