“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you.”
-Lewis B. Smedes-
As I’ve said before, forgiving has more to do with ourselves than the person we’re trying (or not) to forgive. The common misconception about forgiveness is that it allows the agressor off the hook. And what is that hook? It is anger, disappointment, sorrow, etc. The problem is that while the culprit may or may not feel guilt associated with how they have affected you, you are sitting with all of that negative thought and emotion.
Forgiveness does not make a harmful action OK. It does not even mean one has to forget what happened. That will come naturally sooner or later. Forgiveness means freeing oneself from the chains of pain. It is acceptance. When we truly forgive, we accept how someone else’s hurtful action has made us feel. We embrace that pain in the present moment, and acknowledge its place within us. Only when we do this can we begin to forgive.
Understand, this does not mean allowing others to walk over you or ‘get away with something’. It means that you have the capacity to align yourself with the eternal present, and then take conscious, rational action if necessary. When we refuse to forgive, we tend to punish the other person. That is unconscious and ultimately harmful behavior. When we embrace forgiveness, we understand that what has been done to us does not affect who we are at the core. Then we can speak honestly, candidly and without malice if necessary.
The bottom line is that when we refuse to forgive, we are holding ourselves captive to negative and destructive feelings whereas when we choose to forgive, we realize that those feelings do not define us, and they begin to dissipate.
Wishing you a Saturday full of acceptance and connection.
By Terence Stone
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.