Forgiveness is one of the most important lessons any human being will ever learn in their lifetime, and simultaneously one of the hardest things any human being will ever have to do. As many times as I have heard why is it is so important to forgive many have failed to mention that forgiveness is actually an art.
An art that requires finesse.
Forgiveness is tricky because it is somewhat of an illusion. For example, if I were to ask you what is the first step in forgiving someone who has done you wrong your answer might be: “After an apology.” However, what if I told you that the first place forgiveness begins and the last place that it ends is with you?
Most people believe that forgiveness is to release a person from guilt or a show of mercy, but, the truth is forgiveness is never actually for the other person, it is for you. Holding in unforgiveness is just the same as giving someone else the power to be in control of your life. You now allow that person to not only keep you in that exact same moment you were hurt or wronged, but also to base the rest of your life from that moment as well. In other words, the lack to forgive causes you to become a prisoner to a moment.
I am sure you are all well aware of the “Cornerstore Caroline” situation where a woman, Taressa Klien, racially profiled a black 9 year old boy, Jeramiah Harvey, and wrongfully accused him of sexual assault. Although Taresa Klien has since apologized after the incident, what stood out to me the most was not what the woman had done but in fact how the boy responded. When asked if he would accept her apology, Jeramiah Harvey replied, “I do not forgive this woman, she needs help,” and immediately my heart broke because just like that Jeramiah Harvey left his mark in the world.
I came to find that the fist step in forgiveness is not actually the apology itself but rather a self-evaluation. Now, I know what you are thinking, and trust me, there was no one more shooketh than I upon finding this out for myself. But, I have found that one of the reasons why forgiveness is so hard is that often times we are so ingulfed in the way that we feel that we lose sight of everything else. Anger, hurt, pride, fear or disappointment are all things that are going to try to convince you that is it impossible to move forward but evaluating what you feel, and why, rids your emotions of having any chance of clouding your judgement and being able to deal with the situation properly.
For me the part that bothered me the most was questioning, “Why would they do that me?” It was exhausting going back and forth trying to make sense of everything in my mind. So instead of wondering, I took it upon myself to put myself in the other person’s shoes. There is a reason behind every action a person makes and everyone has a story and a past themselves. Now this a not permission to allow others to treat you however they see fit, but, for me the only way that I could not torture myself, and essentially just become more and more angry about the situation, was to completely take myself out of the middle and become selfless.
By taking myself out of the middle I was able to not only better understand that person and the reasons behind their actions, but I was then able to come to one of three conclusions:
- That person acted out of past situations that they themselves have been through. I can forgive them, help them and move forward in life with them.
- That person acted out of past situations that they themselves have been through. I can forgive them, but not move forward in life with them.
- That person was never equipped to fulfill the role that I gave them in the first place. I can understand for that person, and depending on the situation, either choose to move forward with or without them.
There are times in life we expect so much out of each other that we don’t realize when the weight that we have put on that person is too much. A parent who maybe could not give their child everything they may have wanted but did the best that they could, a friend who was going through personal things at home and was not able to fully be there the way that a friend should be or maybe a person who was looking for a stability who got into a relationship with someone who wasn’t exactly looking for the same thing. (Remember when I told you that forgiveness is tricky?)
Harboring a grudge or resentment when you’ve been wronged is one of the easiest things in the world, that is why forgiving is something that literally takes everything you have inside of you to do. It takes a great amount of strength to be able to show compassion even when it is not deserved, or to forgive someone who isn’t even sorry.
Forgiveness is so much more than an apology, and many do not realize how much holding in unforgiveness will actually hold you back in life. By forgiving we grow; we learn maturity, humility, how to be in control of our emotions and essentially be in control of our lives. People are imperfect beings and there will always be a moment to take offence, but, whenever the opportunity presents itself, just think about the person who you are right now and the person that you want to become.