Forgiveness is an easy virtue to praise. Forgiveness is psychologically healing. Many believe it is absolutely necessary for spiritual growth. That’s all great. But when you are struggling with some very real wrongs that have been perpetrated against you or those you love, forgiveness can seem nearly impossible.
How can you forgive without actually accepting – nearly condoning – the offense or crime? Some say, we should forgive the sinner but not the sin. That thought is nearly worthless in the face of brutality or deep betrayal. Some offenses are so hurtful, so permanently damaging, that forgiveness seems a trite and wholly inappropriate response.
I was in a group recently where forgiveness was discussed. Out of 30 people, about a third insisted there are some wrongs that just can’t be forgiven. Those who rejected forgiveness were emphatic, deeply offended by the thought of forgiving grievous wrongs.
Yet not forgiving means you have to hold bitterness, resentment, and even hate. When you hold these dark emotions, the perpetrator in effect hurts you over and over and over. There’s one simple fact that argues for forgiveness, that makes forgiveness an imperative: forgiveness heals the forgiver.
Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Mandela couldn’t get his 27 years back – the best years, the most fruitful years of a life. Yet if he kept his bitterness and hatred, he would be useless as a man and worthless as a leader
Some say forgive, but don’t forget. That’s not forgiveness. Forgiveness must be unconditional or it is not forgiveness at all.
Forgiveness is a psychologically healthy act. In an article in Unity Magazine, Carla McClellan, quotes psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky saying that forgiveness “is a shift in thinking toward someone who has harmed you. It has nothing to do with reconciliation, forgetting, excusing, or justice. When you are ready, forgiveness is a powerful choice you can make that can lead to greater well-being and relationships. This choice carries with it an intention to heal yourself.”
Even more than a psychologically healthy act, forgiveness is spiritual cleansing. In his book, “Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle,” Colin Tipping explains that ordinary forgiveness is letting bygones be bygones – letting go of the past while still holding onto the idea that something wrong or bad happened. He believes that’s a difficult task and that it usually takes a very long time before we begin to feel the forgiveness.
Instead, he suggests trying “radical forgiveness,” which he describes as a deep commitment to releasing the past. The release is more total since it involves a shift in perception that allows us to see that what happened was actually perfect from a spiritual point of view. It is experienced as a profound insight and can occur in an instant.
Tipping says that radical forgiveness enables us to see the spiritual meaning in any situation. We are able to recognize that life is divinely guided and unfolding for each of us exactly how it needs to unfold for our highest good. We are able to surrender to the flow of life and to learn that, ultimately, there is nothing to forgive.
When we receive this insight, we can let go of being a victim and find peace, even in the most unpleasant memories of what happened. Our hearts open and we are able to experience spiritual oneness with the world.
Forgiveness is necessary to relieve ourselves of the dark and damaging emotions of bitterness, resentment and hate. Those emotions will eat us like cancer. We can – and must – purge these destructive forces with true forgiveness. We can forgive and be healed. When we allow forgiveness, the world changes. The veil of darkness is lifted and we can see we are surrounded by light.
Forgiveness, widely talked, yet not widely walked, is nothing short of nourishment for an overburdened heart. Releasing me, as well as you from a place neither of us wants to be. In a word… freedom.
Within a compassionate heart, I notice you matter in every situation. This in itself is salvation, releasing me from something that would otherwise eat me up from the inside out.
By putting myself above no one alleviates digestive distress, therefore enables me to process this very large meal I’ve just been served, in a way I won’t later regret.
Through the mirror of self recognition, I’m unable to think what you do is worse than what I do. That my hurt, hurts more than yours. And its through this thoughtful heart, I secure a safe path for both of us through the foibles of life, keeping us equally yoked… equally blessed.
Thanks for the comment,Sharon. Your thoughts are wonderful. Forgiveness can also be a way to fully acknowledge that we cannot truly be hurt. We are one with spirit, and while our lives can seem rough and tumble at times, we will always return to our oneness with spirit.
In forgiving, “I” do not or cannot release “the doer of a wrong” from the consequence of the cause and effect, and let him/her “off the hook”. Nor do “I” create any comfort or ease for him/her. However I am allowing the painful chains that tie the “wrongdoer” and “I” together, to be loosened and “I” be freed of that bandage. Those chains of thinking about the wrong had kept the “wrongdoer” and me in close mental contact. Forgiveness breaks those chains, for me only.
“This too is a concept”
Thanks for the comment, Hshmzaki7. Yes, forgiveness can release the situation from our bondage to it. See that it is a false belief and let it go.
I agree – forgiveness is about ourselves not the other person, but it can be very hard to see that. I believe that emotions need to be worked through before such a understanding can be reached, at least in the majority of cases.
Thanks for the comment, Starrystez. I agree with what you’re saying. In “radical forgiveness,” the author suggests that forgiveness is a shift in perception that changes how we perceive the situation — seeing that it is in divine order — and thus the forgiveness is “instant.”