6 Timeless Thoughts on Forgiveness

“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.”
Dag Hammarskjold

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold peace and happiness.”
Robert Muller

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.”
Catherine Ponder

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.”
Eric Hoffer

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.”
Marlene Dietrich

“Most of us can forgive and forget; we just don't want the other person to forget that we forgave.”
Ivern Ball

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.”
Mahatma Gandhi

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.”
Hannah Arendt

“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.”
Paul Boose

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.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • This is a beautifully written post with a hugely important theme. It really touched me, so thank you very much, Henrik. It’s an issue I’ve struggled with all my life and have not completely resolved as yet. I still believe that, as with all important things, there is a time and place for forgiveness. In other words, it should not be rushed.

    My parents were physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive to each other and to each of us four kids. Being the eldest child, I got the brunt of our mom’s hysterical beatings and our dad’s cold disgust and neglect. Needless to say, these are very hard things to forgive, though I’ve tried to force myself to do it all my life. (E.g., my mom always begged my forgiveness after every beating and made me give it to her, too.)

    Forgiveness is touted as such a wonderfully liberating experience, that I look forward to it so much! I don’t want to be tied to my parents forever (my dad passed away in 1992 and I’ve been estranged from my mom since 2003), but it almost feels like forgiveness out of my hands for now. My heart will forgive when it’s ready I guess. Trying to force myself to forgive them all these years has caused me almost as much pain as my parents did in the first place because I was constantly beating myself up about not being able to forgive them yet. So, I choose to let it all go for now. Do I forgive them yet? No. Do I want to? Yes. That is enough for now. It’s the most peace I’ve known when thinking about my parents. But, I still look forward to forgiving them someday. : )

  • The greatest motivator for forgiving is found in Catherine Ponder’s quote. When we don’t forgive someone who has wronged us, we may never see nor speak to them again, but we haven’t gotten rid of them at all. We carry them around with us forever.

    Like you, I struggle with forgiveness. Thanks for pointing out the benefits and inspiring me with profound quotes.


  • JJ

    Excellent post! Forgiveness is fundamental to lasting and healthy interaction with others. The quote from Ghandi is so true. Your point about holding a grudge against another only hurts you. By holding onto hate and anger towards another, you simply tear yourself apart by thinking about it, while the other person may never be aware or even care about the pain that you a suffering on thoughts on them. It’s just wasted thoughts. So it is best to forgive and be released from them.

  • I think number four is really important. We can’t just say, I forgive you, if we don’t mean it. That’s worse than being unwilling to forgive in the first place.

  • The second point “Forgive yourself” is definitely the foundation in learning to forgive and can also be the most difficult to accept.

  • Great article and topic! I like the quotes especially the one from Ghandi, “The weak can never forgive”. Many people feel that NOT forgiving gives them some kind of power over the other person but in reality it is just a leash.

    • himanshi

      yes you says right dude because i thinks that asking forgiveness is not a big deal no one becomes small or big but who forgive are very big hearted.

  • Forgiveness is not a weakness. That is right. It’s way easier to blow up and rattle off on everything else than to say even in our heart the words “I forgive…”.

    Nice article there! Thumbs up. :)

  • Forgiveness is one of the greatest cures for everything. I had to spend a few years working on forgiving someone, the one big thing I learned to support your fact about the future, is if you don’t forgive, your past will taint your future. Forgive and let go that is my motto, cause if you don’t the only person you hurt is yourself.

    Good one,


  • joyce

    hey thank you .

  • JM

    Very powerful post. I hope it reaches many people.
    Thank you.

  • Thanks for all the kind words and insights, guys!

  • This post is very touching. It reminded me about how far I’ve gone and all the hurts I was able to leave behind. Number 3 is so true. Many of the people who have hurt us are the people really close to us – brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. It’s all best to let go and move on.

    Thanks for this post and God bless.

  • Jam Hojas

    Thanks for this post. It brings back a lot of memories even though painful, I’m thankful I’ve let go.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Nice post! A well compiled 6 thoughts. I have always had difficulty forgiving myself or others. Slowly I am learning to let go. Point #2 and #4 are really important.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Michael K

    Another great topic and article by Mr. Edberg.
    I particularly like how you mentioned that we can free others that we forgive ‘from being trapped in the past’ as well.
    Finally, many of our problems are due to lack of communication and misunderstanding. We may feel that we need to forgive someone for something, and when we finally address the person, we may discover that we were mistaken (Oh! That was John who said that, not me!).