Choosing to forgive is realizing that you have been a prisoner in a prison where you have the prison key and you are also the prison warden.
You may be having a thousand reasons why you should not or cannot forgive the person who hurt you. However, you have to understand that refusing to forgive brings about depression, daydreaming, anger, hopelessness, and feeling drained of energy. It can lead you to be mean and impatient with others and their weaknesses. Forgiveness is hard work but starts with a decision.
So, who has hurt you? Are you angry? Full of resentment? The first step is to acknowledge and accept that you are angry. This part is hard for many because one may feel that it is not normal to be angry for ten years or be angry with someone who died or someone too young. It is normal to be angry at someone for dying and leaving you feeling alone or being angry at someone who died long ago Have you convinced yourself that you can only forgive, if the person who hurt you or is hurting you, changes? Do not confuse forgiveness with trust. Forgiveness should indeed lead you to separate yourself from the hurtful situation or relationship. Forgiveness does not depend on the other person who hurt you changing or even apologizing. It is your choice. Think about this for a while.
Forgiveness is a process
The anger from hurt does not go immediately you choose to forgive. That does not mean you are doing it wrong. It is a process and you need to be patient with yourself. Sometimes, as you forgive, you might realize that there are other people who might have hurt you and may hurt you, as you forgive a previous hurt, be patient and start the process of forgiving them too. Forgiveness is both a process that does not have a deadline or works equally for all people. Understand that you are unique.
Benefits of forgiving
When you don’t forgive, you can struggle with anger not only towards the person who hurt you but towards yourself by being impatient with your life’s total performance or particular aspects of it such as finance or education or dissatisfied about certain aspects of yourself such as your body. Lack of forgiving can make your paranoid and suspicious, unable to trust people and feel unlovable. You can also find yourself very critical of people. Remember, many times the person or people hurting you are victims of hurt themselves and are unable to deal with their own hurt. An attitude of, “they shouldn’t be putting their problems on me. They should deal with their own issues and leave me in peace,” is both selfish and unsympathetic. In fact, it shows that you have become so insensitive to other people hurting that you have practically assumed the nature of the person who hurt you. This means you are ready to hurt others whether you do this consciously or not. This should serve as a good reminder of what you might end up if you do not deal with your hurt. So be ready to forgive and be open to love.
Some benefits of forgiving include:
a. From anxiety to increased inner peace
b. Decreased depression, anger and paranoia
c. Decreased feelings of bitterness and resentment towards the person who
d. From being self-critical to self-acceptance and appreciation
e. From suspicion of others to healthy meaningful relationships
f. Increase in courage, openness and love
g. Reduction in fear and guilt
h. Healthy blood pressure
i. Increased self-esteem and self-worth
I am sure you want some if not all of these benefits in your life!
Many times we refuse to forgive thinking that we are imprisoning emotionally the person or persons who hurt us. Unfortunately, we are the prisoners. The person or persons who hurt us are not in any way affected by our held up anger. Forgiveness helps you to open a place where you are the prison, the prisoner and the holder of the keys to the prison. It demands courage. Courage to move into the unknown where you might make the same mistakes or feel the anger again is fundamental. Be ready. Pray. Ask someone to pray for you and with you.
Write some reflections from this material in your journal. Have you read something here that talks to you? That strikes a note with your life as per now?
(Summarized and Developed from: Robert Enright’s Forgiveness is a Choice Manual)