Forgiveness: Letting Go

Forgiveness is a gift that we bestow upon ourselves.

This concept, for me, was the first step towards understanding how essential forgiveness is for a happy life.

Originally, I thought forgiveness just meant excusing or pardoning an offender and argued that some acts could be forgiven, and some could not.

I knew that people forgave on grounds of religious beliefs, or compassion, or in order to put some horrible thing behind them without necessarily delving in too deeply.

I knew that self-forgiveness was important in order to accept our own shortcomings and mistakes, to enable us to live without debilitating self-criticism or guilt.

I knew that forgiveness was more effective in rehabilitation than punishment.

None of these ideas were complicated. And none of them went deep enough.

Discussing forgiveness with my friends, I realised there was so much more to it. Opinions and feelings varied, as did the experienced circumstances.

But a common reason for forgiveness amongst those with the most cause to be offended, was to dispel their own pain.

What I had neglected to consider was that other component of forgiveness: ceasing to feel resentment.

Ceasing to feel resentment is a choice made entirely by the person who is hurt and is nothing to do with the perpetrator. Releasing the negative feelings enables us to realise that our minds are not determined by external circumstances, that no matter what anybody does, we are free to choose our emotions.

Consider what it feels like to be resentful; it is unpleasant and makes us sad and angry. Isn’t it better to feel pleasant, peaceful, and calm? Why keep a thought that is hurting us?

Harbouring resentment is detrimental to our lives. It creates emotional conflict and even health issues, affecting our minds and bodies, causing digestive issues, skin conditions, and more. It is like taking poison and hoping that the other person dies.

To forgive does not mean overlooking the offense and pretending it never happened. Forgiveness means releasing our rage and our need to retaliate, no longer dwelling on the offense, the offender, and the suffering, and rising to a higher, more pleasant state. It is an act of letting go so that we ourselves can go on. Sue Monk Kidd.

Forgiveness is not only important for major offences. On a day-to-day level, forgiveness enables us to live a more peaceful and pleasant life. Forgiving road rage, rudeness and lack of consideration, frees us from anger and an agitated state of mind.

Letting go of hurts in a loving relationship, enables us to maintain a peaceful state. Forgiveness opens us up to understanding, and therefore, to loving more deeply. It is the foundation of a deep, meaningful relationship.

Siblings, or children and parents, or best friends, or couples, sometimes don’t speak to each other for years, over some perceived or real offense. They miss out on opportunities to be supported, to be included, to be joyful and to be loved, and often regret it, wondering too late, how they could have been so stubborn.

Other times we might need to say sorry, even if we are not the ones in the wrong. Saying sorry means that we value the person and the relationship more than being right.

A friend, Chris Brown, made a speech at his daughter’s wedding. Tears came to my eyes as I listened. It was one of the most loving, touching pieces of advice I have ever heard:

Think about what is strong in the marriage, not what is wrong.

The first to apologise is the bravest.

The first to forgive is the strongest.

The first to forget is the happiest.

A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers and forgetters.

There is no healing without forgiveness. We cannot be happy in a resentful state. To have a pleasant life, to be in control of our minds and emotions, to grow spiritually, to be our best selves, we need to forgive.

Forgiveness is a most valuable gift. And each of us has the power to bestow it; to others and to ourselves.

Spiritual teachers all talk about forgiveness. Here are a few worth listening to:

Forgiveness gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.  Thich Nhat Hanh.

Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.  Eckhart Tolle.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.             Lewis Smedes.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.             Mahatma Gandhi.

Relationships don’t thrive because the guilty are punished but because the wounded are merciful. Max Lucado.                                     

3 Life Lessons on Forgiveness When Feeling Hurt | Lessons from Bhagavad Gita

Sadhguru – How to Forgive Someone Who Hurt You [ An Insight on Forgiveness ]

The Importance of Forgiveness | Eckhart Teachings