While we’ve heard many times over the years about the power of forgiveness, we have no idea what that really means until we try it.
When we carry around hurt feelings or dwell on the injustices reaped upon us in the past, we’re just making things worse. Being upset with someone else for “doing us wrong” has no impact on that other person. It only affects us.
Whoever wronged us has probably long forgotten the incident and maybe even forgotten who we are. The wrongdoer never thinks or worries about the carnage left behind. He’s certainly not concerned about what he did to us or suffering about it.
We’re the ones suffering. We’re expending all our energy being upset. When we hang on to the bad things that have happened to us and stay mad at those who did those bad things, we’re only damaging ourselves.
That’s where the power of forgiveness is most valuable - it diminishes that damage.
Holding grudges robs us of all vitality and joy. It’s downright impossible to have a life of gusto when you’re harboring grievances against others. The hurts and wounds we keep inside us tend to fester, get infected and color our entire outlook on life. They make us bitter, resentful and cynical.
We often spend an inordinate amount of time and energy figuring out how to get even, make another pay for what he’s done or we’re wallowing in self-pity. Those pent-up hurts cause neuroses in our psyches, interfering with our perceptions and understanding of life, possibly leading to psychoses, where our realities are totally distorted.
Our relationships across the board are severely damaged when we’re holding past traumas and transgressions against us. Our health suffers because we become more susceptible to diseases and mental disorders. There's no such thing as healthy aging when we're holding grudges.
So what can we do about it? We can start by forgiving those who hurt us - whether they ask for it or not. Someone asking for forgiveness is not required for forgiving that person. When we can bring ourselves to forgive without that, we’re way ahead of the game. We take a huge leap towards healing ourself, having peace of mind and freedom to move forward in our lives.
We may not “feel” like forgiving someone, but it’s always in our best interest to do so - the sooner, the better. Forgiving means letting go of our grievances. It does not mean condoning another’s actions or excusing them. And it does not mean that we have to let that person know that we’re forgiving him. That’s another step towards the healing process but not a required one.
The power of forgiveness is interesting and freeing. Forgiving does not mean we forget the wrongdoing ever happened or want to continue in a relationship with the wrongdoer. That’s a choice we can make later.
Forgiveness is for us, not the other person. It means we accept what happened, acknowledge how it made us feel and the impact it had on us, and that we actually learned something in the process. And while we don’t have to do so, we can determine at some point if we want to communicate our forgiveness to the other person and if we want to keep that person in our life.
We get to decide what’s best for us to move on.
Once we are able to forgive another, we need to forgive ourselves. We often spend as much effort making ourselves wrong for being a victim as we do blaming the perpetrator. Forgiving ourselves and having compassion for our humanness goes a long way toward having vitality in our lives.
You want a great life of gusto? Let the power of forgiveness do it’s magic.