The word “forgive” comes from the Latin word “perdonare,” which means “to give completely, without reservation.” If you’ve been hurt by your spouse, a family member, or friend, your ability to give without reservation is compromised until you can emotionally forgive. However, there is much confusion about the nature of forgiveness, so let’s examine how to forgive.
Forgiving other people is often more for your benefit than for theirs. When you harbor a grudge, it emotionally drains you; it makes you bitter, less willing to trust others, and leads to even more unhappiness. Staying angry with someone requires emotional energy you could put towards something positive. For that reason alone, forgiveness works in your favor, no matter whether the transgressor has apologized. Now let’s examine what forgiveness is not.
Forgiveness is not…
- Allowing someone to continue harming you.
- Forgetting it ever happened.
You can forgive while removing a harmful person from your life – forgiveness means letting go of the bad feeling; it does not mean allowing yourself to be abused.
You can forgive, but the old saying of “forgive and forget” isn’t realistic. If you have been betrayed by a loved one, you won’t forget. However, if the loved one has shown genuine remorse for his or her actions and has taken steps to make amends, working to forgive them may be worthwhile. Once you have forgiven them emotionally, you’ll still have to cope with the memory of what they did. When the memory pops up, will yourself to remember good things they have done since then. The good will eventually outweigh the bad.
I understand that forgiveness does not have an “On/Off” switch. Many times, forgiveness can be challenging to achieve. On The Marriage Academy website, I share my favorite guided meditation for Forgiveness – “The Junkyard Visualization” by Jack Canfield, co-creator of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. I encourage you to try it out, because it’s not just for recent hurts – it’s for all the burdens you’ve been carrying around with you in your life.