When you learn to forgive you become a much more powerful person than you were before.
You deliberately insulted me in front of the entire family! Why should I forgive you? You cheated me out of $300 dollars. Ok, so you finally paid me back. Do you know how much aggravation you caused me? I’m not going to forgive you. We can paint many, far more serious scenarios that we’ve been through. Abuse, blatant mistrust, being violated in any number of ways. Forgiveness is a tough one. Some people simply refuse to forgive. What should you do? Why should you forgive?
Like many things in life, the harder something is the more it has to offer to us. In general you will find that those things which challenge us usually offer us the greatest benefit when we take it on. Forgiveness is one such thing. The first person that benefits from forgiveness is ourselves. It simply frees us of lots of negative energy. The even greater beneficiary of forgiveness is our relationship. Our relationships improve tremendously when there is forgiveness. To understand this we need to understand how forgiveness works.
When a child does something that their parent told them not to do and then the child comes to the parents and says, “I’m so sorry,” it’s usually very easy for them to gain forgiveness. Why? This is because the relationship between a child and a parent is very deep. As long as the depth of the relationship is deeper than the offense which took place, then all the child needs to do is reveal a deeper level of their relationship. On that deeper level of their relationship, the offense doesn’t exist. This is why when a child so sweetly says I’m so sorry the parent forgives them. This explains what happens in a marriage. Our spouse does something which they know we don’t like and we get very upset. So they buy us a gift with a nice little note apologizing for what they’ve done wrong and suddenly we give them a big hug and say it was all nothing. What happened? What happened is that they truly did hurt us. Yet our relationship runs much deeper than the level of that hurt. So when they show up on a deeper level and say they are sorry from that deeper level it is easy for us to forgive. Why? Because on this deep level there is no offense and on this level we were never hurt.
It’s similar to when I have a headache. I have a class that I’m scheduled to teach and I’m in no mood due to my headache. Two minutes into the class and my headache is gone. It really isn’t gone. It’s simply that I’m operating from a deeper and more focused place when I’m teaching. The headache never existed there. When I go deeper I lose the headache.
What does this tell us? That the deeper a relationship is the easier it is to forgive and to gain forgiveness. The shallower our relationship is the more difficult it will be to forgive and to gain forgiveness. It’s like a bank account. When the bank account is full, or in a relationship, deep, there’s more to draw from. When it is less full, there’s less to draw from.
This happens to be why G-d is so forgiving. I inherent connection with our creator is super deep. Simply coming back to our awareness that we are created by G-d and put here for a purpose brings us back to a deeper place with G-d. From that place, G-d says “We’re all good.”
This doesn’t mean, though, that you can’t forgive when a relationship isn’t deep. You can always forgive. But being that you can’t draw on the relationship, it requires more from your end. The primary cause for all human issues is our own self orientation. This shows up in all of our issues because it’s at the root of every issue. You’ll hear this a lot from me. Let me ask you a simple question. When you don’t want to forgive someone for what they’ve done to you, ask yourself why. Typically, the answer is something like, “How can I forgive them after they’ve done … to me!?” In other words, we’re focused on what was done to me. Imagine, and at first you may only be able to imagine, if you spent a few minutes trying to understand what made them do what they did. If you’re truly trying to understand what their motivation or drive was, you will usually understand them. When we stop being self-oriented and thinking about what happened to us and instead become other-oriented, thinking about what could’ve led to them doing such a thing, we suddenly become more forgiving. When may even feel sorry for them being so out of control. I don’t mean justifying what they did, I simply mean understanding what led them to doing the wrong thing. We must also learn to make sure we don’t put ourselves in a situation where they can do this to us again. However, we can still forgive them. For example, someone insults me publicly. Why would they do that? Perhaps they feel the need to put me down. Imagine how weak their self-esteem must be that the only way they can raise themselves up is by putting me down. I feel sorry for them.
You will also discover that when you learn to forgive you are a much more powerful person than you were before. Holding a grudge and being unforgiving requires no power. It’s our instinctive reaction. When someone does something to us and we are unforgiving, our emotional state is being defined by them. They are holding the reigns on our mood. When we learn to be forgiving, we remain in full control of our emotions. We are essentially stating, I will not become a nasty person because of the nasty things you’ve done to me. I will not play by your rules. I will not be lowered to your level. This is only accomplished by someone who is powerful. This is only accomplished by someone who spends the time to learn how to focus on others instead of themselves.
And here’s one more point that you must remember. Forgiveness does not mean giving a free pass to anyone. Forgiveness is not and cannot be in the place of justice. When any form of restitution is due, whether I forgive you or not, restitution is due! This is their obligation to take care of. When someone damages my property and creates a financial loss for me, I can forgive them by understanding whatever led to them doing that, their hurt, their anger problem, their jealousy, whatever. However, I will still bring them to justice to pay for the loss they created.
This blend of forgiveness and justice is the beautiful recipe that Judaism teaches us. Everyone is held responsible and at the same time we can be understanding and forgiving, not condemning. I understand your mistake and I also know that you are responsible to make things whole again. I understand that you mistakenly spilled the milk and you must understand that you need to clean it up.
So what grudge are you still holding on to which you should be letting go of? Let go and become a more powerful person.