Almost everyone I know have had to deal with some form of hurt and pain, either self-inflicted or brought about by a close friend, relation or colleague. Offences are bound to come our way and most often they leave us hurt and bitter.
When this happens, we can either choose to forgive or choose to nurse the pain and the bitterness. Forgiveness is a choice we must make intentionally. Not forgiving is also a choice we make - unintentionally.
Now if you ask how people handled that choice, you will hear many different stories about resentment, revenge, internalizing, depression, anger, and sadness but few stories about forgiveness. Why? Why would anyone hold onto pain if they don’t have to? What is it in our nature to harbor ill feelings or hold onto past pain? Studies show that holding onto emotional pain transpires into physical illness.
Some call it letting go; others call it forgiving. Not only forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean denying the other person’s responsibility for hurting you. Forgiving someone isn’t excusing the act. Forgiveness is a practice for compassion, empathy, kindness and peace.
Lewis B. Smedes said, “To forgive is to set a person free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
Holding pain inside is a breeding ground for negative feelings. Negative feelings in turn come out through anger, resentment, and the desire to seek vengeance. Negative feelings also keep us from enjoying the present; turning into depression and anxiety ultimately sabotaging those relationships we hold so dear. Not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
Practicing forgiveness is a commitment to change. Moving away from a victim role and taking a more proactive and positive stance on your wellbeing will move you toward a more peaceful and enjoyable life.
Sometimes an act seems unforgivable. Place yourself in their shoes. Consider how you would have reacted or behaved if it were you. Accept that we are all human and have occasional imperfections. With any decision to make a change, journaling is an easy way to document and reflect on your feelings, which will help move you toward your goal.
Forgiveness is within you, there is no guarantee it will change the offender or future acts and therefore it is important for you to know that forgiving someone may not give you the immediate outcome you desire – this is an internal practice that will ultimately change your external world but is a personal practice and not a means to change someone else.
Today choose to forgive someone ho has hurt you, starting with yourself.