Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.Martin Luther King Jr.
How often have we heard, “Just forgive her.” Like it’s just something we can do automatically, like turning on a light switch. If it were truly so easy, we would probably just do it. However, it’s not. Forgiveness is a process.
Many religions decree that it is necessary to forgive to be considered a good person. Insisting that we can reduce our anger, or resentment, by forgiving others. Some religions, and even perhaps some people we know, may use forgiveness as a weapon to guilt us into forgiveness. Maintaining that withholding forgiveness makes us a bad person, or that we might never emotionally heal. The reality is that in order to forgive we must work through our feelings first. And whether we are able to forgive or not, does not determine the kind of person we are.
Forgiving Isn’t Always Easy
Therefore, many of us spiritual beings also want to be able to forgive, yet sometimes it is not so easy. There is a certain peace that comes with forgiveness. A releasing from a burden and often a gift of serenity.
Certainly, there are some things that are easier to forgive than others:
- The harsh words a friend, or loved one, said in anger and now regrets.
- Emotional wounds that have long faded and healed with time.
- Mending a relationship that is worth more than the anger that severed it.
We may even need to forgive ourselves for some things:
- Past mistakes
- The chances you wish you took earlier in life.
- The things you didn’t say until it was too late.
The Benefits of Forgiveness
From my perspective, forgiveness may be something we really want to do, yet we struggle with it. But if it feels as if it is in our highest good to do so, then ultimately, hopefully, we will take the steps to work through the feelings standing in the way to forgive.
When we say, or hear, “I forgive you, yet I’ll never forget.” This generally means, that we haven’t really forgiven. There is still a level of anger or resentment we are experiencing that needs to be worked through. Saying it isn’t necessarily feeling it.
Although some believe that forgiving for our own benefit is selfish, I see it differently. I see it as self-caring. The person who wronged us may not even have the self-awareness to realize we still suffer from the wrong doing. For it to be truly forgiveness, it needs to be about us taking care of ourselves and not carrying around the anger, resentment, and hurt, that may eat us alive inside.
Steven McDonald was a New York police officer. Despite being shot by a 15-year-old boy in 1986, which drastically changed his life and left him a quadriplegic, he forgave the boy who shot him. He then spent his life traveling the world talking about forgiveness and peace. His speeches inspired love, respect, and forgiveness.
For more tips on forgiveness, please click on the link below for my complete article.
My wish for you today is that you are able to embrace the good things in each day and find a sense of serenity.
-Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD
Director Nassau Guidance and Counseling