Another Look at Forgiveness
Dr. Rick Petronella
|We have just celebrated Easter in the Christian church. One of the most poignant statements recorded in history is Christ on the cross- beaten, falsely accused, bleeding on a cross, and at the point of his death, he stated:” Forgive them, Father, they know not what they are doing. -Luke 23:34” |
Forgiveness means letting go of a grievance and letting go of the right to take revenge. It also means to let go of bitterness. Choose to stop dwelling on what the one who hurt has done. When we wrong someone, we seek his or her forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness does not mean we can change what happened or erase what was done. What’s done is done. All we can do is release ourselves from continuing to suffer for what happened to us in the past.
Forgiveness is not something we do for someone else, but it is to free ourselves from unhealthy pain, anger, and shame. Anger gives the appearance of being powerful, but leaves us feeling frustrated and empty. Forgiveness appears weak but leaves us feeling stronger and less vulnerable to others. Forgiveness is a gift to our own peace of mind, self-esteem, relationships with others, and our future. Ephesians 4 vs. 31-32.
None of us are perfect at forgiving. We’ve held on to our hurt because we felt that we had the right to. But in reality, the forgiveness we refused to grant is only hurting us. It is very difficult to forgive. Especially if the offense still causes us pain. Forgiveness often requires us to grieve what has happened to us. As with any feeling of loss, we grieve many different emotions, from numbness to confusion, embarrassment, anxiety, and even depression. When we forgive, we experience peace where there is no forgiveness there is always anger, and anger and peace cannot co-exist inside the same heart.
Let your grievances go, give them to God and then give someone the gift of forgiveness even if you feel they don’t deserve it. It may take time, but ask God for His help. He will not fail you.
Colossians 3:13 says we are to “forgive.” We are told to “make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you” (NLT).
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness means different things to different people. Ask 10 people you will get 10 different answers. Generally, however, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.
The act that hurt or offended you might always be with you, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy, and compassion over time for the one who hurt you.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.
What are the benefits of forgiving someone?
Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to:
Improved mental health
Lower blood pressure
A stronger immune system
Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?
Being hurt by someone, particularly someone you love and trust, can cause anger, sadness and confusion. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.
Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you’re a grudge holder, almost anyone can learn to be more forgiving.
What are the effects of holding a grudge?
If you’re unforgiving, you might:
Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
Become depressed or anxious
Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others
How do I reach a state of forgiveness?
As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.
What happens if I can’t forgive someone?
Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit their wrong. If you find yourself stuck:
Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.
Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
Write in a journal, pray, or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again.
Does forgiveness guarantee reconciliation?
If the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you otherwise value, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation.
What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?
Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.
What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?
The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how they have affected others. Avoid judging yourself too harshly. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and ask for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever happens, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy, and respect.
How Well Do You Let Go and Move On? QUIZ
|Whether you’re letting go of a cherished idea or person or a vision of how life was supposed to be, it can feel excruciating to leave something or someone behind. It can feel as though you’re losing a part of yourself. Sometimes you might even feel attached to your anger and resentment. |
However, letting go as well as forgiving can be an empowering act, as it forces you to develop important resources like courage, compassion, forgiveness, and love.
Answer the following true/false questions to discover how well you release what’s no longer viable:
1. I have a hard time letting go of grudges. When someone does me wrong, they are permanently on my “bad” list.
2. I somehow feel it’s “noble” to never give up, and this has caused me to stay in unhealthy relationships or situations.
3. When an intimate relationship ends, it can take me years to get over it.
4. I spend a lot of time living in the past—sometimes reliving old glory days, sometimes replaying what I wish I’d done differently.
5. When I make a mistake, I can’t stop dwelling on it and kicking myself.
6. I feel paralyzed by my fear of the unknown. I can’t let go of what I have when I don’t know what will replace it.
1. When negative emotions arise, I allow myself to fully experience all my feelings, and I quickly find myself in a better emotional state.
2. Leaving behind a situation that isn’t working for me is the most self-caring thing I can do.
3. Finding a way to forgive someone—and sometimes myself—allows me to release anger and blame.
4. When I’m in conflict with someone, sharing my feelings allows me to feel heard, release my negative feelings and return to a place of peace and connection.
5. Although keeping the status quo may feel safer, I am committed to making choices that help me get out of my comfort zone and grow.
6. When dealing with the grieving process around the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, ultimately finding a way to accept what IS, even though still sad, brings me greater peace.
If you answered true more often in Set 1 and false more often in Set 2, you may want some support to help you let go and move on.