I have often shared with others my belief that forgiveness is the greatest gift we can ever give to ourselves. This many times surprises people, because it is a commonly held perception that forgiveness is something we do for others – almost like a favor that we are doing for someone. Sometimes we perceive our forgiveness as a reward we will give someone if they apologize first or change their behavior to accommodate our expectations.
It is extremely important that we understand the actual meaning of the word forgiveness. When trying to accurately interpret a word, it is many times helpful to go back to the original definition as it appears in the dictionary. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the actual definition of forgiving is allowing room for error or weakness; and the definition of forgive is to give up resentment. When we remember that we are all fallible and that the only thing we have to lose by forgiving anyone is the self-destructive resentment and judgment we are carrying, we begin to see more clearly that the person who benefits most from the process of forgiveness is self.
Let’s discuss just a few of the many reasons that help us to understand why forgiveness is essential for our OWN health and overall well-being:
Forgiveness is rooted in Self-Love – Self-love is the fundamental principle of all healing and the root of all compassion for self and others. When we hold on to anger and resentment with people from the past, we hurt ourselves by continuing to experience the emotions that are associated with these painful experiences. This takes a heavy toll on our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is also important to remember that life is a two-way street. Either knowingly or unknowingly, we too have hurt others through our unkind words and actions. We can only give to others that which we give to ourselves—so developing the attitude of being compassionate and kind to ourselves is a very healthy way to develop the habit of forgiveness.
Forgiveness creates harmony – It frees us from the need to be “right,” which automatically makes someone else “wrong.” This attitude breeds constant conflict with others and within ourselves. Every person who is in a disagreement thinks he or she is “right,” or there would be no discord in the first place. By letting go of our need to be right, we are not admitting we are “wrong.” We are simply being wise and compassionate enough to realize that we do not know what someone else is experiencing, what they are feeling, or why they have responded to a situation in a way that does not match our expectations. Simply stated, we are not the authority for how someone else thinks and acts, so it does not serve us well to criticize others. By judging others, we plant the seeds to remain entangled in an unproductive drama that intensifies the struggle, rather than focusing on the resolution.
Forgiveness creates inner peace – A peaceful mind is a quiet mind. Paradoxically, I think most of us would admit that we have cluttered minds. Forgiveness promotes mental clarity by cleansing our minds of unhealthy, resentful thoughts from the past. This creates the mental space for more expansive perceptions based on our spiritual values. Our society is extremely focused on physical fitness and cleansing diets for our bodies; yet we ignore our mental fitness and the critical need we have to houseclean our minds of the toxic thoughts that we constantly recycle in our minds based on our anger and resentment toward others.
Forgiveness frees us to be in present time – Blaming others keeps us stuck in the past and reinforces thought patterns that create the same dramas in the future. The only time in which we can create new realities is in the present. Since our thoughts create our personal reality, why not choose to forgive the past and adopt a new way of thinking? Why look backward? It’s not the direction you want to go.
Forgiveness shifts our self-perception – We can transform our perception of ourselves from being a victim of our circumstances, reacting to hurtful situations from the past, to one of being a student of life. Seeing ourselves as a student of life means choosing to interpret all the situations we have ever had and all the people whom we have ever met as lessons that help us to learn more about ourselves, others, and life in general. Since our perceptions determine how we experience everything in life, shifting from a self-image of being a victim to the more enlightened self-image of being a student of life empowers you to create new, more expansive realities that align with your desire to live the life YOU choose.
Forgiveness, like any form of thought, can be consciously chosen. While it can seem difficult at first, the more we practice forgiveness, the more natural it becomes. We begin to feel better about everyone—especially ourselves.
Do you have a challenging forgiveness situation that you would like to share? I welcome your comments and questions.
Love and Light,