“Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.”
“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Forgiveness. One of those things many of us struggle with from time to time. But why should we forgive? And how can we go about it?
Here are a few timeless thoughts on forgiveness. I hope you'll find something useful.
1. Forgiveness sets you free.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
I think this is a great point and one of the best reasons I have found to forgive. It's easy to get wrapped up in thinking that forgiveness is just about something you “should do”. But forgiving can in a practical way be extremely beneficial for you.
As long as you don't forgive someone you are linked to that person. Your thoughts will return to the person who wronged you and what s/he did over and over again. The emotional link between the two of you is so strong and inflicts much suffering in you and – as a result of your inner turmoil – most often in other people around you too.
When you forgive you do not only release the other person. You set yourself free too from all of that agony.
2. Forgive yourself.
“The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbour as ourselves: we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant toward others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. We are prone to sacrifice others when we are ready to sacrifice ourselves.”
What you think and feel about other people is pretty much what you think and feel about yourself. This is not something that may always be obvious. But we do tend to judge and think about people as we think about ourselves. A person who, for instance, is very critical of others tends to, deep down, be very critical of him/herself.
So how do you get better at forgiving others? You can start by forgiving yourself. Because when you start to forgive yourself you get some practise with forgiveness and you also realise how good it feels. You open up to how forgiveness can improve your life and lives of the people around you.
By forgiving yourself – instead of resenting yourself for something you did a week or 10 years ago – you make this habit more and more of a natural part of you. And so forgiving others becomes easier too.
Also, what you think is a question of forgiving others you may sometimes – after some time and inner struggle – discover is just as much, if not more, about forgiving yourself rather than the other person.
3. Remember to forgive everyone.
“We read that we ought to forgive our enemies; but we do not read that we ought to forgive our friends.”
Sir. Francis Bacon
It's often pretty easy to see the obvious people to forgive. People who have done something terrible or someone you don't get along with at all.
It's sometimes hard to see that you should forgive yourself for something. It can also be hard to remember to forgive people close to you. There might be relationships where forgiveness could resolve some vague resentment or other negativity that sometimes arises between you and another person.
When you feel such emotions is can be useful to ask yourself questions like: what is unresolved here? Or just: why do I feel this way towards this person? You may get some revealing answers. They might not come the first time you ask yourself though. So keep asking a bit more.
4. When you forgive, really forgive.
“Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.”
“Most of us can forgive and forget; we just don't want the other person to forget that we forgave.”
When you forgive, you have to really forgive. Or you will continue to wreck the relationship again and again. And yourself too.
You can view forgiveness as a way to feel like you are the better person of the two of you and then hold you forgiveness over the other person whenever you feel like it to show your superiority.
But it might be more helpful to view forgiveness as a way to release yourself and the other person from being trapped in the past. As a way to throw a big piece of self-inflicted suffering out the window and get on with the rest of your life in a more open and positive way.
5. Forgiveness is not a weakness.
“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
It may sound like forgiveness is a way of giving up or giving in. As a way to be a weak person. While the ones not forgiving are angry, powerful and strong. Such ideas may float around in various parts of your world and society.
But reality is a bit different. Not forgiving just seems to mostly eat you up inside. Your feel angry and may even wish for revenge. You replay arguments and memories over and over. While the person you are resentful of or angry at may often not even be aware of all your thoughts and feelings. And so you go on, creating suffering for yourself.
Forgiving releases you from that suffering. It can also make you feel good about yourself. Doing difficult things you know deep down that you want to do tend to have that effect.
6. With forgiveness the future may become brighter than in your dreams.
“Forgiveness is the key to action and freedom.”
“Let us forgive each other – only then will we live in peace.”
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
If you look at from a very practical perspective then forgiveness is the smart thing to do. It saves you a lot of painful expenses. It makes you clearheaded again.
Forgiveness centres you in the now and in yourself once again. You stop regretting what is already in the past. You stop feeding your thought loops of negativity with more energy. And now you can use that energy and focus that was previously spent strengthening those loops to start moving forward again.
Forgiveness might not be pleasant or something you necessarily want to do. You might think the other person is wrong and that you are right. But sometimes you have to do it anyway.
Without really forgiving moving on will be impossible.
So everyone has to choose for themselves.
Do you want to stay in this protected position of feeling right and superior?
Do you want feel like the victim who has been wronged for the rest of your life?
Or do you want make a real change in your life and world?
You will have a hard time getting them both.
It might not always be easy to forgive. But it has many big benefits. And personally I would be a bit wary of playing up forgiveness and what happened more than necessary. Many of our challenges – not all, of course – become so large and complicated in our heads that we build huge, monumental problems.
Making mountains out of molehills is a good way to strengthen a victim mentality or feeling even more right than you did before. It's an effective way to paralyze yourself.
It's not a pleasurable or an effective way to live your life and to explore your true potential.