What does it certainly mean to forgive? Is it possible to forgive without forgetting? So how exactly does it feel to forgive or be forgiven? Can it be simpler to forgive a real pain incurred by another’s accidental actions than a mental wound inflicted with intent? Does “sorry” from the offender require forgiveness from the offended? Does the offended require an apology in order to forgive the offender?
I have pondered the thought of forgiveness many times. I suspect most of us have. We have all been hurt and we’ve all been the explanation for someone else’s pain.
While endeavoring to explore what forgiveness means and why it is recognized as so important to the mental health, I reflected upon some well-known aphorisms.
“To err is human; to forgive divine.” (Alexander Pope)
“We should develop and maintain the ability to forgive. He who’s without the ability to forgive is without the ability to love. There’s some good in the worst folks and some evil in the very best of us.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
“I will forgive, but I cannot forget is another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness should be such as a cancelled note-torn in two and burned up so that it never can be shown against one.” (Henry Ward Beecher)
“Without forgiveness there’s no future.” (Desmond Tutu)
Many religions encourage and even require forgiveness as an act of piety.
There’s, in fact, no end to famous maxims encouraging us toward forgiveness. Can it be really very easy? No, obviously it isn’t, but it is possible and it is within our control.
There’s a wide variety of affronts, accidents, and human atrocities which have left small, large and inconceivable wounds upon individuals, groups and civilizations. There are monstrous acts of inhumanity that are beyond understanding and should never be forgiven or forgotten a course in miracles podcast. There are simple oversights that are dismissed without hesitation. It is the “in betweens” that cause so much consternation. Particularly amongst family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. This is actually the physical and emotional terrain where most of us live. It is where we react and over-react. It is where we experience our most raw feelings and where we can cause the absolute most enduring sorrow. This is where forgiveness and acceptance become an intrinsic element of our humanity and our mental health.
I don’t believe that forgiveness requires forgetting. I don’t believe it is always possible to forget. I actually do believe that the test of forgiveness lies within our emotional being. What does this mean? It means that if you were to think back on the incidence that initiated the pain and there’s still hurt or anger that bubbles from within, you have not forgiven. We experience true forgiveness when the event ceases to trigger a poor emotional response.
Forgiving may be the the main equation that is within our control. We can’t force you to definitely forgive us. We can extend the olive branch, require forgiveness, even offer compensation if appropriate. But we can’t choose for anyone else. We can, however heal, even without having to be granted forgiveness from whomever we’ve injured. It starts with forgiving ourselves. It may sound such as a cliche, but it’s true. With or without forgiveness from another, we still need certainly to forget about our personal guilt. It is easier to do this if the individual we’ve hurt accepts our apology, but either way we can use self forgiveness to heal and let go. We can incorporate the encounter into our being and let it influence our future choices of behavior.
When we keep anger or resentment, we unwittingly encourage your body’s stress response which can trigger a series of unhealthy physical reactions. Meditation, yoga, visualization, breathing exercises and prayer are types of coping with stress and reprogramming our responses to events we can’t control or change.
What else can we do to help ourselves forgive or accept non forgiveness if it is wanted although not granted? First, don’t make assumptions about what another person is thinking or feeling. Odds are you will undoubtedly be wrong or, at minimum, not completely right. Wrong assumptions generally lead to the perpetuation of bad feelings and interfere with the capacity to heal. Second, don’t reinforce the negative emotions by continuing to re-live the encounter through stories you tell yourself and others. Third, try treating forgiveness like every other behavior you would like to see extended to you and those around. Even though forgiving doesn’t come naturally, it can be quite a learned behavior. In the event that you offer and practice forgiveness, others are more likely to accept and extend the same behavior. Finally, Decide that giving and accepting forgiveness is more important than who you think is right or how a conflict was initiated. Even early woulds can be healed through practicing genuine forgiveness. Remember, we are speaing frankly about the “in-betweens” here not monstrous acts of abuse that could fall into the sounding atrocities. Forgiving and healing from the deep scarring of physical and emotional trauma is really a subject and procedure that goes way beyond the scope with this article.