Forgiveness is a concept that holds much power for those seeking release from the past. However it needs to be approached with a clear goal in mind and a deep understanding of why one would wish to forgive in the first place.
Does one forgive because we feel it is the “right” thing to do or do we forgive because our religion tells us that we should? Perhaps we forgive to release the other person from their own guilt and of course we forgive to release our selves from our own past. Of course sometimes we just do not want to forgive because of old hurt and you know what- that is perfectly valid as well. However what we do not want is to hold onto the hurt and make ourselves suffer indefinitely. So let us look at some different approached to forgiveness.
To keep this easier for the article let us assume that “Mr X” is the one that has acted in a way that has hurt you. He may have caused you mild annoyance or done something that has deeply hurt and traumatised you. It matters not the degree of suffering for at the end of the day pain is pain and if you are suffering then at that moment you are experiencing all the suffering that exists and you are feeling it deep within you. I write this for those who love phrases such as “there are other people worse off than you”. Thank you for adding guilt to the suffering! When you are in pain ,you are in pain and trying to alleviate it by comparing yourself with others does not help in the long run. Your pain will still be there and worse of all it can fester into something physical. So we need to deal with Mr X effectively and thus release ourselves.
So we have a spiritual practice that tells us we should forgive. Why? I was amazed as a child whenever I would ask this direct question. First would come surprise and then a response obviously designed to keep me from asking further questions. So why would I forgive purely based on religious concept and how would it benefit me here and now? We all the know the concept of forgive now and earn a place in heaven. So, ok, I forgive Mr X now so that when I die I will go to heaven. Mr X is reprieved and I now have to wait, with my resentment which I guarantee will still be there and a little extra guilt thrown in, for death to bring its rewards. What a way to live!
2) Doing the right thing.
This is very similar to the point above, though perhaps from a more spiritual side than a religious one. Here again Mr X is forgiven because we feel that this is how we should behave. This is either social, parental or religious conditioning and once again makes the forgiveness an obligation that will bring various bribes if we can hold down our hurt long enough for us to survive the physical manifestations that this would create within us.
3) Because Mr X is sorry.
This is interesting, but if you are in deep pain why should you be remotely concerned about how Mr X is feeling? I had a recent encounter with my own Mr X and the deep pain that was caused over many years. They were victims of a bad childhood and admittedly had suffered much. This “reasoning” had been used for many years until one day the intense pressure of the hurt literally exploded. They had a bad childhood? So what! I could not care less and under no circumstances would I ever allow this to be used as an excuse again. It is simply not acceptable to excuse any kind of hurtful act because of Mr X’s background. So to hell with how Mr X feels about what he has done until you sort out your own feelings. If you are ready to release the hurt and repair the damage that has been done then maybe we can take a look at how sorry Mr X truly is, but until then focus on yourself and what YOU want.
4) I am ready to release myself from the past.
Now we are getting somewhere. I forgive because it directly benefits me here and now. It is not based on religious,spiritual or social and moral obligation. It is not based on “doing the right thing” and it is certainly not based on poor old Mr X. Here then we are forgiving because we wish to be free NOW and not when we die! We forgive because we no longer wish to hold onto the emotional baggage which, by the way, indirectly enables Mr X to carry on hurting us! In effect then we are taking the power back from Mr X. Notice we are taking the power “back” and not “from”. This is important for we do not want anything from Mr X including his “power”. What we want is OUR power restored and healed and stronger than ever. We allow the past to slip away and to dissolve into the background as we lift ourselves up and stand taller than we ever have before. We forgive because we wish to be free and happy and alive and we want to live that way right here and right now.
Now if you come across the “reasoning” that all of this is an illusion and that what occurred in the past never really happened and various other forms of pompous psycho-babble then stay clear for it will not help you. Let us assume that it was all a bad dream. So what! The pain was and is very, very real. When you wake up from a horrific nightmare you still feel the fear. You still turn the light on and you still sit up at the end of your bed. Sure it was a dream but the fear is very real and you can feel it at a physical level. It needs to be dealt with and released.
So we have looked at forgiveness from a few different angles. Of course when we are strong and empowered we can decide to include Mr X, if we wish. If there is genuine remorse then perhaps we can then look at Mr X’s circumstances and his situation, but only when we want to do so and when we are strong within ourselves. This of course would then be the ultimate step where both of us become free and even the past is released and healed.
Forgiveness is a powerful force in our healing, empowerment and development but it must be approached in this empowering manner or we will at best merely hide the pain and at worse allow Mr X to carry on the same way. With forgiveness the most important factor in the entire equation is YOU. It is YOU who is worth it, it is YOU who is powerful and it is YOU who is stronger than anyone could ever possibly imagine.
John Hewitt is a full time freelance writer. He has worked in many fields including music, the restaurant industry, film work and as an RSPCA animal welfare officer. If you would like to see more of his articles and poetry then please visit http://www.john-hewitt.com and feel free to sign up to the RSS feed.