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Forgiveness – what it really means to forgive another

Forgiveness – what it really means to forgive another

I think this is one of the hardest things to do, to forgive another person for wrongdoing, especially if the wrongdoing was directed at ourselves.

The worse the hurt the harder and longer it takes to forgive the other person.

How many times have we said and heard, “No way will I ever forgive him/her in a million years! That will be the last thing that I ever do, if ever.”

The root of “forgive” is the Latin word “perdonare,” meaning “to give completely, without reservation.”

The idea of forgiveness is not about forgiving the act, or what he or she did to us. We are forgiving the person for having acted in a terrible way that has caused us such hurt. And quite frankly this idea is so far out of our reach and more often than not the thought leaves us reeling with nausea and anxiety.

Now here is the thing. The person that we need to forgive is actually holding us captive in the act. We re-live the incident and we keep feeling the hurt. However, the other person has moved on long ago. He or she probably does not even remember the incident and is carrying on their lives as if nothing has happened. We on the other hand, keep reliving the hurt. And the more we think about it the more we reinforce the hurt. It’s like an onion that keeps growing layers and the tears just keep getting bigger.

Let’s think about another viewpoint. Do we ever wake up in the morning and decide consciously that we are going to hurt somebody? The answer is probably no. But yet, we have hurt other people in some way or another, mostly never meaning or intending to. We apologise profusely and hope for forgiveness. But, do we often get it, and I mean really get it. Flippantly we get told, “Don’t worry it’s ok!” But is it really? How long does the recipient of our hurtful action mull this over? On the other hand, we have accepted the apology and have already moved on with our own lives and swiftly so.

One of the most celebrated forgiveness texts is Jesus’ prayer from the cross,

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”

(Luke 23:34).And often we don’t know and are not aware of hurting another person. And this holds true for the reverse also.

Are you getting the picture?

I had an incident some years back where, what I thought was a good friend, hurt me really badly and with it my business through his action. Through that I lost a lot of money. I despised him intensely and spent a lot of my precious energy on negative thoughts surrounding him and the incident for many years thereafter. We live in a small town so I was constantly reminded of his presence and doings. And then one busy season I was standing in an isle in the local shopping centre. I was aware of someone standing behind me and when I turned around it was him and he spoke to me as if nothing was wrong. I was so aghast I stood there with my mouth open and needless to say totally speechless and walked off. I could have killed! The thoughts that went through my head and the emotions that I felt were horrendous. Once I had calmed down the realization crept up on me that he had actually no idea how much he had actually hurt me. So you see, I was keeping myself a prisoner in his actions towards me while he carried on living his life. I had harmed myself all these many years and he had not the foggiest idea.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

― Nelson Mandela

So forgiveness is freeing ourselves from the ongoing thoughts coupled with all the negative emotions and anxiety surrounding it. We are no longer allowing the incident and hurt to define us and keeping us prisoner. And further more to this, by forgiving we give up any claim to be compensated for the hurt or loss we have suffered. So you rid yourself of the whole bang shooting match.

Forgiveness does not mean that we have to accept what was done to us or to even condone it. If we decide never to see him or her ever again and surround ourselves with people who are more in line with our thoughts and beliefs then that is entirely up to us.

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. So there you have it, out of the experts mouths.

Forgiveness is practice. As with any practice it becomes easier over time.

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

If you need to engage in a ritual like writing your ails on a piece of paper and burning or burying it then do that. You can even write a letter to the other person pouring your heart out.

I really, really love this quote a lot!

“True forgiveness is when you can say, “Thank you for that experience.”

― Oprah Winfrey

Or you can try the Havaiian way. Ho‘oponopono is the Hawaiian ritual of forgiveness. It stems from an understanding of everything in the world being one, in spite of our feelings of ‘separateness’. Because of this unity or oneness everything that occurs in our own world creates a resonance in the observer. To heal the planet we first have to heal ourselves to do this. Ho‘oponopono relies on four magic sentences: I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.

I wish you luck in finding your freedom through the act of forgiveness with ease.


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