The Nature of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not a way of forgetting the past.  Indeed, if we have been harmed, we should not forget it.  We can learn from the past about how to avoid being harmed in the future.  Nor is forgiveness a way of exonerating the perpetrator.  When we forgive, we are not sacrificing anything or giving up on our sense of self-worth.  Forgiveness is a way of declaring our integrity.

“To err is human, to forgive divine”

All of us have been hurt, in one way or another, by someone else.  While it is easy to forgive a friend for the slight distress we feel over a phone call that was not returned, it is not so easy to forgive those who have harmed us in a major way.  The greatest hurt seems to come from those who play the most significant roles in our lives.  The enormity of the hurt may lead us to conclude that we can never forgive the perpetrator.  To forgive or not is one of our life choices.  It is important for our own emotional wellness to understand that it is a choice, and a choice with consequences.

Consider this question – if the harm we have experienced leads us to a life dominated by unresolved anger, a negative image of ourselves and an inability to trust, are we allowing the perpetrator to continue to have power over us?  When we have sleepless nights cycling and recycling thoughts about old hurts, when we seethe with anger, when we ask questions repetitively that seem to have no answers, we continue to suffer the consequences of being hurt.  Perhaps our goal should be to find a way to free ourselves from the damage and to reclaim our lives for ourselves.

There are many ways of being hurt.  Some are minor and some are more severe.  In some cases we are the unwitting victim and at other times we participate in allowing ourselves to be hurt by building expectations that make us vulnerable or placing our trust in the wrong places.  Whatever the nature of the damage done to us, it is a potential source of learning. Click to read the Forgiveness Newsletter.