Forgiveness is difficult for many people because, too often, we think to forgive is also to condone, to say, “Oh, that’s ok.” We put up barriers to forgiving others because of this notion. Many times, in fact, most of what needs to be forgiven is NOT ok. It was not ok to have happened, it is not ok to do again — it’s just simply NOT ok. So, unless the offender asks for forgiveness with sincerity and remorse (and sometimes even when they do,) we often find it difficult to forgive.
If you look up the word ‘forgive’ in the dictionary, one of the definitions you’ll find is: to cease to feel resentment against. Forgiving, ceasing to feel resentment against, someone or something benefits who? You. Forgiving benefits YOU.
Forgiving, ceasing to feel resentment against, that’s all about you, not them. Granted, they might also benefit if you no longer feel resentment toward them, but the change occurs within YOU when you forgive another, not the reverse. The decision to forgive is yours. The act of forgiving is an act YOU undertake, and the feelings changing, as a result, are yours, as well.
For a very long time, I was unwilling to forgive certain people in my life. I held close the feelings of anger and resentment over how they had betrayed me and wore them like a protective shield. I vowed no one would EVER hurt me like that again. Over time, my protective shield began to prevent me from connecting with new people, new friendships, and extending my friendship to others. Ultimately, who did this hurt? Me. I had unknowingly allowed my unwillingness to forgive to control and shape my life – and not positively, I might add.
Today I look at forgiveness as a way to set down the emotional baggage of past hurts and walk away stronger than before. If you think about it – how can you receive the blessings of today if your hands are holding tightly to resentments of yesterday? You can’t go back and change what happened or force the offender to make amends, but you CAN decide to live a happy life.
The person I’m forgiving may or may not even know of my forgiveness – that is not the point. I am the one miserable with my negative feelings and emotions – not them. They may or may not even know I’m harboring resentments. Meanwhile, I’m seething and miserable. By forgiving, I set myself free.
If the whole idea of forgiving feels beyond you at the moment, either because you are still too angry and upset (and likely want your pound of flesh) or because forgiving still feels to you like you’re saying, “Oh, it’s ok…” then try replacing the word ‘forgive’ with the words ‘cease to feel resentment against’ and see if that makes a difference for you. “I cease to feel resentment against you for what you did,” might be a more empowering way for you to say, “I forgive you for what you did.”