What happens when you say the word, “forgiveness?” The mere mention of the word brings about many different emotions and reactions. Emotions ranging from joy to sorrow and reactions ranging from reverence to loathing. Scores of people embrace the notion that forgiveness means, “biting your tongue” or “turning the other cheek”. Some may also think that it’s an emotion. Forgiveness is none of the above. It involves conscious thought. It’s a decision-making process. Yes, forgiveness is a decision. Forgiveness is consciously deciding to free yourself from the oppression of negative feelings and letting go of the hurt. We can go through countless memories in our lives and stop at many situations where we have been the giver/receiver of pain, hurt, disappointment, failure, etc. Lewis B. Smedes says, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” This is a sound summation of forgiveness. Forgiveness is releasing the power of control over you and your emotional being. This decision can only come from within. Forgiveness isn’t for the person who has wronged us. They may be oblivious to the offense. Nor does it require them to extend an apology. There are many different courses of action you can take in a situation but forgiveness isn’t for the perpetrator. Forgiveness is for YOU.
Forgiveness? Total forgiveness? In every way? YES! For most of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow. To release the negative emotions and pick up a new mode of thinking can be a huge feat. It was the same for Azim Khamisa, a father whose 20-year-old son was gunned down by a 14-year-old gangbanger in 1995. He found it in himself to have a vis-à-vis with his son’s killer five years after the murder. He also has offered the young man a job at his foundation upon his release in 2027. When asked how he forgave his son’s killer he said, “Why have such important real estate of your psyche occupied by somebody who has hurt you? Why not forgive and release that real estate so love and joy can live there?” Forgiveness is confronting the pain and resentment, acknowledging it and moving on. It isn’t forgetting the pain.
It is believed that forgiveness is granted once the pain and hurt subsides but the opposite is true. Forgiveness must be granted first in order to get past the hurt and allow the healing process to begin. Is it easy? NO. It’s like a healing cut. I remember as a kid I cut my arm really deep. My mom went to the medicine cabinet and pulled out some peroxide, cotton pads and bandages. I was already in pain from the cut and had no idea what to expect from the solutions she pulled from the cabinet. Nonetheless, I trusted my mother. As she poured the peroxide on the wound, it stung and the liquid began to expand into small, foamy bubbles. After what seemed an eternity (but was probably just a few seconds), it didn’t sting anymore. Mom wiped the wound with the cotton pad and bandaged me up. In a few days, the wound was healed but left a small scar.
The healing process is synonymous to forgiveness. Hurt from others is the cut or wound. Acknowledging the hurt and forgiving is the step to getting the aid to heal the wound. Failing to forgive is similar to allowing a cut to go without aid. What happens? Infection can form in the wound. Who is in danger as a result of the infection? The person who does not seek aid. Who is in danger for failing to forgive? The person holding on to the hurt. What happens when you refuse to forgive? You live with resentment and negative energy flowing through your veins because “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for your enemy to die.”-Carrie Fisher
To the naysayers of forgiveness I offer you a challenge to break the feelings of loathing and envy because they serve as shackles and dead ends to your personal growth. Feelings of darkness can infiltrate your mind, body and soul and grow into an internal plague. To forgive is a conscious decision with an optimistic outcome. The decision is such that you are acknowledging and taking control of your feelings and emotions, experiencing them and moving forward. This is an organic, grass roots approach to protect your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional self. You now have the propensity to grow holistically because your decision to forgive has given you the foundation. Forgiveness is freedom. Raise Your Level.