What is Forgiveness?
Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness. When someone forgives someone else, they let go of negative emotions.
The gift of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself. Forgiveness has a miraculous ability over time to transform us into the person that we need to be so we can live again but in our transformed butterfly state. Unforgiveness on the other hand, increases cortisol (which increases blood pressure, decreases serotonin, causes your body to store more fat), weakens your immune system and causes a host of diseases. The cure for this toxic cocktail is to forgive. In an uncanny way forgiveness is the only real path to freedom. Forgiveness is about letting go so the past doesn't hold you captive or hostage as a prisoner. Studies show forgiving individuals have lower rates of depression and heart disease.
Why do people find it so hard to forgive?
- Avoidance: People avoid forgiveness because they don't want to look at their wounds, which can be painful. It is much easier to channel it as rage as another person. The only problem is that unforgiveness, by nature, creates toxicity. Forgiveness by nature and overtime begins the antidote.
- Trauma: Forgiveness means letting go of the grief, pain and trauma. Forgiveness is difficult to achieve because trauma causes the mind to be clouded by pain, loss, and confusion. The problem is unforgiveness can cause us to replay and relive the events of the past every single day in some cases. It causes us to pick the scars of our wounds so they never can heal. Forgiveness is one of the most liberating and yet, most difficult things that an individual can do.
- Memory of the past: People hold on to the past of what could have been, which can keep them stuck in a vicious cycle of negative emotions. Forgiveness is about letting go of the path that we thought we wanted. It is about releasing the perception of it and living in the present. It is about giving up the hope that the past could be any different. Forgiveness is like medicine that can heal our pain and set us free.
- Inner Conflict: It is often mistakenly thought that if you practice forgiveness you are somehow accepting or pardoning an act. The truth of the matter is, when it costs you the high price of your inner peace, mental health or relationships, forgiveness is your only option. Forgiveness is about accepting that something has happened to you, and that doesn't mean that it was okay for it to have taken place.
Why should we forgive others who have wronged us?
We are less in control of themselves and can experience significant stress when recalling an unforgiving event or individual. This can cause our heart rate, muscle rate and blood pressure to increases when we hold on to unforgiveness. Whether we realise it or not, unforgiveness is choosing to allow the individual to continue hurting us and allowing them to have control over our lives. Unforgiveness is like taking a daily dose of poison each day and wondering why you are sick.
It is important that we don't allow ourselves to be reduced to one event or incident that happened to us as this can create hate and bitterness within. Hate is like cancer. It spreads violently and can only produce negativity. Unfortunately, it doesn't stop at the person who hurt us, but seeps into all relationships. Forgiveness is like medicine that can heal our pain and set us free over time. When we forgive, we are letting go off thoughts and emotions that can hold us down, poison our bodies and weaken us.
It is important to note that there is no timeline for giving someone and everyone does it at their own pace and time. Before we can forgive, it is crucial to have clarity within regarding what we are owed. Only then can we truly forgive the anguish, pain and grief that the loss has caused us. The damages that have taken place within. Real forgiveness requires an acquisition. You have to name the offence and be willing to admit the hurt. Only then can we truly know how much forgiveness costs. Forgiveness is one of the most demanding tests to pass, but its results are life-changing!
If you would like to learn more on the topic of forgiveness, check out part 1 of my 3 part series on the Dilemma of Forgiveness.