Forgiveness: The Path to Self-respect and Inner Freedom
When I sat down to write this article, I had a million thoughts as to what I wanted to write about. But, there was this nagging, little voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me what I should write about. By no means did I want to listen to that voice. After a bit of wrestling with my own thoughts, I came to the conclusion that I needed to suck it up and write about none other than forgiveness. I started to think, "Why is this so hard for me to write about let alone even think about?"
Well, like any of you, we all have relationships. Relationships can be wonderful things that bring us joy, happiness, security, love, comfort and so much more. But, at times those relationships can be very trying, push our buttons, and at points cause us hurt or pain. I recently went through a rough patch with someone that is very close to me. I will refer to this person as Jake. I was really hurt and felt very betrayed by something Jake had done. He apologized and we were able to work things out, but there was still something looming over my head. There was this interior struggle I could not explain. I thought I had let it go and forgiven Jake, but the offenses kept popping into my head, eating at me little by little.
It wasn’t until I began to really contemplate forgiveness and seek the wisdom of others that I recognized I had not completely forgiven Jake.
In my case I was letting fear take over and cloud my mind with thoughts of Jake hurting me again. I was holding myself back from moving forward with my life and this relationship. As a result of my lack of forgiveness, bitterness and resentment began to form. I, as well as my relationship with Jake were being robbed of joy. I was now letting the situation control me and permitting fear to rule my life, which in turn wasn’t allowing myself to truly heal.
That is when I began to realize, not being able to forgive is the same as imprisoning yourself. Every time we cannot or do not forgive someone in our life we are creating chains for ourselves. These chains form barriers that prevent us from healing and enjoying life as it is meant to be enjoyed. When we are able to truly forgive, we are freeing ourselves from the bondage of an unforgiving heart.
See, forgiveness is not just about saying you are sorry. Forgiveness has to be from your heart; it has to be genuine and sincere. As hard as it may be, we have to have mercy for one another. As soon as we are able to open our hearts to forgiveness and mercy for others, true healing can take place.
A great author, Francis Fernadez, wrote “forgiveness is where we show our greatness of soul, our magnanimity.” Forgiveness is an amazing virtue because it has the capability of changing lives. When we forgive we allow ourselves to accept the fact that not everyone has the same feelings, hopes and thoughts as we do. We are thus forced to exercise patience and humility. Humility, through forgiveness, helps us to recognize that we are human and therefore we offend and hurt others as well. This humility that we are human and fallen allows charity and love to flourish in our lives, which can transform hearts; especially the hearts of those who do not understand the power of forgiveness and the many virtues that stem from it. Virtues such as respect, joyfulness, cheerfulness, charity, patience, kindness, compassion, tolerance, magnanimity, humility and many more are all virtues that emanate from forgiveness. Can you imagine the lives you could touch by simply living out forgiveness? Can you imagine a world where we all practiced forgiveness on a daily basis?
Here are a few tips that have helped me on the road to forgiveness:
Avoid bitterness at all cost.
Instead of criticizing, find a solution.
Look at the good in others. Instead of nitpicking at others’ faults, find the beauty in them. What are their virtues?
Sometimes you don’t need to say, “I forgive you”. Sometimes all you need to do is change your attitude toward that person or do something out of love for them.
No matter how someone has hurt you, please don’t allow unforgiveness to take over your life and keep you in chains. Forgiveness has the power to change hearts and lives.
Please feel free to share a time where you have been hurt by someone and found it hard to heal. Or if you are finding it hard to heal and forgive someone please post your thoughts, concerns, and/or what you are struggling with.