Understanding Why Forgiveness is Important
Culturally we have difficulty with the concept of forgiveness. This is unfortunate since many people would benefit by forgiving. Lack of understanding, however, keeps them from doing so.
Let’s take a look at what forgiveness really is. Forgiveness is deciding to put down the burden of a hurtful and damaging offense someone has done to you. This may be a person who said things about you that have damaged your career or relationship. It may be a form of abuse that someone did to you. Forgiveness does not require anything from another person, it is a process we go through just for ourselves.
Forgiveness is choosing to not carry the baggage of someone else’s bad behavior for them, allowing it to eat at you, and take up your mental and physical energy. It does not require someone to come to you and “beg” for forgiveness.
If we don’t forgive, it is like taking the poison and waiting for the other person to die.
Now forgiveness falls into two categories. The first is toward people we have no desire to ever see again or people we can never see again (deceased persons). In this category, we recognize the hurt and the pain we have suffered at that person’s hand; we acknowledge that carrying that burden any longer is harmful to our life and our recovery; we begin the process of forgiving.
For the second, we begin a slightly different process. This is where we intend to maintain a relationship with the offender. It may be a family member, old friend, etc. The process begins when we decide to be constructive in the relationship, to give some positive meaning to it. This doesn’t mean we have warm gushy feelings for the other person, just that we intend to be constructive. The goal is to be able to be on speaking terms, in a divorce where for the sake of children, acrimony needs to be set aside or in a work environment where we must coexist with the other person.
In both cases, the following steps are important.
This is the process of making things as right as possible – in biblical language- forgiveness. It involves three things that must be done for forgiveness to be meaningful to us:
- recognizing the injustice – Recognizing what happened, who did what, what impact it had and is continuing to have. This is about feelings.
- evaluating the equity – This is creating a realistic look at what the “value” or “equity” is in a relationship. What is the value? Do a pro and con list. See if it is worth the effort to make the relationship work.
- Clarifying future intentions – in biblical language, repentance, means making a 180-degree change in behavior. Describe what behaviors need to take place in the future for the relationship to work.