Loading... Please wait...

February 2013



People have always struggled with the idea and act of forgiveness, perhaps a definition of the word would be a good place to start. Merriam –Webster defines to forgive as: to give up resentment of or claim to requital for, to grant relief from payment of to cease to feel resentment against. The definition is pretty straightforward, letting go of a particular deed or act or debt. There are, perhaps, reasons why the internal struggle with forgiveness occurs for many people. The first I think, is because it is easy to forgive a single act, such as a beating by an angry parent, but what if the beatings continue. Then one must remove themselves, or be removed from the abuser. Forgiveness never means, in any religion or spiritual practice, that you should continue to subject yourself to abuse. Once removed from a situation then forgiveness is possible and may be necessary for the mental health of the abused. Along with forgiveness, it may be a beneficial to meditate on the fact that the abuse was probably not personal. Often, in the case of violent crimes such as rape and child abuse, the deficit lies with the victimizer, not the victim. The victim often just happened to be present. The victim often blames themselves for allowing themselves to be abused, and looks within in themselves for some kind of deficit to justify the abuse. It is most important then, in this scenario to forgive themselves for any role they have perceived they played in their own abuse. Don Migue Ruiz, in his book “The Four Agreements” states “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality and dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

Another reason why it may be difficult to forgive, even when one has distanced themselves from an transgressor, is that, pain, either physical or emotional continues. Life may have changed for the victim as a result of an act, and when they learn that there has been no remorse or disadvantages for the victimizer, forgiveness may feel impossible. Judaic law states, one must go to those he has harmed in order to be entitled to forgiveness. This means that in Judaism a person cannot obtain forgiveness from God for wrongs the person has done to other people. This also means that, unless the victim forgave the perpetrator before he died (murder is unforgivable in Judaism) they will answer to God. This idea is similar to that of Buddhist philosophy that states "In contemplating the law of karma, we realize that it is not a matter of seeking revenge but of practicing mettā and forgiveness, for the victimizer is, truly, the most unfortunate of all.” These ideas help one who has suffered at the hands of another realize that for the unrepentant, justice will eventually be meted out.

Jesus stated when someone struck you, you should turn the other cheek. This basically means, not to mind little insults and stings. We all hurt each other from time to time and usually is unintentional. These little stings should be forgiven quickly for our own benefits. Even the larger hurts, though, violent crimes and persecutions should be forgiven if possible. Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments. It is indicated that forgiveness improves physical health; when people think about forgiving an offender it leads to improved functioning in their cardiovascular and nervous systems. The more forgiving an individual is the healthier their immune system is. Forgiving, however, does not mean that you continue to subject yourself to abuse.

Some individuals continue to subject themselves to abuse from the same individual or seek out abuse from different individuals, these people need to look inside and see what it is that they are not forgiving themselves for. Why do they feel the need to continue to be punished? Others punish themselves for not being able to forgive. Buddhism, again, sees forgiveness as a practice to prevent toxic thoughts from destroying mental health. Believing that feelings of hatred and ill-will will be detrimental to individuals own good Karma. Don Miguel Ruiz urges us, in all situations, to simply do our best, and if we do we will never feel victim to judgment. So, do your best to forgive yourself and others. Grow, to the best of your ability, from the most painful of situations. Find blessings to count, no matter how terrible things seem. Seek out people and places that nurture you when you feel wounded. Most importantly, be kind to yourself, and if you are having a hard time forgiving when you feel you should, forgive yourself.