We engage in forgiveness because we need its inherent gifts. At various points in our lives, we’ve all experienced being hurt or wounded by others’ actions or words. The impact of these wounds can generate lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or vengeance. Ironically, when we hold on to these feelings, we hurt ourselves more than the person who generated the original wound. Perhaps, we’ve even been the perpetrator of the words or actions that call for forgiveness from others and from ourselves for being less than perfect.
Forgiveness is an ongoing process, a choice fueled by intention and commitment. The process involves letting go of any resentment, indignation or anger resulting from the experienced offence. It is not necessary for the official offender to offer an apology, offer acknowledgement for acts committed or even to ask for forgiveness. When we intentionally choose to forgive, we relinquish the right to formal punishment, justice or restitution for the suffered offence. This can be quite challenging at times when we long for fairness in a world that appears to be unfair.
Forgiveness is a decision – a decision to let go. We intentionally choose to forgive. This does not mean that we let the other person of the hook for what they did. It also doesn’t minimize or justify the wrongful action. Whatever the original act was that hurt or offended you may always remain part of your life story. However, through the act of forgiveness, the emotional charge attached to the memory will dissipate over time. Through engaging in forgiveness, we are let off the hook from carrying around negative emotions. Ironically, forgiveness often leads to feelings of empathy, compassion and even understanding.
According to various studies regarding forgiveness, those who are able to forgive are happier, healthier and experience less suffering in their lives. Less forgiving people report a greater number of health issues and less life satisfaction. In addition, studies show that people who are taught how to forgive become less angry, feel less hurt and are generally more optimistic, compassionate and self-confident. They also experience reduced stress and an increase in overall life vitality. Who wouldn’t want to experience those benefits?
We engage in forgiveness because we need its inherent gifts. Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change and is rarely a one time act. The process of forgiveness requires intention, commitment and making a conscious choice to forgive in each moment that resentment, anger and/or old wounds may surface. Where in your life could you optimally benefit from fully engaging in the process of forgiveness?