Forgiveness – a Misunderstood Concept

We learn about the concept of forgiveness very early in life. It happens almost immediately after we learn the concept of the ‘other’. A younger sibling hurts you because he wants the toy you have in your hand and your mom tells you to forgive him because he is younger and does not understand. A mother-in-law screams atrocities at you and you are asked to ignore and forgive them because that is the culture she comes from and is what she knows. Someone borrows your book and drops it in a bucket of water before returning it and you forgive them because it happened by mistake and they are ‘only human’.

Rationalizations Abound

There is no end to the rationalizations that one can give for the things people do. When we rationalize the actions of other people, we also make it easier to rationalize for ourselves. So, where does it stop then? One can rationalize for almost everything that anyone does, irrespective of whether it is the other person or you yourself. Does it stop with lying? Does is stop with stealing? Does it stop with murder?

There are even people who rationalize murderous actions based on the toxic environment in which some people were raised. So, does having a bad childhood give someone the right to hurt someone else?

There are essentially two aspects to this phenomenon. What you can rationalize for yourself and how to forgive actions that do not fall into your purview of ‘right’.

What Can You Rationalize for Yourself?

Anything! Yes, it is okay for you to do anything that you feel like, but with a caveat. You can do anything that you wish to if it does not invade anyone else’s space. If you are not hurting someone else physically or emotionally, you are free to do what you want to without the feeling of guilt.

There are however, arguments that can be created against this version too. For example, you wear a short dress and feel that this is something that you are entitled to. You can, of course, wear anything that you fancy. There are some people who will state that a mini-skirt offends their feelings and emotions and religious sentiments. So, the sooner you understand that things are not black & white and that there is a subjective element to everything, the better it will be.

Forgiving Actions That You Don’t Deem Right

This area is relatively easier to deal with. We have often heard it quoted from the Bible – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.  While forgiving may be in the purview of the Almighty, it is surely something that you may want to rethink.

When you think of forgiving someone, you assume that it is for you to forgive. It is not. You cannot be the judge of whether they need forgiveness or understanding or rationalizing. In addition to that, it is a pompous thought that your forgiveness is desired. In most cases, the person who has perpetrated the action towards you has done the deed and forgotten about it. You, on the other hand are holding on to that hurt, nurturing it and harming yourself with the negativity.

What is Forgiving All About?

Think of what you do when you forgive someone. You accept the other persons action and don’t hold them responsible for it. You forget about it too. This, in fact, is the best service that you can do yourself. Because when you forgive and forget, you are releasing yourself from the shackles of the pain that you have been undergoing for so long.

It is easy to hold the grudge if you think of it as forgiving someone else. You feel that they have hurt you and you have a right to hold a grudge against them and this is the only way you will be able to punish them for their deeds. You feel you have a right to avenge that hurt that you are going through.

The minute you understand that you are not really forgiving them (you don’t have that power or right), you are able to give up that grudge easily. When you let go of a grievance, you set yourself free from anger, hatred, scorn and a whole lot of negativity that is only harming you. With this understanding under your belt, it also becomes easy to forgive because you know you are doing it for yourself. Why would you continue to harm yourself and be self-destructive when you know it is in your power to change all that?

This concept may take time to sink in (it did for me) because we almost become attached to a grudge we have held on to for some time. In cases where it spans years, it becomes our defining personality and letting go feels like letting go of a part of yourself. But changing the way you think, forgiving yourself and breaking the shackles of a negative defining aura is totally in your hands.

Best of Luck with Forgiving Yourself (you are the only person you can forgive)!

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