Most people would agree that forgiving others is a good thing to do, but why is that? First, let’s define forgiveness. Some people say that forgiving means letting go of the hurt, anger, and frustration caused by another individual. It is very important to let go of these emotions so you do not poison yourself with negativity, but to say another person causes this in you is a fallacy. No one can make you feel anything without your permission, so let go of the negativity, but stop blaming others for it.
Others will say that forgiveness pardons the offenses of another person. I don’t believe one person is any better than another, so what gives anyone the right to decide if another person is in need of forgiveness?
And finally, some people think forgiveness means restoring the person to the level of trust that existed prior to the “offense.” This article was not written with trust in mind. I believe forgiving someone is best thought of as releasing yourself from negativity and taking responsibility for your own feelings. I tend to trust everyone that shows me who they are. I don’t expect people to be something I want them to be; I trust them to be who they’ve shown me they are. That’s not to say that, over time, I can learn to trust something different if I am consistently shown something different, but I do not intertwine the concepts of forgiveness and trust.
Let’s look at three different injurious situations.
In Situation A, someone hurts you inadvertently. A person did something without knowing and caused you pain. Maybe you like someone and he or she doesn’t like you back. Perhaps your friend has been so absorbed in her own life she has neglected to contact you in weeks.
In Situation B, someone hurts you knowing that their actions will cause you some difficulty but does it anyway. Someone spoke badly about you behind your back. Someone promised to be in an exclusive relationship with you and spent intimate time with someone else. You wanted a friend to do something important with you and he or she decided to do something else instead. Maybe someone even told a lie about you.
In Situation C, someone deliberately sets out to cause you great pain for the enjoyment of it. Let’s say someone physically attacks you, hurts someone you love as a way of destroying you, or destroys something near and dear to your heart.
The severity of the offense is different in each case. In Situation A, the offense is unintentional, in Situation B, the offense is likely but not premeditated, and in Situation C the offense is obviously deliberately hurtful and premeditated. How does one get from hurt, anger, upset, and mistrust to forgiveness?
I’m suggesting that there is nothing to forgive. Let’s see if you agree.
In Situation A, you have a preference and someone in your life is not complying with your preference. In essence, this person is simply living their life the best way he or she can. Do they need to be forgiven for that? Have they done anything wrong? You may have hurt feelings, but who is responsible for those feelings? No one can make you feel something you don’t want to feel. Take charge of your feelings when experiencing an emotion you don’t want to feel, and change it by changing what you are doing and what you are thinking. Remind yourself that this person has every right to live their life the way he or she wants to, and you need to adjust so the actions of others do not cause you pain.
In Situation B, a person in your life is still doing what he or she wants to do seemingly without regard to how it will affect you. Is it really a person’s job to make decisions about their life based on what would make you happiest? Even if that person is your spouse, your parent, your child, or best friend, he or she has the right to make their decisions on how they choose to live their life based on what’s best for them. There are people who pride themselves on how kind they are, thus causing them to choose the path of least conflict for others. They do this because that is the person they want to be, not because it is what the other person wants. Does a person making difficult decisions in their life really require our forgiveness just because he or she didn’t choose the path you would have liked them to choose? I say not.
When we put ourselves in the position to forgive another, aren’t we really saying, “I’m better than you. You did a bad thing and now I hold the power of forgiveness over you. You’ll stay in this bad place until I decide to ‘forgive’ you for wronging me.” Again, if you allow yourself to be hurt by the actions of others, then isn’t your responsibility to right that emotional pain? What right do you have to bestow your forgiveness on another person. Are you God?
Now, I realize Situation C is a bit more challenging. Imagining someone hurts you or someone you love intentionally with malice in their heart, do they require your forgiveness? I say there is nothing to forgive, although I realize, if I were in that situation, I am certain I would need to remind myself of this.
Everything that happens in our lives contains perfect balance. The worst thing that has ever happened to you also contained elements of equal positivity. With tragedy also comes a gift, lesson, or opportunity, you just need to look for it. When you can accept that all things are in perfect balance, then this wrong you are experiencing is neutralized with the equal positivity also contained within the event. Open your eyes, look beyond the easy-to-spot injury, and become willing to seek out the positivity.
When we believe we’re in a position to forgive, we are saying we have been harmed in some way. I say you can inoculate yourself from this harm by recognizing the ultimate balance in all things and taking responsibility for your feelings.
That being said, if you are carrying anger, resentment, and pain with you from the actions of others, it is extremely important to rid yourself of that poison. If you see that as forgiving the person who wronged you, then so be it. However, I believe you will be infinitely happier if you can awaken to the idea that forgiveness is no longer required; you have either allowed yourself to be hurt by another, or you have neglected to find the balance in a challenging situation. When you accept these truths, you will realize there is nothing to forgive, and you can proceed with a clear and open heart.