title:What Forgiveness Is Not
What Forgiveness Is Not
Is a grudge-laden heart sabotaging your success in business and in life?
Much has been written over the ages about the value of forgiveness. And yet so many people continue to resist the idea of forgiving their transgressors. Why is this?
I believe there are a couple of factors at play.
First, although people might want to forgive, they don’t want the culprit to “get off scot-free.”
Let’s examine this more closely. There are many misconceptions about forgiveness, so I would like to point out what forgiveness does NOT do. (We shall refer to the transgressor as X.)
~ Forgiveness does NOT condone the actions of your perpetrator X. ~
By forgiving X, you are not saying that what X did was okay. You’re just willing to quit stewing about it. Chances are, it wasn’t okay, but there’s not much you can do to change history. It happened, it’s over, get over it. Don’t let it ruin your peace of mind a moment longer.
~ Forgiveness does NOT diminish the severity of the transgression. ~
By forgiving X, you are not saying that the harm he caused you was of no consequence. Indeed, you may still be dealing with the negative results of his actions. But by being willing to forgive X, you are allowing yourself to quit wasting precious energy on anger and put it to good use building yourself up instead. You survived the transgression. Now it’s time for you to thrive.
~ Forgiveness does NOT absolve X of his guilt. ~
Even if you were willing to, you could not clear X’s conscience for him. He will have to appeal to a higher celestial court for absolution. That is between X and his conscience; it is not your affair.
So you see, forgiveness does not let the other guy off the hook. It lets YOU off the hook.
By refusing to forgive the other person, you are condemning yourself to being stuck. And this “being stuck” tends to infiltrate and poison every area of one’s life. It’s a bit like trying to drive your car with the brakes on.
Consider forgiveness as a gift you give to yourself.
Now let’s look at another nearly opposite reaction. Some people are quick to claim blanket forgiveness for everyone and everything, without even knowing what it is they are pardoning.
This is a fine gesture, but it is hardly effective. Why? Because you cannot forgive a transgression which has never been acknowledged.
You can’t just leapfrog over all the buried pain and expect relief. You must first acknowledge the harm that was done.
The acknowledgement consists of:
Admitting the harmful nature of what was done to you.
Feeling the pain that you’ve struggled unconsciously for years to keep down.
Expressing the anger that accompanies these realizations (by writing, exercising, beating a pillow, wailing, thrashing about, etc.)
Mourning your loss. (Sadness, unlike depression, is a healing force and it will pass.)
Forgiving your transgressor.
Experiencing a new vitality as you reclaim formerly disowned parts of your being.
Important: You don’t need to confront anyone or involve anyone else in this process. This is done in privacy and purely for your own release and relief.
Some people try to dismiss the need for this process by saying such things as, “Well, it doesn’t matter now. That was so long ago.” Or maybe, “Things were different back in the old country. None of that makes any difference anymore.”
When dealing with profound harm sustained in the past, we need to be aware of the inconsequential nature of distance and time. In other words, a serious emotional injury sustained long ago and maybe even far away does NOT just wither away into nothingness if you ignore it.
The damage is very real and it has serious ongoing repercussions if it is not squarely faced and dealt with. People fear that acknowledging great harm done will unleash hateful and violent acts. Quite the contrary. It is these “unconscious grudges” that we carry in our hearts that result in cruelty. Often this escapes our conscious awareness.
It is also these unacknowledged wounds, waiting like frightened children at the “Lost and Found” that result in depression.
It takes tremendous psychic energy to keep stuffing those strong, raw emotions down and keep them in check, especially when we’re not even aware of exactly what it is we are hiding from!
I would like to stress once again, suppressed pain and stifled anger will not go away just because you ignore them. They will dissipate only in the face of acknowledgement.
By following the steps outlined above, you will naturally arrive at a place where you are ready to exercise forgiveness. You will have reached a place where you are sick and tired of wasting mental and psychic energy on nursing painful grudges.
You will no longer wish to tolerate any nasty pangs of resentment. It will become unacceptable to send your thoughts into a mental sewer just so that you can keep your offender in his place.
An act of pardon will evolve naturally as we honor our true feelings. This does not mean that we have to go and broadcast what we find to the world. It simply means that we ourselves have to be willing to look at and see the Truth.
As a parting note, let us strive to remember that forgiveness is not a self-righteous act of virtue or altruism. It is not cause for arrogance or fanfare or a holier-than-thou attitude.
The decision to forgive is supremely practical and self-affirming. Self-affirmation is what people need most. And only we can do this for ourselves.