Category: Forgiveness

4 Good Reasons to Forgive

4 Good Reasons to Forgive

Much has been said about the virtues of forgiveness, yet many today who need to forgive are unable or unwilling to do so. This is mainly due to the wrong understanding of what forgiveness is. Most people, when given a clearer understanding of what forgiveness is, become more willing to do so.

Here are some good reasons why you should forgive:

1. Forgiveness is about YOU

Many people are of the opinion that forgiving a perpetrator allows the perpetrator to escape punishment. They think that forgiveness is about giving the perpetrator a second chance at the expense of the injured party.

The truth is forgiveness is all about the injured and is for the benefits of the injured. The focus of forgiveness is for the injured to finally be able to let go of the pain that has continued to hurt him or her even long after the initial assault. It is to help the injured find peace within so that he or she can move on in life without having to continuously carry the pain of the injury.

Forgiveness does not mean condoning the act or absolving the perpetrator of his or her responsibility for the action. It does not mean that the injured will tolerate being inflicted with the same injury again and again. It does not mean reconciliation although reconciliation may happen if the injured wishes.

Forgiveness means standing up for your rights and your self worth. It means drawing a boundary about what you will accept as OK and what is not OK. It means having the courage to assert your rights and responsibilities.

2. Forgiveness is the best revenge

People who have been badly hurt by an intimate person such as a spouse, partner, parent, sibling or close friend sometimes erroneously believe that by staying in the hurt, they are somehow indirectly punishing the perpetrator. They see it as their way of getting back at the perpetrator.

This logic does not hold water because very often the perpetrator does not really care about you in the first place or else he or she would not have cause the injury. In addition, continue to wallow in the pain only prolonged the injury long after it has happened. If it was the intention of the perpetrator to hurt you, clinging on to the pain only multiplies his or her success at hurting you.

In fact, the best revenge of the injured is to live a good and happy life after the injury. This is the surest way to foil the perpetrator’s “success”.

3. Forgiveness improves your health

Studies have shown that an unforgiving heart suffers increased risk of stress, anxiety, depression, anger, hatred, jealousy, ill will, sadness and insomnia. In addition, an unforgiving heart also risks high blood pressure, heart attack, skin eruptions, arthritis, backache, stomach ulcer, migraine, frequent cold and perhaps even risk of malignancy.

Genuine forgiveness, on the other hand, can have the opposite effects. There is reduced stress, anxiety, depression, anger, hatred, jealousy, ill will, sadness and insomnia as well as a reduction in physical ailments. On top of that, studies have also shown that those who are forgiving tend to grow old with more peace and satisfaction, and less afraid to face death.

So, a forgiving person benefits from improved health in all areas, i.e. physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

4. Forgiveness makes you a better and stronger person

Another myth about forgiveness is that only the weak forgives. The truth is that only the strong can forgive. That is because forgiveness requires the courage to truly face the emotional pain and injuries, to embrace them and then to eventually let them go. This task is so difficult and painful that many are not able to face it but it is a necessary initial step towards forgiveness.

So, only the strong can forgive. The good news is that once the injured is able to go through the process of forgiveness, he or she will grow to become stronger. There will be a change in his or her fundamental belief systems as well as a renewed purpose and meaning to life. Life will be re-invigorated once again when the old hurt can be left behind without becoming a burden.

So, if you have been hurt before and find it hard to forgive, seriously consider all these good reasons why you should forgive and start to learn how to forgive. It’s going to do you a world of good. I promise.

Myths of Forgiveness

Myths of Forgiveness

This article is written by Will Meek, PhD. He is a counseling psychologist in Vancouver, Washington. It appears in Psychology Today.

I found myself inspired this morning by the story of Pierce O’Farrill, who recently survived three gunshot wounds in the Colorado theater tragedy. Only days later, he has extended forgiveness to the gunman. This reminded me of the most incredible story of forgiveness that I have ever heard, which was when members of the Amish community extended forgiveness to a gunman and his family less than a day after he killed many children from their community in a school.

I developed my own model of forgiveness after that, but in the 4 years since, I have noticed a range of misconceptions about forgiveness that are obstacles for my clients. Most of them are ways that our minds and culture bundle other things with forgiveness, rather than seeing it as a process of its own.

These myths include:

1. Forgiving means that what happened was OK

This is the #1 barrier to forgiveness that I encounter with my clients. There is a perception that if we forgive someone, it either lets the person off the hook, or is somehow an indication that what happened was OK. I see these as separate processes: a) an understanding that the act was not OK and that the person remains accountable, and b) a process of forgiveness that happens in parallel.

2. If I forgive, it might happen to me again

For people that have experienced something traumatic, one of the adjustments afterward is often a vigilant stance of self-protection to avoid being a victim again. For some people with these experiences, the anger, pain, and anxiety related to the event, operate as fuel to help remain on guard. Through counseling, many people can develop new ways to protect themselves physically and emotionally, which allows for a forgiveness process to begin without the fear of being harmed again.

3. I need to “forgive and forget”

This is a common phrase I hear for people that want to begin working on forgiveness. However, if we forget what happened, we can also lose the learning that came from the experience. Therefore, I usually advocate more for “forgive and remember”.

4. If I forgive, it means I have to reconcile with the person

When we are harmed in a relationship and have taken steps to distance ourselves, forgiving the person does not mean we have to go back. If we ultimately want to return to the relationship, forgiveness can help it be successful, but if you are done with it, you can forgive and still choose it to be over.

5. If I don’t forgive, then I am a bad person

Some people feel a pressure to forgive even the most terrible acts due to pressure from others and a belief that being unforgiving makes you a “bad person.” My view is that we are never required to forgive someone to be a “good person”, although many good people do work to forgive others. Instead, I see forgiveness as simply an option we have when we are looking for peace and healing.

6. After I forgive, I will never feel angry or hurt about it again

This final myth is one that can eventually be true after some time. Going back to the Amish school shooting story, I could not comprehend how quickly the victim’s families were able to change their feelings, especially in contrast to the broader culture that tolerates (or even promotes) revenge, and my own beliefs about how enraged and destroyed I would feel if someone I cared about was killed. It wasn’t until a few years later that I saw a film about the tragedy, and the father of one of the victims clarified that he is often thrown back into anger and pain, but works for “forgiveness everyday”.

I think forgiveness can represent the best of what we are capable of as humans, and can be a fitting balance to something horrific, but we have to be ready for it.

 

How to Forgive Yourself

How to Forgive Yourself

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In one of the personal transformation workshops that I conducted, one of the participants asked, “How do you forgive yourself?”Such a simple and straightforward question, yet the ramifications are immense. The question does not just say, “Teach me how to forgive myself” but also suggests that “I do not know how to forgive myself” or “I do not know how to love myself”.

Truly, it seems that loving one self is one of the hardest things to do in life. To me, not to be able to love one self is symptomatic of several issues, namely, self blame, not being able to accept one’s own imperfections, not knowing how to be compassionate towards one self and ironically, not willing to take responsibility for one’s own happiness.

Self forgiving is essential for healing our wounds – spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. However, in order to forgive one self, one has to learn these few things:

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Self Forgiveness is Essential for Healing

Self Forgiveness is Essential for Healing

In the waiting room in my clinic, there is a poster that says “Self Forgiveness is Essential for Healing”. A patient once asked me what it means and why I put it up there.

There are two main reasons why I put the poster up.

Firstly, I want my patients to realise that some physical illnesses are just manifestations of unresolved emotions and conflicts. Most times, these unresolved emotions have to do with anger and self blame. Both emotions are actually two sides of the same coin. The difference is that with anger, we direct the negative emotion outward at an external object or person while we direct it inwardly at ourselves in self blame. Both emotions are harmful to ourselves and may actually lead to physical illnesses. Some researchers believe that there is a strong link between such negative emotions with cancer.

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