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Forgiveness is What?

Updated on April 23, 2015

Forgiveness Should Be Taken 3 Times A Day

Please take forgiveness as regularly as meals or medicine.

Forgiveness is What?

Is forgiveness necessary for overall well-being? In my research I discovered that it is necessary for overall well-being (psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual), but that it is difficult to obtain; even for mental health professionals-in-training.

A simple way to look at it is like this: You may have done what they say, but you are not what they think. What does that mean? Forgiveness applies to the person not their behavior. The behavior or act will always be wrong, but you release the person from obligations to make up for the act (pardon). The point I am making is that forgiveness focuses on letting go of an offense to the point of losing all negative feelings toward the offender; even if you are the offender toward yourself or someone else. Constructivist theories only require a change in thinking patterns; you become the hero instead of the victim by re-casting yourself in a different role and attributing positive motives to your responses to a situtation. Forgiveness requires changes in thinking, feeling, and behaving. It depends upon giving a gift to someone who doesn't deserve it. Forgiveness involves recasting the offender in a different role, and not just yourself. It's difficult to wrap your mind around isn't it?

The next question to answer is: If forgivness is vital for well-being and it is difficult for mental health professionals to achieve, can a client who is struggling with active mental health issues achieve it? The answer lies in the ability to shift your entire belief system. Each person is born with a sense of right and wrong; what is fair or unfair. As a child develops, that sense is influenced by the environment, family patterns, age, experience, personality traits, and cultural bounds. Giving up the right to hold a grudge against or take revenge on someone who has betrayed you means re-evaluating your how you view justice or injustice. In a just world everything is fair. There are also consequences for those who do not behave in a fair manner toward others. Those consequences may be imposed by society, but more often than not, they are imposed regularly by individuals.

When we don't forgive, we become responsible for the acts of another person. Then, not only do we carry the pain and burden of the offense, but we carry the guilt of the offender as well. This causes many hurt individuals to feel complicit in the offense committed against them whether they bear any responsibility for what happened or not. In an effort to cope with this double load, hurt people will often hurt people. Human beings are expert at lashing out at others when an emotional or psychological burden becomes too heavy to carry; creating more and more victimization in the world. The purpose of forgiveness is to place responsibility firmly where it belongs and then to work at granting mercy to the offender so that the individual who has been hurt, can focus on healing rather than on the perpetrator. Many victims or survivors of trauma obssess about the incident and the offender to the point of losing sight of themselves. I call it "renting valuable space in your head to someone who does not deserve it."

Think of it like this: You own a beautiful apartment overlooking a cityscape. It's clean, well-furnished, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and contains all the comfort you can imagine. When you obssess over an offense you are allowing the offender to live in that beautiful apartment while you are living in a gutter of pain, remorse, anger, and regret. Another way to look at unforgiveness is that it is like rumination. Cows ruminate. They chew their cud, swallow it, regurgitate it, chew it some more, swallow it, regurgitate it, and continue this process until the cud is broken down into a digestible state. How long will you ruminate on offenses that have been committed against you until they are broken down into a digestible state? When you forgive you are doing yourself a favor. I recommend that you consciously forgive others daily just as you take in sustenance for your body. Forgive for your soul and well-being.

The problem with homelessness is that it is addicting, and learned behavior is difficult to change. Feeling unhappy can become a pattern that is so familiar an ingrained, the individual hesitates to change. During WWII the Singaporean people hid in caves from the Japanese. They heard terrible rumors about the American soldiers, and were understandably afraid. When the American troops attempted to free the Singaporeans, they came out of the caves, but then promptly retreated back inside. What would cause them to do that? They had adapted to the seemingly safe darkness of the caves. Coming into sunny freedom in the face of an unknown military force was too frightening with which to cope. Unforgiveness is like a seemingly safe, dark cave. It holds you captive, but coming out into the sunlight may make you feel too vulnerable.

Adapting to a new belief system of forgiveness can become a habit just as unforgiveness can become a habit. It takes practice to forgive just as it takes practice to bear a grudge. It is possible to ruminate on forgiving and on the positive aspects of life. Think about breaking down a happy event into the smallest happy pieces until it cannot be broken down further. You didn't become negative and unforgiving overnight; it happened a little at a time. Forgiving won't happen overnight either. It will happen a little at a time as you make the decision to focus on thoughts which are uplifting. Keeping the apartment in your head to yourself will cause you to experience peace, contentment, and joy.

Move Back In

Unforgiveness is like renting valuable space in your head to someone who doesn't deserve it.


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