I’ve been taking a close look recently at the practice of forgiveness. I’m a bit hesitant to write about it because it can be such a triggery topic for people – but I also feel it’s a very important topic to discuss. When the topic of forgiving someone comes up many people get very angry and defensive at the idea of someone suggesting they forgive the person they are angry or resentful with. People will often insist that they have the right to be angry at the person who was driving drunk and hit their child or at the person who abused them or whatever else. These people will often say that so and so doesn’t deserve forgiveness.
Here is my 2-part response to that – You are absolutely right. We all have a right to feel whatever we feel. No exceptions.And, it’s not about the other person – forgiveness is always about us.
Right to be Angry
If you’ve read my previous articles – I talk a lot about how no emotion is bad, or good, it is simply an emotion . Everyone has the right to feel whatever it is they feel – angry, sad, joyful, excited, etc. The problem with holding onto emotions like anger or resentment, whether they are directed at other people or ourselves, is that the result is more pain for us. Holding onto anger against another person for something that they did or didn’t do does absolutely nothing to that person – it only harms us. Here is a quote I love from a book called “The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity” by Edwene Gaines:
“An unwillingness to forgive is like stabbing ourselves with a knife and expecting the person who did us wrong to feel the pain. Forgiveness is not something we do for the sake of another person. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves.”
I think that sometimes it’s easier to be angry and resentful because it helps us to avoid our grief . As long as we can focus on the anger and resentment, there’s no room in our attention for the intense pain of grief. The thing is, however, that just because we don’t let that pain into our awareness doesn’t mean it goes away. It just hangs around waiting for that day when we finally shift our focus off of anger. It has also been my experience that when I release the anger and resentment, it seems to carry some of the pain away with it.
“They don’t deserve forgiveness”
Perhaps you are right – maybe they don’t. Consider this though – do you want to feel miserable and upset and trapped or would you rather feel free and calm and loving? Anger and resentment keep us miserable and, when directed at another person, they keep us bound to that person. When we forgive, we free ourselves.
It’s not a question of what another person deserves or doesn’t deserve – it’s a question of what YOU deserve.
People often say they don’t know how to forgive – that they don’t know what to do to forgive someone (or themselves). I don’t think it’s a matter of doing. I think it’s a matter of allowing. The place to start is to be willing to forgive. To allow forgiveness to be a possibility. I believe the act of forgiveness – and the peace that comes with it – will follow that willingness organically and naturally.