Forgiveness Factor: Basics of Forgiveness (Part 2)
I want to take a deeper look at what forgiveness is (and is not) to help us better understand how and why to forgive.
Let's start with the definition Dr. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, uses in his book, "Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope."
"When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love; as we give these, we as forgivers realize that the offender does not necessarily have a right to such gifts."
. . . we forgive when we overcome our resentment toward the offender, . . .
Sure sounds easy! "Identify the resentment and overcome it." If only it was as easy to do as it to say. But it's not.
We need to deal with the fact we have a resentment that is intruding into our lives. Some of us may not want to admit we resent the way someone treated us because we think it just gives them more power over us; some of us may not be willing to admit to a resentment because the person we resent is a relative or a dear friend and we are supposed to love them; some of us may not want to admit we resent someone because it makes us feel weak or out of control. Regardless of the reason, we need to come to grips with the fact that we are carrying around a big old resentment.
What does resentment look like?
This resentment may show itself in the way we avoid interacting with the person. The way we say we want them to be happy, but we don't mean it. The way they occupy our thoughts and we keep rehearsing the wrong over and over in our minds. The way we get sick to our stomachs when something good happens to them. The way we can't understand how anyone else could get along with them. The way we thought we had dealt with it (them) by moving, avoiding, fighting, distancing--but it feels like they still have influence over our happiness. Resentment sucks the joy out of life.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness isn't about pretending you don't resent someone. It's not about pretending you were never hurt. It's not about lying to yourself that it really doesn't matter. It's not about separating from our past or our reality. It's about overcoming our resentments. It's about accepting the pain, accepting we can be hurt, accepting that our past or current reality isn't everything we want it to be. It's about believing that I have not achieved my best self yet, but I can work toward it. Forgiveness can change us and can change our reality. Forgiveness shows us areas we can look at, teaches us skills we can practice, and gives us new attitudes to have toward people. We may not overcome our resentments today, or tomorrow, or the next day. But I am pretty sure, if we never decide to overcome them, we never will. I am also pretty sure forgiveness is a way to break free from those resentments and take another step toward becoming our best selves.
A Little Something Extra
If you are looking for a place to dig into forgiveness, ask Dr. Enright a question, become part of the "Drive For Others' Lives" campaign, read a cool blog, or see what books Dr. Enright has written, please check out the International Forgiveness Institute at https://internationalforgiveness.com/.
If you would like to subscribe to the Forgiveness Factor Community and receive a weekly Forgiveness Boost, please go to https://mailchi.mp/b441e8770b36/forgivenessfactorcommunity