When you decide to forgive someone, the whole scenario begins to change

Forgiving liberates you from past hurts and heals your body, mind and soul

Feather escaping from open cage

“My life is like shattered glass,” said the visitor. “My soul is tainted with evil. Is there any hope for me?”
“Yes,” said the Master. “There is something whereby each broken thing is bound again and every stain made clean.”
“What?”
“Forgiveness”
“Whom do I forgive?”
“Everyone: life, God, your neighbour—especially yourself.”
“How is that done?”
“By understanding that no one is to blame,” said the Master, “NO ONE.”

Anthony de Mello, Awakening: Conversations with the Masters [2003]

When you blame someone, it is your ego which passes judgment on that person. You base yourself on information that is extremely limited, highly biased and selfish. This is a common human reaction, because people operate primarily out of self-interest. Sometimes you, in your self-interest, will be annoyed by someone else’s expression of their self-interest. Fortunately, everyone also has the power to make proactive choices. You can decide to shift from anger to understanding, from blame to empathy. You can look beyond a person’s negativities to the positive traits found at the core of his or her being. You can be forgiving by refusing to see things in black and white and differentiating the various ‘colours’ in each individual.

When you decide to forgive someone, the whole scenario begins to change. Not instantly or spontaneously, especially in the case of serious offences, but through a process of sifting out vicious thoughts and revengeful emotions. Nevertheless, the moment you make the shift and release your negativities toward the offender, you will feel as if you are on cloud nine—free, self-possessed and master of yourself.

Forgiveness helps you transcend negative emotions

Forgiveness is your radical decision to release feelings of resentment, frustration, anger or revenge toward a person or group that has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve forgiveness. It is an exclusively personal choice. “Forgiveness stands on the truth that what happened to me was unfair, it is unfair, and it will always be unfair, but I will have a new response to it,” explains Dr Robert Enright [The Forgiving Life, 2012]. No one can compel you to do so. It is an unconditional choice by which you no longer want to punish or demand compensation in order to get even. In forgiveness, you not only discard negative-tending emotions, but also acquire positive-motivating ones. You substitute anger, hurt and self-pity with understanding, compassion and service. You transcend your inimical attitudes and judgments and develop a friendly mindset toward the offender. This is an entirely internal matter, a personal choice and does not involve any contact with the offender. The transformation takes place within you.

Forgiveness liberates you from hurt

Forgiveness is its own reward; it heals you and restores your sense of wellbeing. Some people are so blinded by hurt that they believe that carrying resentment or grudges will punish the person who has wronged them. But they are mistaken. For, as someone wisely put it, choosing not to forgive is like deciding to go through life carrying a hot coal of bitterness, resentment, blame and anger, just waiting to throw it at those who offend you. While you are holding onto it, your own hands get burned and scarred, as do your heart and body. In a sense, by carrying resentment, you become vulnerable and allow the alleged offender to continue hurting you. Forgiveness frees you from those clutches and helps you maintain your self-esteem. Thus, forgiveness is for you and not for the other.

Three ways in which forgiveness empowers you

  1. Living in the present. Resentment keeps you fixated in the past, over which you have no control. Forgiveness lets bygones be bygones, so that you can focus on the present and move into the future.
  2. Exercising willpower. Thinking over the past unpleasant events generates an entirely new sequence of thoughts, emotions and actions that reopen the wounds. Forgiveness ends this vicious cycle. It provides you the opportunity to prove you have
    the willpower it takes to be in charge of your life.
  3. Managing emotions. Through forgiveness you give yourself permission to feel the variety of emotions evoked by the offence and process them. You become aware of the self-destructive influences of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hate over your body-mind-spirit, and decide to release them freely and convincingly.

Forgiveness helps heal your body

In his book Forgiveness: The Greatest Healer of All [1999], Gerald G Jampolsky states that an “unforgiving mind hoards fear, misery, pain, suffering, despair, weariness and doubt—all of which can produce toxic side effects of physical problems, including headaches, backaches, stomach-aches and ulcers, depression, lack of energy, anxiety, irritability, tenseness, insomnia, unhappiness and free floating fear [not attached to anything].” When you forgive, you let go of all this toxicity, and you allow yourself the chance to heal completely. As Philip Friedman, author of The Forgiveness Solution: The Whole Body Rx for Finding True Happiness, Abundant Love and Inner Peace [2010], says, “Forgiveness allows you to release the past and to cross the bridge from the path of fear and negativity to the positive path of light and love.”

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Forgiveness empowers those who allow themselves to come under its spell to be more compassionate to themselves and others.


This was first published in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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