Define your terms – people who know me are used to hearing that. Well, in this case, we need to come to an agreement about the definition of forgiveness. It seems easy, but we need to ask – what is forgiveness?
Welcome to Day Two of 30 Days to Forgiveness! Click here to read the first post.
Before we get into the hands-on content over the next thirty days, we need to make sure we’re on the same page about what forgiveness is. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about what forgiveness isn’t, and then we’ll be discussing just why forgiveness is so vitally important. But right now …. what exactly IS forgiveness?
There are actually a lot of ways to think about it. Depending on the people involved and the situation, forgiveness can mean a lot of different things. And since we’re not going to dive into every single kind of forgiveness, what are we dealing with?
At its most basic, forgiveness is the act of forgiving someone something, but that doesn’t really tell us much, does it?
We can forgive an emotional debt, letting someone off the hook for a favour owed to us, or forgive them for harsh words or unkind actions.
We can also forgive a material or monetary debt, choosing not to pursue the thousands that your former business partner stole.
They can overlap, of course, but generally we find that material debts are easier to forgive than emotional ones. When we do have difficulty forgiving a material debt, it’s because of the strong emotions attached.
When siblings fight and drift apart while dividing up their parent’s estate, for example, emotions run high. The fights and arguments aren’t really about who gets Mom’s china or Dad’s toolbox. They’re about dealing with loss, hanging onto memories and making sure you get your “fair share” of your parents’ legacy.
Throughout this series, we’re going to be focusing on emotional forgiveness.
Forgiveness then is the act of forgiving someone for something they have done to you.
It’s about letting go and being able to move on.
Now, although we’re not going to get into what forgiveness is not, at least not right now, let’s simply say that forgiveness is definitely not about acting like nothing ever happened. That just doesn’t work long term. It’s not sustainable. (And if you know me at all, you know that I want you to live a sustainable life.)
Forgiveness is about accepting the past so that you can let go of it.
It’s about living in the present so that you can look forward to the future.
It’s about letting go of resentment so there’s room to let in joy and peace and happiness.
Have you figured out yet that forgiveness isn’t really about the other person? That’s why I cringe when I hear people say that you only need to forgive people who ask for it. They try saying that you should only forgive someone who repents and tells you that they’re sorry.
Sorry, my friend, but that’s just making excuses so you can hang on to and nurse those nasty feelings. (Besides, it doesn’t work if the person is dead or gone completely out of your life, does it?)
Forgiveness is about you. It’s about taking back control of your life and your emotions and forging your own destiny without getting constantly hauled back into the world of “If only” and “Shoulda/coulda/woulda”.
The choice is yours. How will you choose to deal with the negativity that you’ve been nurturing and hanging onto? Will you let it keep control of your life and how you feel? Will you let this pain and hurt shade everything that happens to you going forward? Are you really choosing to let those bad memories play their nasty little loop endlessly in your head?
Let’s be honest and clear about this. You are choosing that.
Or is it time for you to make a different choice?
Will you choose to get yourself back in charge and make the conscious choice to forgive? Will you choose to take power over your feelings and reactions, to take that power away from the person who has done you wrong? Are you ready to choose to empower yourself and to free yourself from the prison that you have built around yourself?
Every brick of that prison you are in was put down in the name of justice and revenge and anger and hurt, and you’re not going to take one step out of that prison until you make the choice.
I hope you make the choice to forgive. Living a life of forgiveness means living a life filled with love, acceptance and joy. It might not be easy, but it’s always worth it.
So now you know what forgiveness is. It is something that you do to heal yourself.