Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Forgiveness

I'm religious. I quite enjoy how my particular faith fills my life and gives me meaning, purpose and direction.

My faith has a lay priesthood, so every member is trained to be a leader. I like this method of leadership, because, on the whole, it makes us strong and capable as individuals and as a group. Currently, I serve as a teacher. One of my more powerful lessons is one I taught last year (or two years ago?) on Forgiveness. I thought I'd share bits of it again here, because not enough people in the world understand what forgiveness is or how to apply it.

Forgiveness is simply this: letting go of the negative feelings in your heart. And that's it. Nothing more.

Forgiveness is an individual practice that has nothing to do with other people.

The biggest mistake people make regarding forgiveness is thinking that it has something to do with other people. Often the negative feelings in our hearts have something to do with something someone else did to hurt us. But to let go of our negative feelings doesn't depend on other people.

People think that forgiveness means saying that whatever it is that someone did to us is like saying what they did is okay. It's not okay. Their actions, whether deliberate or accidental, caused you pain. Forgiveness is not excusing what they did or even giving it justification. Sin cannot be justified. The person who believes this will often say, "I can't forgive him," because they believe (erroneously) that to forgive is to give justification to the wrong that was done them.

Every time you use the word "forgive", try substituting, "let go of the pain" and see if your meaning shifts.

Forgiveness is letting go of the pain in your heart so you can progress. Holding on to the pain does not punish the other person, or even vindicate the wrong that was done.

Forgiveness has nothing to do with other people. It's all about you. The pain you feel hurts you, not them. Do not hold on to that pain.

To truly forgive is to let go of that pain. It does not eliminate justice, it has no bearing on the effects of another's sin on that other. They will have to deal with that, either through true repentance or consequences and punishment. And that will have to be between them and God (and their confessor and maybe the laws of the land).

Even if the one who offended you doesn't get brought to immediate justice, that doesn't mean you must continue to hold on to the pain. They will receive their just desserts sooner or later regardless of how long you are suffering. You hurting for five minutes or five years will not change the severity of what was done.

But you holding on to that pain will affect you, and not for the better. Why suffer longer than you need to? And the longer you hold on to it, the harder it will be to let it go, as it becomes familiar and a habit.

Forgiveness is letting go of the negative feelings in your heart. It's that simple. Not necessarily that easy. It takes practice.

Sometimes you can forgive for thirty seconds. Sometimes you can keep that negativity away for a short while. If you can do that, you've started on the road to permanent forgiveness. The longer you can let go, the better off you'll be. Get into the habit of releasing the negativity every time it tries to creep into your heart.

And creep back it will. Every time it does, push it away. You do not deserve to be unhappy, but happiness isn't granted. You've got to maintain it. The longer you work at releasing negativity, the easier it becomes. Eventually, you'll be able to forgive for thirty years. Or three hundred. Or permanently.

Letting pain settle in your heart as a permanent resident will hinder your progress through life.

Do not let your ability to let go of pain be dependent on the justice of whatever it was that brought you pain. Do not be deceived into saying, "I'll only forgive her after she apologises." "I'll only forgive them once the judge pronounces them guilty." If you do, you might be waiting an awfully long time.

Not forgiving will harm you spiritually, mentally and physically. It is in your best interest not to get tangled up in whatever grief you have been given.

Let it go.

You will be happier for it.

Her Grace believes in Christ and the healing power of His Atonement. This belief gives her strength when she needs to forgive.


S. L. Hennessy said...

Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we have to offer. Great post.

Good luck with the 2015 A to Z Challenge!
A to Z Co-Host S. L. Hennessy

Arlee Bird said...

This is very true, but still when the offending party continues the offense or looking down on the offended one then letting go of the negative feelings can be a real challenge.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Wrote By Rote