May 12, 2013

The art of forgiveness

Forgiveness is a relative term because it is dependant on many things. Some people find it easy to forgive, as though the act of forgiveness requires nothing of them at all, and others, mmm...not so much.

We are all human and therefore we all make mistakes, and while it stands to reason that we are all equally deserving of forgiveness for the things we have done wrong, some folks are simply not willing or able to forgive. Some people, they say, are not worthy of forgiveness. Somethings, they say, are simply unforgivable.

The act of forgiveness often depends on the type of action one is being asked to forgive.

We each have our own benchmark, our own moral and ethical standards for what we will and won't tolerate or accept. And while certain actions may cross metaphoric lines for some, the very same actions may well be deemed excusable, or at least forgivable, by others. It all depends on who is doing the forgiving.

Forgiveness is also dependant on the person we are being asked to forgive; whether they are a family member or a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger, and whether or not they have apologised sincerely enough for what they have done. Whether or not we accept their apology often depends on whether or not we believe it to be meaningful.

Often times an apology means nothing to the person who has been wronged when it is devoid of any emotion, remorse or regret for what has taken place. Likewise, when the person making the apology is still arguing their point, we are less inclined to forgive them. Without any real sense of recognition for the pain we have caused, we cannot truly expect to be forgiven. One must take ownership and be accountable for the experience. A learning must take place.

But irrespective of who is at fault and what or whom we are being called upon to forgive, forgiveness is something that comes from the heart, an act of love that arises naturally once the dust has settled in our minds and the angry thoughts no longer sustain us. 

For me personally, being in a state of un-forgiveness is very self –destructive. It keeps me locked into a negative thought pattern of blame and denial, and that’s not how I choose to expend my time and energy. 

But forgiveness isn’t something that always came naturally to me. Being open to forgive is something I have taught myself to do, something I have learnt along the way, and I know I am better for it. 

For me, it is all a matter of perspective. If I can put myself in the other person's shoes and understand why they have behaved in a certain way, then I am more open to forgive them. If they are genuinely remorseful, and I truly believe that they will not intentionally behave that way again, then I am very quick to let things go.  I am no longer invested in being right. Being right can also be very lonely. 

Choosing not to forgive is a choice and one that is often tied up with feeling wronged and betrayed. Often our ego is steering the narrative, as opposed to our hearts. The ego is also heavily invested in being right.  If you have hurt someone and they are refusing to forgive you, then give them some time.  Time will often quiet the ego, and while the person won't necessarily forget what you have done, they may be more open to listen to their heart and to find a way to forgive.

Often times being unforgiving can also be used as a form of punishment used to hurt and punish the person who has caused us pain. Again, this is very self-destructive as it forces us to carry the burden of anger and hurt, rather than letting it go. 

All experiences hold the potential to teach us something about who we are. Even the most painful experiences can hold lessons and often the greatest lessons are born out of pain. If you are struggling with the act of forgiveness, try to think about what you have gained from the painful experience; what it has taught you about how you respond and perhaps how you could respond differently. 

Children are masters at the art of forgiveness. Have you ever met a child who held a grudge? Kids don’t invest in feeling right or wronged, and they don’t choose to remain hurt and wounded. They say sorry, make peace and let things go almost immediately. Adults could stand to learn a thing or two about forgiveness from young children. 


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