Forgiveness can be a confusing concept. Welcome to the club. It is not exclusive. The membership has been prepaid by millions of folks before our current “How do I” submission is ever communicated. Here is what I have learned.
Forgiveness doesn’t change the story of the past, but it will change the perception of that story, further changing how you process it, which leads ultimately in changing how you tell it. Forgiveness becomes the connect-the-dots formula that heals the body, refreshes the mind, and encourages the soul. This loving practice turns our future into one worth looking forward to.
Ever desire to move on but struggle with just how this is accomplished? On one hand, the inclination to justify an uncomfortable emotion and consequently hold on to the behavior that follows is a pretty strong one to resist. It is commonly called “payback,” and it is normal. What on Earth do you do when feelings occur because in some way, you acknowledge that you have been unjustly treated? The reaction to this can lead us into a negative set of patterns if we aren’t mindful of how destructive it can be.
Now, on the other hand we find ourselves with a desire to remove the very thing that is causing the emotional pain that we have determined is holding us back. No, not the source. That would be scandalous. We could find ourselves in front of a tribunal explaining why the person went missing. What I’m talking about is removing the knot inside us that is giving us an ongoing stomach ache.
Why Not Just Forget It?
Forgiveness is not predicated on forgetting. We cannot delete an experience however painful it may be. If you are like me, the wish is that you could. Forgiveness has everything to do with letting go of any claim that we carry to be compensated for the hurt or loss that we have suffered. Forgiveness is a radical approach to healing.
Robert Enright, a Catholic Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed something called “The Enright Forgiveness Inventory” which is fairly detailed. A pdf for your review can be found here. In it, he gives a list of exercises that claim to benefit the psychological component that affects the heart.
I have a simpler approach. The examination of one word: imperfection.
Consider that we all at one time or another have caused some degree of hurt. Excluding toddlers (because those little beans haven’t developed fully yet) we can summize that this is true. Is it that difficult to provide an opportunity for others to as well?
Once that reality is reached it becomes less about specific and more about degree. What measurement on our scale does the degree of unjust read? The specific action is just a side note. What becomes important is how the level of intensity causes us to feel about it.
Relational or Situational
Is it relational or situational? Let me explain. While both test our ability to choose an appropriate reaction, only one has a longer shelf life.
Relational deals commonly with individuals and groups. A one-on-one you might say, where things are said or done that solicit a gasp, or in a group when someone is called out — typically in a not-so-nice way. Either way, you’re left down-right astonished.
Situational deals with your surroundings or environment. Say you lose your house in a fire, and arson is the cause. Yes, forgiveness is complicated.
Relationships are our common thread. We cannot get through our day to day without them — unless of course, you are a recluse. This by choice has an entirely different structure altogether. I am not judging here; it just isn’t, for me, a preferred lifestyle.
Forgiveness in a relationship stems from what we are willing to accept. The wisdom here is that upon forgiving, we no longer put ourselves in that position again to experience what we have come to forgive. Read it again: it makes sense.
Forgiveness is a state of mind. Each one of us has a unique value that if stepped on unconsciously or otherwise will create resentment. Forgiveness must be a focused attention followed by deliberate action. Forgiveness becomes a precious gift you give to yourself. Forgiveness is freedom.
This Is Hard Work but It’s Not Impossible
This takes patience, practice, and persistence, but I assure you that forgiveness can relieve stress, create peace and — oh yeah — keep you out of a really bad revenge trend. As difficult at times as it can be, looking at the larger picture of life through the lens of love and kindness does in fact cleanse and nurture the soul. I encourage you all to give this a try. There is a reason the “Golden Rule” is a great living philosophy. It works.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com