Do you have someone in your life you have not been able to fully forgive? You are not alone, as I have met many people who wish to forgive but are not sure how or where to start. A lot of people think forgiveness means forgetting, or telling yourself what happened was not impactful. This is simply not true. True forgiveness goes much deeper than just “sucking it up” when you’re in the company of people who hurt you, making excuses for those who hurt you, or avoiding them and getting angry when you recall what happened. In approaching the subject of forgiveness, I gather my sources from a combination of psychological understanding, personal insight, and a Christian ideological base-although forgiveness is applicable and important for everyone. This blog intends to provide a very condensed description of what forgiveness is (part1), explore why it is important (part 2), and how to give others our full forgiveness (part 3).
Part 1: What is Forgiveness?
It is easy to begin our discussion on forgiveness by analyzing it objectively. Therefore, let’s try our best to define its parts. First and foremost, forgiveness is a decision not a feeling, although feelings are an effect of forgiveness or a lack thereof in most cases. Recognizing that we have the ability to choose to forgive despite our hurt feelings can empower us to reconsider how we view and partake in forgiveness and ponder its role in our lives.
One main facet of forgiveness is the acknowledgment of the hurt you feel and the wrong someone has committed, whether intentionally or unintentionally, against you. If the hurt is unintentional, it is often easier to forgive, but the hurt still needs to be recognized and experienced. Conversely, if the hurt is intentional, forgiveness is often more difficult to give someone because people often mistakenly believe that forgiving communicates the hurtful betrayal of your right to respect and love as benign or acceptable. Doctor D’Ambrosio of the Crossroads Initiative states that, “Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat. It does not mean sitting passively by while an alcoholic or abusive family member destroys not only your life but the lives of others. But taking severe, even legal action does not require resentment and vindictiveness.” Once you forgive someone you do not have to “magically” forget what has been done to you, as many have told me they believe, but rather allow forgiveness to soften your heart; by doing so, you allow yourself to see what is bigger than the hurt, which is yourself, love, and God. To summarize, it is important to acknowledge the hurt, identify what needs to be truly forgiven, and allow your perspective to broaden.
Another aspect of forgiveness is letting go of the anger, hurt, or resentment you’ve just recognized (we’ll get into a few ways to do this later) so that you can be free to no longer be chained down by such heavy burdens. It may seem as though you are letting the person who wronged you get away with the hurtful act by letting go of the bitterness, but in actuality, you are setting yourself free of the bitterness to make room for healing.
The third part of forgiveness ties right into how to let go of hurt, which is to love the person who harmed you with the fullness of your heart and soul. This is true and complete forgiveness, and this is what is continually done for us by Christ. Loving our enemies will help us to live more complete lives. Regardless of differing religious beliefs, showing love to others who do not necessarily deserve our love reminds us that we are loved despite our mistakes as flawed human beings, too. Love brings peace and healing which lends itself to the topic of why forgiveness is important in the first place.