I’ll put it out there and be honest about it. I have had some experiences where someone treated me badly and it’s been difficult to forgive them. Like a lot of people I was of the mindset that someone had to deserve forgiveness before you gave it to them. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve come to fully understand that forgiveness is something you do for yourself. I spoke about this in my post last week “Does he deserve it? – the question of forgiving an unfaithful partner”( if you didn’t happen to read that,click here ).
So, once we accept that forgiveness is for our benefit, we’re still faced with the issue of how to actually go about doing it. I mean, it’s one thing to decide it’s beneficial to do it, it’s another thing to actually attempt it! Kind of like going on a diet, you know it’s going to do you some good, but the thought of giving up all that tasty fattening food is really tough! All those negative, vengeful thoughts are like junk food, they feed our ego; “How dare he do that to me!”, ” Who do they think they are saying that to me,!” Let’s face it, is can be kind of gratifying to hold a grudge.
As I mentioned last week, forgiving someone doesn’t mean you are condoning their behaviour, it just means that you are willing to let it go. I think it’s good to ask yourself two questions in regards to whether or not to forgive somebody, what do you stand to gain by not forgiving them and what do you stand to lose ? Truth be known, if you don’t forgive, you won’t really gain anything.
With regarding what to do to forgive, their are a variety of suggested methods. Personally, one that stands out to me that I heard a speaker explain was this; Pretend the person who hurt you is sitting in a chair opposite you. Speaking out aloud, express all that is on your heart, what they said or did to you, how it affected you, and then tell them you forgive them. This can be very therapeutic because instead of letting negative thoughts run wild in your head, you are facing the issue head on and verbalizing how you feel. Of course, if they are still around, you can do this with the person concerned, but unless done in the right spirit, you may find it backfires. It depends on the person, if you think it will bear the right results, go for it!
Another thing you can do is find excuses for them. Now, hang on a second! Before any of you get indignant at that suggestion, I want to clarify that I am not talking about justifying what they did. What I mean is trying to get inside their head and explore reasons why they said or did what they did. For example, someone might frequently criticize you, however their reason for doing so is a way of compensating for their own inadequacy. You can say to yourself, “what so and so said to me, really hurt me, but they have an issue with very low self esteem so that’s their way of compensating. I forgive them and will do my best to make sure I don’t fall into the same trap”
Sometimes the one we have to forgive first is ourselves. I once worked with somebody who had a habit of putting people down and exalting themselves ( they, incidentally, had a serious issue with low self esteem believe it or not!) For several years afterwards, I harboured a grudge against this person. Then after some time, and after getting sick of thinking negatively about them so often, I self analyzed my thoughts. I realized that the person I was most upset at was myself. All the times this person had been critical, I had never followed my convictions and honestly shared my opinions with them. Instead of standing up to them, I let myself be intimidated and the end result was, they never got to see the error of their ways, and I just ended up being negative towards them. I then realized that I had to forgive myself for not speaking up. I had to let it go and learn the lesson from it.
Lastly, it must be said that forgiveness is a long process. You can’t expect it to happen overnight because it won’t. It may even take you years! But if you want to truly live a life of freedom and joy, you’ve got to do it! Forgiveness is a big topic, and I’ve only scratched the surface in these two posts. But I hope it’s been enough to give you an inkling of it’s significance. Wish you all the best on your forgiveness journeys!
“The weak can never forgive, it is an attribute of the strong” – Mahatma Ghandi