Forgiveness is not merely the “it’s okay” spoken after “I’m sorry.”
It’s not letting someone back into your heart. It’s not letting someone off the hook.
Forgiveness is letting yourself off the hook.
When we do not forgive, we are on the hook of our own pain. We cling to it, using a past wound to define the choices we make, the paths we pursue, the people we let into our lives. More truthfully, we use it as an excuse for what we don’t do.
Our grudges becomes our walls.
The walls we build out of our grudges may feel safe, but we are not meant to be caged. We need to grow. We need to explore our potential. We need to share ourselves with the world.
That’s why we need to forgive.
The truth is, forgiveness is a choice, and it is a selfish one. That’s a good thing. In this way, we should all be more selfish.
Forgiveness is a powerful tool and pathway to healing and wholeness, for us individually and collectively. Forgiveness is the weapon of the wise.
Many people mistake forgiveness as something that must be received from someone else. When feeling guilty, they go to God or another person and ask for their forgiveness.
This is lazy.
To be forgiven, you must first forgive…yourself.
Forgiveness is hard work. Excruciating, actually. Because forgiveness requires us to examine ourselves, really examine ourselves and our actions.
It’s one thing to admit we’ve done wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. We all know that. It’s quite another to know why we’ve done what we’ve done.
When we look at our whole selves, we find that each of us is capable of great evil and great goodness and everything in between.
We go wrong when we isolate pieces of ourselves and ignore the whole. Maybe we maintain our self esteem by focusing only on our good qualities, unable to bear criticism. Maybe we are comfortable in self-loathing, quick to criticize ourselves. Neither of these are true or beneficial.
Likewise, when we meet someone, our opinion of them is based on our isolated observations of and interactions with them. Whether we like or dislike them, we are not giving credit to the whole person. We may praise them or disdain them based on how they treat us on a particular occasion.
Either way, we can know that they have reasons for being the way the are, doing what they do, saying what they say. As do we ourselves.
For better or for worse, we all have our reasons.
When someone hurts us, we are guaranteed that there were people and events behind their behavior we may never understand. We are also guaranteed that we have and will again hurt someone too.
Forgiveness is the conscious choice to release our grip on pain, anger, resentment. It means to accept the reality of what has happened and leave it in the past. It is the only thing that frees us to live the lives we were always meant to.
The way of forgiveness is a practice. As with anything else, it takes time and repetition to build strength and skill. We can all become adept forgivers.
To begin, start small. When one of your less desirable qualities arises–as it undoubtedly will–laugh at it. Make fun of yourself. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. Rather than resenting this trait, accept it. It is as much a part of yourself as your best quality, and you had reasons for developing this characteristic.
Another practice is speaking your forgiveness out loud. Don’t wait until you feel ready to forgive, because that won’t happen. When you’re alone, think of the person who wronged you and say, “I forgive you.”
It won’t happen immediately, but with practice it will happen. Again, you’re not letting that person off the hook. You’re letting yourself off the hook of your pain so you can move forward.
Some wounds are so enormous they feel impossible to forgive. But if you believe it is possible and you truly want to be free, you will make it happen. The power of your faith and your will is enough. It may not look exactly like you think it should, but your life is your own to live.
We owe it to ourselves and to God and to the world to practice forgiveness. Through forgiveness, we may become our best, happiest, and freest selves.. and that is exactly what the world needs.