Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

This blog has been a rough one for me to write. Mostly because in the past two months I've been confronted with several situations that up until just recently I've had a challenging time forgiving. And I'm not alone. Learning to forgive is a huge stumbling block in most people's lives.

Some have had more opportunities to forgive than others. And I say opportunities because choosing to forgive someone is making the choice to grow rather than staying stuck. I count myself as one of those that have been presented with plenty of opportunities where I had to make the choice to forgive rather than staying rooted in a state of anger, bitterness and hatred.

To be more accurate, forgiveness is not "A" choice but a series of choices that you make.

You choose not to seek revenge or fantasize about it. You choose not to talk badly about the person who hurt you or wish evil for them.

You choose to let go of your anger and not to feed upon it. Shedding anger takes time and practice, but you choose to move in that direction.

You choose to wish that person well.

If these choices seem impossible to you, you might start by choosing to pray for the person who wronged you. This has been especially powerful for me in a relationship with a co-worker.

Before I discovered the healing power of forgiveness, I was having trouble letting go enough to move forward -- I was still wrestling with demons in the night. There's a passage in the Bible that reads: "I will not let you go unless you bless me," (Gen. 32:27). A situation or person must be blessed with forgiveness if you want to be able to move on.

When I was brutually raped then left to die at the hands of a man I trusted, I eventually had to choose to forgive. I didn't want to live in a state of fear or carry my mistrust of men into future relationships.

Some days, just surviving alone was an excruciatingly frightening experience. I felt victimized, traumatized, and paralyzed. But most of all I felt helpless. It was only until I entered therapy that I realized that the power to change my situation was in my hands. And the first step was to forgive. Not only my rapist, but myself for making what I saw as a bad choice in a mate.

So what does it mean to forgive? Webster defines it as "to give up resentment against or the desire to punish; stop being angry with; to give up all claim to punish or exact penalty." If we are to forgive, then we must first surrender the right to get even. We then cease defining the one who hurt us in terms of the hurt that was caused. Keep in mind, there's nothing in Webster's definition about the need to reach approval of the injurer's actions: you can forgive your spouse's infidelity, for instance, without approving of that infidelity.

If we forgive, then we can also reach a point where we wish our injurers well; this act of forgiveness then becomes some kind of miracle. Forgiveness releases a mighty energy in the world that not only benefits you but also those you chose to forgive.

Forgiveness is also integral to letting go. We are bound to the people we cannot forgive. Holding even a small grudge takes up space in the soul and captures the energy needed for moving on. To bless the people who are our oppressors is the only way to heal the wounds they have inflicted and to break the chains that bind us to them," writes Elizabeth O'Connor in Cry Pain, Cry Hope.

Letting go means letting go of the resentment, pain, and hate that has probably been an important "driver" in getting you through whatever situation you're dealing with. However, holding on to negative feelings for too long will eventually consume you; draining your own internal resources and blocking your growth.

Being able to let go of negative feelings towards others is highly dependent on your ability to let go of negative feelings towards yourself. When you've developed the ability to let go of your own past mistakes and to acknowledge your humanness, it's almost magical how effortless it becomes to let go of the mistakes of others.

Forgiveness is the healing of wounds caused by another. You choose to let go of a past wrong and no longer be hurt by it. Forgiveness is a strong move to make, like turning your shoulders sideways to walk quickly on a crowded sidewalk.

Just as I said earlier. It's your choice. It's your move. Therein lies the power.

It really doesn’t matter if the person who hurt you deserves to be forgiven or even wants to be forgiven. They don't have to acknowledge any wrongdoing on their part. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You have things to do and you want to move on.

In my most recent opportunities for choosing forgiveness, the unexplainable happened, I was betrayed but who I thought were friends and attacked by someone who knows absolutely nothing about me. They put my job, my relationship and most importantly my children in jeopardy. It was what I saw as an unforgiveable act of malicious destruction with no other intent other than to harm me and those who depended on me. But in Isaiah 54:17 states that no weapon that is formed against me shall prosper. And they didn't because I forgave all those involved. Furthermore Romans 8:28-32 tells us that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose". Believe me when I say God worked this situation out. Everyone in the situation will be called to task. That's just the way the universe works. And I have to trust that and forgive. I don't need to wait around and make sure that it happens because I know it will. I forgive and I move on.

I won't forget what happened but then you don't have to forget. You may not be able to forget. Forgiving has nothing to do with forgetting. Sometimes remembering is also an opportunity to learn. Forgiving is goodness in the middle of remembering.

Forgiveness does not always lead to a healed relationship. Some people are not capable of love, and it might be wise to let them go along with your anger. Wish them well, and let them go their way.

Whatever the outcome, know that the healing power of forgiveness serves to unleash the opportunity for the greatest good in your life.

Forigve and be well.


  1. Anonymous10:15 AM

    Forgiving a wrong is one of the hardest things to do. I still hold grudges from high school and that was about 20 years ago.I admire your strength.

  2. I find it hard to hold a grudge. When I get mad its only for a little while then I'm over it. If I forgive I forget or I try not to keep it up close to my memory or else I get mad again, I hate being mad. Forgetting is impossible though. It can be used as a positive or negative tool for or against someone, still there's a lesson in everything we go through. It's how we deal with it in the end after everything was said and done that really matters the most. Good post.

  3. One other thing about forgiving. When you do let go, you free up space within your self, within your spirit. Space that can be filled with good things, glad tidings, joy. Visualize a container filled with gunk. Then visualize that same container filled with great stuff. Which would you rather have?