The prime beneficiary of forgiveness is the one who forgives

Once you understand how forgiveness works, you will never again think of withholding it

Handcuffs, concept of forgiveness

Like most ideals, forgiveness is considered by many as impractical. Indeed, whenever I am involved in a discussion about forgiveness, there are a few standard responses—“it’s easier said than done”, “some people are just too mean—they don’t deserve forgiveness” and “can you ask the loved ones of a bomb blast victim to forgive?” Most people think it’s normal for those who have been wronged to hold resentful feelings. Remarks about ‘justice’ often come up in defence of the inability or the unwillingness to forgive.

This brings us to an important point about the meaning of forgiveness. Most people think that forgiving is about letting the victimiser, the culprit, the wrongdoer go scot-free. Therefore, whether one can forgive or not depends on the degree of the misdeed. If the crime is grave—such as a terror attack, a murder or a rape—forgiveness is out of question. Of course, ‘degree of misdeed’ is subjective and differs from one victim to another. Still, whatever the act, the focus of forgiveness tends to always be on the offender. And that’s where the idea of forgiveness is misinterpreted.

Not about the offender

It is important to understand that you forgiving someone doesn’t absolve the person of the responsibility for the offence. In fact, forgiveness is NOT about the offender at all. It is about your own deepest feelings. The prime beneficiary of forgiveness is the one who forgives. According to medical science, forgiving is immensely beneficial to your health—physical and emotional. The relief you feel when you finally let go of years of pent up bitterness cannot be described. When you forgive, it unlocks a tremendous amount of energy that was blocked by the negative feelings. Scores of people have reported significant transformation in all dimensions of their lives after undergoing the process of forgiveness.

So how does one go about forgiving? The key to forgiveness is to separate the deed from the doer. This distinction is critical because some acts seem unforgivable—so much so that even the most large-hearted people are unable to view them kindly. But forgiveness is given to the person, not the act. And then again, it is given so that you are free from the clutches of ill-feelings you have towards that person. It’s always only about you.


This article first appeared in the April 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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