What Happens When We Forgive
One common experience we all have in life is the experience of being hurt by someone. That someone may be people we know, such as family members, friends, teachers, coaches, or other close acquaintances. That someone could be a stranger. Or that someone could be ourselves.
We all experience being hurt by someone because we’re all imperfect people. We’re flawed, and in our imperfection, we make mistakes. We say and do things that harm others or ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally.
Someone doesn’t live up to our expectations. Someone lies to us or betrays us. Someone leaves us. Someone steals something of value from us – physical, mental, or spiritual. Someone makes a decision that negatively impacts us. Someone dies.
When someone hurts us, and even if we are the one causing the hurt to ourselves or to another, the pain can hang around for days, weeks, months, or years. Sometimes it never goes away. When the pain is accompanied by anger, resentment, shame, guilt, or blame, we can harbor unforgiveness in our hearts.
Unforgiveness grips us and keeps us from living the life that we want and deserve.
In an article by the Mayo Clinic, Forgiveness: Letting Go of Grudges and Bitterness, the writers identified five consequences of failing to forgive.
- Bring anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience
- Become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present
- Become depressed or anxious
- Feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs
- Lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.”
People often tell me that I’m a forgiving person. And even I have agreed that my ability to forgive is one of my greatest qualities. But when I reflect on my decisions to forgive others when they have hurt me, I think about my mother. I watched my mother forgive one of her best friends of a betrayal. I probably shouldn’t have known about the betrayal, but I did. And I knew it hurt her deeply. It severed the relationship.
Daily conversations with her friend ceased. My mother didn’t speak her name. That went on for probably two years or a little more. The void was noticeable. Then one day they talked. I believe my mother was the one who broke the silence. She reached out to reconcile with her friend. She reached out to forgive her. And while the relationship was never quite the same as it was before, they formed a connection that I believe gave my mother the peace she needed. Less than a year later, my mother died suddenly.
While my mother had no forewarning of her death, she knew that she could not live a day longer with unforgiveness in her heart. To forgive her friend was to reclaim her life, her happiness, and her peace of mind.
I learned a lot about my mother’s strength of character through her act of forgiveness, and I learned why it’s important to forgive.
From my mother’s example, I learned these five things about the importance of forgiving others:
- To forgive someone is a process. It takes time. To forgive too quickly may not be forgiveness at all. Hastily forgiving may be a coping mechanism or an attempt to bury the hurt and not deal with it. Unresolved hurt has nowhere else to go. It will resurface.
- Even if you didn’t commit the offense, you can initiate forgiveness. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move if you’re the one in pain. That’s like putting your healing in the hands of the person who hurt you.
- Forgiveness is for you, not the other person. Even if the offender is unrepentant, forgive because it is your act of self-love and self-healing. You lessen the grip that the offender has on you so that you can move on with your life with peace of mind.
- Forgiving another is an act of humility. We are all flawed. Just as surely as someone wrongs us or makes a mistake that causes us pain, we will do the same to someone else at some point. It’s the ego that wants to prove a point, make someone pay, or get revenge. A humble and empathetic heart knows that the way to freedom is through forgiveness.
- When we forgive, we teach others to forgive. I witnessed my mother forgive her friend, and I know it influenced why and how I choose to forgive and let go when someone hurts me. It doesn’t mean we forget; it means we choose ourselves over the other person or circumstance so that we can move on with our lives.
When you forgive yourself or another, you unlock the door to the future you want and deserve.
Thank you for reading and being a part of the Your Aha! Life Global Community. I hope you found this article helpful, and the messages support you should you find yourself in a place where you need to forgive another or yourself. Remember, forgiving someone is a choice and an act of self-love and self-healing.
I’d like to share another resource that a friend gave to me. The Gift of Forgiveness: Inspiring Stories from Those Who Have Overcome the Unforgivable (A New York Times Bestseller) by Katherine Schwarzenegger Pratt.
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With love and authenticity,
Learn My Story