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Instant Forgiveness

Updated on June 9, 2011

Think before you react

There are times when we are upset with others, or when someone has hurt us and we feel spiteful or we seek retribution. What purpose does it serve to feel this way? Does it help you? In many such situations time will pass, be it minutes, days, months or years, and then we find room in our heart to forgive the person for what they have done.

Often we have heard that we should think before we act, this is especially true when teaching our children how to behave. The case I am making here is that we also have the time to think before we react. When faced with a specific situation where a person has hurt us, take the time before you react to find a way to forgive. The way I use is to measure the event that took place as compared to the entirety of my lifetime. Is what just happened going to be remembered ten or twenty years down the road? Will it have a lasting impact that I will not be able to adapt to? Is there anything that can be done about what has happened, or since it is already done, can it just be left in the past?

Another way to look at it is to equate what happened five minutes ago, with something that has happened five or more years ago. Something that has already happened, in what way is it different from something that happened a long time ago? It is fresher in our memory and we are still reeling from the effects of it, yes, but really both events are in the past. Why not learn to treat something that has just happened with the same strength of reaction to something that happened five or more years go?

Let me give you a few examples.

My friend Doug was going to pick me up to take me to an NHL game, I had the tickets but he was driving us there. He was supposed to pick me up at 5:30PM but he lost track of time playing video games and only came to pick me up at 6:45PM. We only got to the arena halfway through the first period and by the time we got to our seats the first period was almost over.

My immediate reaction when he arrived to pick me up could have been this: "Doug!! I'm so upset!! We're going to miss the first period, there's going to be traffic now to make us even later!! This is the last time I ever go to a game with you!"

Or, when he arrived, I could think before I react. I could choose how I would respond. Being late for this game, how does it compare to any other serious event in the past? Is there a way to go back in time and have Doug arrive promptly? Does it serve a purpose to get angry at Doug? The moment he arrived to pick me up he was already late, but that moment, once it passed, how is it any different from an event like eating breakfast that morning, or learning how to ride a bike as a kid - it's all in the past.

So this is how I reacted: "Doug! Great, you're here, let's get going!" Doug is instantly forgiven, we can move on and though we were late, we enjoyed what was left of the game.

Here is another example. It is a cold winter night when I am driving my kids home from a party they had gone to. The roads are slippery and the driving is tricky. I'm keeping my distance and driving safely but then as I am going through an intersection another car hits us hard and the back passenger door that is the only protection one of my children has gets dented severely. Fortunately she only gets bruised; things could have been much worse.

My immediate reaction could be: "Oh My God! You could have killed my child!! You maniac driver, can't you see the road conditions are terrible!" Add a bunch of expletives and you get the idea.

Or, after the accident I could choose to react with calm and instant forgiveness. Relegate the event that really just happened moments ago to a plane of all past events that have happened before this moment in time. Realize that what has happened has already happened, there is nothing that can be done to undo it or to make it such that it didn't happen. We can't go back and change it, this is now the reality that we have to deal with and adapt to.

This idea of instant forgiveness is not something that can just be turned on or activated. It takes time to learn how to work and think this way. I have been practicing this philosophy for many years now and still I don't quite always get it right. I think the key is to really pay attention to how you react to all situations as they happen. Figure out which of those situations would eventually require you to forgive someone for something they have done, then decide to forgive them immediately.

There are some questions about this that even I have that I do not know how to answer. Can instant forgiveness be applied in all circumstances? What if in that car crash my child was killed? It can be argued that if it was an accident due to the road conditions one may not feel as angry as if your child was murdered, but then that begs the question - do you instantly forgive, or do you even forgive at all someone who outright murders a child or loved one? I believe that the answer to these questions is a personal one that only each of us alone can answer.

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    • profile image

      4youreyes 6 years ago

      Phil Plasma,

      What a excellent hub, if we could only think before we react. There would be so many relationships that would be so much better. Forgiveness is away of healing, if you hold all that anger in you are doing more damage to yourself most of the time, because the person you are so mad at goes on with their life while you stay angry.

      Have A Good Evening !

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks for the resonating comment.

    • njmanura profile image

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Nice hub, It is really important to think more than once before we act. Thanks

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Yes, it is too bad more people do not realize this.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 6 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Hi Phil, This is truely wonderful and is a reflection of my own life and writing. You would love Lean against the Wind which describes my life with the impaired. Forgiveness was a daily part of my life from my first day of teaching. Yes, respond to each comment without fail! And then go to the site of each person who makes a comment and read and respond to at least one HUB. Read Tiny Tim and the TV HUB and maybe I can trick you into reading my novel. RJ

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks, I just wish most people globally would be instantly forgiving. Maybe you don't need to trick me into reading your novel.

    • DuchessDuCaffeine profile image

      DuchessDuCaffeine 6 years ago from United States of America

      You are so right, Phil. I am a big fan of 'wait and see'. Sometimes my immediate reaction is based on so little information on the big picture. Besides, who wants to waste a perfectly good snit? Save them for the big things. I really like the way you laid out your article; I'm going to enjoy visiting your hub :)

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Well, even the bit snits could use some perspective alteration. Thanks!

    • angie ashbourne profile image

      angie ashbourne 6 years ago

      Hi! Phil

      Good Hub! From your Hub Friend from Ontario. Angie

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thanks Angie!

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 6 years ago from New Orleans

      Very good concept, and I agree we should practice it in most situations. However, I can't help but think a small dose of anger may be healthy in some situations. For instance if it will initiate changed behavior in someone so that similar future situations are avoided.

      In the case of your friend, if he knew his tardiness angered you, maybe it would help him remember in the future to be more aware of the time. Of course this doesn't work for some people, and it could only make things worse. So like you said, you just need to judge the situation. But I do think that if the intent is preventative, then a little anger is warranted.

      All of that said, this is a very good and healthy perspective to have. People could make their lives so much less stressful if they practiced this idea. Especially when it comes to road rage. I mean seriously, what does that accomplish?

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I don't have an argument against using anger sparingly in situations where it can server a purpose, I just don't have it in me.

    • emichael profile image

      emichael 6 years ago from New Orleans

      Well kudos to you then my friend. Like I said, I'm sure all of our lives would be a lot less stressful if we could effectually practice this idea. It's a challenge for me, because I tend to hold onto grudges when I shouldn't.

    • whoisbid profile image

      whoisbid 6 years ago

      I believe some things cannot be forgiven but I cannot even mention them here. I could forgive people who did this carelessly or ignorantly but I won't forgive certain people who know what they are doing and have been tricking others and destroying their lives. I believe some people are pure evil incarnate and don't deserve to be forgiven.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      There are situations, I will not argue with you, where finding forgiveness seems impossible. I also do not doubt that there are people in the world that are as evil as you describe. I would still argue, however, that piece of one's own mind can be gained by forgiveness.

    • miccimom profile image

      miccimom 5 years ago from U.S.A

      I know it is so hard to forgive. But I give you alot of credit for being so kind. I believe that down the road it will pay off in a positive way. But along with forgiving, it is also hard to forget. That step could be just as hard. Great Hub! Good topic :)

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I do not have a terrific memory, so it is fortunate that I don't have a lot of trouble with forgetting. Well, sometimes, anyways.

    • danfresnourban profile image

      danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Sound advice. Research shows that victims of crime report better adjustment and less stress in the time after the crime when they participate in "restorative justice programs." These programs are designed to put the perpetrator and the victim together to discuss the crime and the impact the crime had on the victim's life. Very often, the experience brings reform to the perpetrator's life while also helping the victim deal with the trauma and heal.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I can only imagine how tense those meetings must be at the beginning, and then how peaceful they must be at the end, presuming a genuine level of understanding and forgiveness is achieved. It hadn't occurred to me this hub would provide the impetus for such a comment, thanks.

    • danfresnourban profile image

      danfresnourban 5 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Sadly, Phil. It is rare that an opportunity presents itself for this kind of healing to happen. But your correct, when it does happen, it is trans-formative.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Great subject in which we need reminding every now and then.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Moira, indeed, if we all can instantly forgive the world would be a much happier place.

    • Stephen Kalu profile image

      stephen kalu 5 years ago from Nigeria

      thanks for your insight on forgiveness,it also strengthens our relationship with God.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Indeed, it is an example to follow.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      This is always an interesting topic. Overlooking small offenses and giving a person the benefit of the doubt is always desirable and preferable, but even with small offenses there comes a point when saying, "You can't do that again and get by with it" is necessary for the good of everyone concerned.

      To follow God's example of forgiveness is to forgive when there is repentance (and restitution when applicable and possible). Repentance is displayed by both attitude and actions, and may require some time to prove if, for instance, a person has a pattern of lying and/or stealing that they say they are repentant about.

      What most people would mean, if they thoroughly studied the topic of forgiveness, is that we should have a forgiving spirit--a willingness to forgive when there is repentance.

      To proffer forgiveness before there is repentance is not helpful to the person who needs to repent. If they are refusing to change their bad behavior and/or make amends where they need to, perhaps even resisting the consequences of their offense (maybe they wouldn't be allowed to be around children or allowed to work in the medical field or they must stay away from the wife they beat and they may even have to face jail time, but they refuse to submit to the consequences of their behavior), it's clear that there is no real repentance. Extending forgiveness in such cases actually complicates the situation past the offense.

      The larger the offense, the more complicated the solutions become when the offender is not truly repentant. Leadership/authorities do an offender a favor by taking the time to make sure he/she is repentant, and more than that, they protect the victims and the innocent if they do not declare an offender forgiven until there is reason to believe it to be true. Too often, offenders get off easy--without repentance--and go on to do even greater harm.

      One pretty good book on this topic is "Unpacking Forgiveness" by Chris Brauns. Its addendum is extremely helpful.

      Hope this helps answer some of your questions

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Hi RT, thanks for such a compellingly argued comment providing a key (called repentance) that I had not considered when writing this hub. I suppose, in writing this hub, I was writing from my personal experience where the call to repent is not common. Thank you for bringing this to light.

    • Escobana profile image

      Escobana 5 years ago from Valencia

      Hi Phil,

      Voted up and interesting because I'm sure instant forgiveness is a beautiful way to live your life but in my opinion only possible when you can think straight.

      Meaning....people like me (I'm Bipolar)can be in such a mental state that using reason and thinking before reacting, is exactly what you can't do anymore. Madness is talking.

      Worse even....you can instantly react in such a horrible way at people you're normally very close with, damaging them extremely and making it very hard for them to forgive you later.

      They should forgive you, because you were very sick and in a dangerous state of mind, but try to explain that to someone who has no knowledge of Bipolar Disorder.

      Therefore I learned to forgive all the friends I've lost in my darkest times, because they simply didn't understand what was happening.

      Your mental state seems very important to me, in order to grasp such a difficult thinking process. I'm lucky I can follow you here completely:-)

    • profile image

      Cejae 5 years ago

      I just read your hub on increasing yous hub score and looked for something else you had written - this hub is easy to read and personal - makes me think about how I have been writing. I had the idea that I should keep my hubs less personal = but this hub was great to read. makes me want to read more of what you write

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Esco, you raise an excellent point - certainly there are circumstances where our reaction comes too quick and this is out of our control. This would definitely make it harder to instantly forgive.

      Cejae, thanks for the complimentary comment. I didn't think of this as being a very personal hub as I was writing it.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

      This is very interesting. Your perspective that it is in the past sounds like a very good one to use, and I like that you don’t try to control people with anger. Sounds like you would be a great friend to have. I use a couple of techniques that lead me to similar forgiveness responses, but it doesn’t always come instantly by any means.

      I also found the comments interesting and thought provoking. While I know that my forgiveness of others is really for my benefit and they may not even be aware of it, I have also sometimes found it hard to forgive unless I believed the person felt remorse. But reversing this, I can also now see that sometimes it is easier for a person to express remorse when they know they are forgiven.

    • Phil Plasma profile image
      Author

      Phil Plasma 5 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Thoughtful reply, thanks for stopping by Melovy.

      With respect to remorse, why even compel someone to feel that, if what has transpired has been relegated to the distant past, whether it be something that just happened or not?

      I understand that someone feeling remorseful for having done the hurtful thing is a necessary factor in these types of emotional exchanges, however, if one is to instantly forgive, there should be no call for it.

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