True Forgiveness is the ability to accept that another person is doing (or did) the “best” he/she can, given that person’s life circumstance. (Even when he/she has done or is doing is viewed as awful, horrible, heinous, etc.)
Misconception: Forgiveness means to condone the behavior. A forgiving person accepts that the other did the behavior and that the behavior was unacceptable (to the injured party). To forgive does not mean to condone. It does mean to embrace that the offender was doing the best he/she could given the full circumstance. (Otherwise the person would have acted differently. This is a challenging concept and extremely difficult to embrace when one “wants” to hold on to being angry in order to be the “better” person, but totally required for true forgiveness.)
How can people move on and forgive?
- Accept oneself. It is easier to forgive when one accepts that being wronged does not make that person “less.” Accepting one’s own value in the face of being wronged is essential for forgiveness.
- Accept the other. Forgiveness is easier when one accepts the fundamental truth that the perpetrator is doing the “best” he/she can within the confines of his/her world. In order to truly forgive one must accept that the other did whatever it was that was hurtful because that was the best he/she could do in that moment in time given that person’s life circumstances and experience.
- Let go of having to be right. To truly forgive you must let go of having to be right that the other “should not have done the unacceptable behavior.”
- Let go of needing to punish the other. To forgive one must let go of the need to punish and keep punishing the perpetrator.
- Let go of needing to be angry to maintain power or control over the other. Those who do not forgive often keep their anger to remain powerful over the other and have a trump card to hold over the other in future situations.
- Accept that the world is not fair. The individual may have been “wronged” and while not liking to be wronged, the world is not fair, and the fact that it is not fair is not a reflection on the individual.
Why is it so important that we forgive?
Unless one forgives, he/she is trapped in his/her emotional distress. Often the unforgiven behavior is used as “discrediting” card whenever the offender “misbehaves” or used as a justification for the offended to behave in whatever ways he/she desires.
Generally, anger is associated with not forgiving (this is partially because anger is generated when we view the world as having to be fair and the bad behavior is viewed as “unfair”). This anger empowers the offended and maintains their air of superiority. It can motivate the offended to continue to be the judge of the offender and be self-righteous. The one offended becomes trapped feeling chronically angry in the relationship unless he/she forgives. This ongoing anger is toxic to the relationship and will lead either to an end of the relationship or a relationship in which both parties remain unhappy.
How can forgiveness help?
When you forgive you release yourself from distressing emotions and you reduce your negative thinking (e.g. “He/she ‘should’ not be that way!” “Shoulding” on oneself or others is negative thinking that leads to distressing emotions).
Those who have chosen not to forgive are destined to be constantly plagued by their emotional distress and their relationships with others cannot heal.
For example, if you believe the science and that mask wearing saves lives and that everyone would be better off is they wore masks, and you see people not wearing masks, you can either allow that other person to share space in your mind or you can forgive (accept their right to behave in a way contrary to your belief) and therefore let them go. You therefore can proceed without carrying them with you.
From the alternate perspective if you believe that personal freedom is more important than mask wearing, then to forgive those who may chastise you for not wearing a mask or to forgive the government if it is requiring you wear a mask, allows you to let them go rather than allow them to continue to occupy space in your mind.
Why is it so hard to forgive?
First, not forgiving is associated with a negative view of self. Not forgiving is actually a way for the one who was wronged to maintain a false positive view of self. To forgive may mean to accept one’s negative view of self (I must be bad to have been treated this way.)
Second, the person wronged feels righteous, and to forgive is to let go of their righteous view of self.
Third, to forgive is often misconstrued as to condone the behavior. Forgiveness is to accept and not to condone.